Wednesday, February 28, 2024

‘I don’t feel safe in my own home’

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A Highland Park family is at its wit’s end after what they claim have been eight months of intimidation, bylaw breaches and questionable behaviour from a building site next door.

Bethany Brown lives on Struan Place in Highland Park and says the street is experiencing significant change under the Unitary Plan’s Mixed Housing Urban Zone.

Two years ago number 2 Struan Place was sold to developers who have since knocked down the small residential home and built two multi-storey terraced houses in its place.

Construction started in February and kicked off months of “hell” says Bethany.

What started as uncomfortable cat calling from construction workers on site, she claims has progressed to cursing, threats and sexual harassment.

“It’s so bad that I don’t feel safe in my own home,” says the 21-year-old.

Residents from Struan Place, Highland Park have experienced several verbal altercations with sub-contractors working on a housing development at the bottom of the street. Times photo.

She lives in the home, which they are renting, with her mother, younger sister and brother.

She says she, her mother, sister and several neighbours have been subject to sexual slurs including “w****”, “s***”, “b****” and c***” on more than one occasion.

“We have to put up with construction 11 hours a day for months now and understandably we are fed up. But whenever we point out anything the workers shouldn’t be doing, we get sworn at and called horrible names,” she says.

On one occasion Bethany and her mother confronted a construction worker about starting work 30 minutes earlier than legally allowed, not realising they had consent to do so.

“We were greeted with shrugs and one guy came up to my mum and told her she “just needed a quick f***”,” Bethany says.

After a third incident in which Bethany’s mother was the victim of sexual slurs, the family went to the Howick Police Station to report all the incidents.

“[The Sergeant] and his partner came out to speak to my sister and my mother about our concerns but decided ultimately that we had provoked [the workers] in every instance so far.”

On another occasion Bethany said she asked the bricklayer, who she says has been a constant source of trouble, to not park in the residents’ on-street parking.

“As I was in my car driving away he stopped and yelled “c***, w**** “at me. When confronted, he threatened to “get [his] wife to bash me”.”

Again the police were called.

“The officer I spoke to made it out that he believed the bricklayer over my claims and that I must have caused the whole incident,” Bethany says.

Bethany says she and her neighbours have had several confrontations with various construction workers on the site over excessive noise outside of legal working times, trucks and cars blocking the street and driveways and workers trespassing on her property.

Construction began on Struan Place in February and some residents have had several confrontations with construction workers on the site over noise, trucks blocking the street and workers trespassing.

She says holding the construction workers accountable has been difficult as almost all of the contractors drive unmarked vehicles and have refused to reveal what company they are associated with.

On two occasions WorkSafe NZ was contacted about children being on the construction site.

On Saturday September 22, Bethany says the family experienced the worst incident thus far.

Bethany’s mother and sister asked the workers to pack up and go home as it was past 6pm.

She claims a man holding a sledge hammer started running towards her mother in a threatening manner.

“I wasn’t home to witness this incident but a close friend was sitting in her car at the time and saw the whole thing. This man was temporarily stopped by the property owner who claimed he “isn’t right in the head” and was trying to block his path,” she says.

“My friend got out of her car and told the man she would call the police if he didn’t back off.”

Bethany’s 22-year-old neighbour, who asked not to be named, says she too has experienced harassment from the workers onsite at 2 Struan Place and has had to stop walking her dog alone past the property.

“When I do walk my dog, I don’t go alone; I cross the road, put my hood up and keep my head down to avoid being called out to or approached,” she says.

“Some days they blocked the street with their cars, trucks or work equipment, and when I drove past they made comments or stood close to my car and I felt uncomfortable. They would laugh and call me a “b****” or a “s***”.”

Police have attended the addresses on more than one occasion to speak with both parties and ensure there was no breach of the peace from either of the parties involved.

Sergeant Brett Meale, Howick Police, says the ongoing dispute relates to a civil matter around the Struan Place building site which would normally be an Auckland Council matter.

“Police did attend, and spoke with the owners of the development at the time, in relation to the actions of some of their contractors,” he says.

“Police will continue to communicate with both parties and if any criminal offences are identified, will deal with them in a manner appropriate to the circumstances.”

Meanwhile the owner of the new properties told the Times that there were two sides to every story and denied claims that workers from the site had intimidated anyone in the street.

The woman, who asked not to be named, said she and workers at the site were simply trying to do their jobs and that the police were only called in because of one-sided complaints from some neighbours.

She knew nothing of an alleged sledgehammer incident and said she got on with most people in the small street.

The houses, while large, met all council compliance codes she says.

The visits by WorkSafe happened only as there was a child on the grounds (not in the homes under construction) she says.

She was not selling the homes and intended to live in them.

Auckland Council’s Team Manager Compliance Investigations Kerri Fergusson told the Times: “We have received a number of complaints regarding this property relating to noise, building issues and illegal dumping. We investigated the complaints and issued two abatement notices to the property owner. Our compliance officers will continue monitoring the site.”

Struan Place is due to have construction on another large scale development begin in the coming months after residents failed to stop 3 and 5 Struan place from being sold to a property developer (Times, June 14).

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