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Trespass notice for squatters in station

Concerns about squatters in the former Gisborne police station have resulted in a request for trespass notices to be served.

Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust owns the building and has accepted the occupation by a small number of homeless people on the basis it was temporary, while alternatives were explored.

Concerns about health and safety while the squatters stay there, and complaints from neighbours, have tested the limits of that tolerance.

“We issued trespass notices to a group of homeless people who were occupying the old police station a couple of years ago,” says Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust project manager Amohaere Houkamau.

“The group moved camp, and a group has been camped there for the past five to six months.

“We have never given expressed support for their occupation of our premises, but until recently we have tolerated their occupation on the basis that they appeared to be harmless.

“This was a stop-gap measure to keep them off the streets, while alternative housing was identified.”

The unauthorised occupants seemed to have adopted a sense of permanency at the former police station, said Ms Houkamau.

They had taken the gates off their hinges and cut the locks to gain entrance.

The trust recently organised for the removal of a large amount of rubbish from the back yard. It has also had doors put back on their hinges, and the locks changed.

Over the past few months the trust had sought to identify alternative emergency housing options and engage with providers who might be able to provide support.

“We have come to appreciate that there are limited emergency housing options in Gisborne.

“Furthermore, the core members of the group have been homeless for the past four-and-a-half years and have rejected accommodation offered because they do not want to comply with the terms and conditions of these homes.

“That is to be alcohol and drug-free.”

The Gisborne Herald reported last year a mix of social-emergency housing, with a built-in housing support unit, was one of the options for the old police station.

The Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust is reviewing the management of its property portfolio which includes the former police station.

OCCUPATION TOLERATED NO LONGER: Rongowhakaata Iwi Trust has asked for trespass notices to be served on squatters in the old Gisborne police station building, on the corner of Childers Road and Peel Street. Picture by Paul Rickard