Housing NZ is breaching the Bill of Rights by trying to evict tenants with gang connections from units in Lower Hutt suburb Pomare, a top lawyer says.
In March, the corporation served 90-day notices on Billy Taylor, Robyn Winther, Huia Tamaka and two others after neighbours in their state housing area complained about intimidation, threats and burglary.
Police arrested and charged several Mongrel Mob members as a result of investigations, some of whom were partners of the tenants in question.
Two of those served with notices have vacated their units, but three remain and are refusing to respond to requests to move out.
At a Tenancy Tribunal hearing in Wellington yesterday, Housing NZ lawyer Steve Haszard said the corporation was simply seeking possession of its units, as it - and any other landlord - was entitled to do as long as correct procedures were followed.
However, Queen's Counsel Robert Lithgow argued that Housing NZ papers on the issue clearly showed discrimination was an issue.
As a result, the evictions breached the Bill of Rights Act, which the department had a responsibility to adhere to.
"These three women have been given notices because they are de facto partners of people Housing New Zealand does not want around," Mr Lithgow said.
He said the corporation had an agenda to "sanitise" Pomare of gang members and the Mongrel Mob was the target.
It was no different from discriminating against gay people, Nazi Party members or Scientologists.
Mr Lithgow said any assertion from Housing NZ that there were no particular reasons for the evictions didn't stack up, considering the corporation had documented details about the tenants' affiliations and the crimes allegedly committed by gang members.
Housing NZ was trying to use the 90-day notice argument to detract from its fundamental reasoning behind the evictions, he said.
Mr Haszard said if he were to go down the road of justifying the evictions, then it needed to be noted that the intimidation and behaviour of gang members had become a scourge on the entire community in and around Farmer Cres.
The area had developed a bad reputation and it was difficult to recruit and retain state housing tenants in the block.
"There is a wider issue than just these three tenants as far as Housing New Zealand is concerned," he said.
Violence and anti-social behaviour had plagued tenants for years, and the corporation had tried hard, but failed, to resolve the issues in question.
He suggested to tribunal adjudicator Karun Lakshman that any discrimination allegations should be investigated by the Human Rights Commission, which had received complaints from the tenants.
The tribunal simply had to consider whether correct procedures were followed during the eviction process.
If the tenancy did decide to take discriminatory arguments into account, then Housing NZ would want to provide new material, Mr Haszard said.
Mr Lakshman reserved his decision.
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