Thieves steal portable home from Waitangi housing development

A pair of “low” thieves have been slammed for stealing a portable cabin from a vulnerable Northland man.

For six months Eric Monk had been living in a cabin delivered under the Kaikohe-based Whakamanamai Whānau Trust’s “rent-to-bless” scheme called Whare to the Whenua.

Monk’s 6×3-metre cabin was stolen from the Tahuna Rd papakainga development in Waitangi on Saturday around 8pm.

Whare to the Whenua director Rhonda Zielinski said the theft has been reported to the police and she urges the public to report any sightings of the cabin.

She is also offering a reward to anyone with information that leads to its recovery.

Zielinski said it was believed to be an “inside job” by two local men driving an old white campervan which was seen towing the cabin. They must have used a winch to get it onto a boat trailer, she said.

“Someone rocked in with a vehicle and picked it up.It sucks, it’s bloody low and it’s like everyone is saying, it’s an inside job. People just don’t rock up to someone’s house and load it onto a trailer.”

Monk’s portable cabin was one of around 20 that had been delivered under the scheme as a practical solution to Northland’s growing homelessness problem.

He had been living in it on whānau land next to his sister, Sheree Tito, since October.

It was his first stable home following years spent in prison and living in caravan parks due to problems with mental illness and addiction.

The portable cabins were furnished with items after The Northern Advocate teamed up with The Hits Northland, Whakamanamai Whānau Trust and Solomon Group.

Monk was again in jail when his home was stolen, and his sister was away for the weekend, Zielinski said.

“He’d stopped taking his medication and became unwell and did something silly. When he comes out, he’ll have nowhere to go to.

“This is someone who had to have help because they were struggling.

“What they did was really low, stealing off someone like Eric … they’ve taken it off the most vulnerable.”

The Whakamanamai Whānau Trust, along with several directors of other local organisations, have bought over a dozen of the small homes from Space King building company in Auckland over the last year. Others are on short-term rent.

They have been delivered to individuals and families mostly in and around Kaikohe, but also in Kaitaia, Gisborne and Whanganui.

Monk’s cabin is still owned by Space King and was being rented to him via the trust.

Company owner Victor Smith said he was “devastated and a bit shocked” at the theft.

Zielinski said up until he was jailed a couple of months ago, Monk “was doing fabulous” and never missed a payment.

A police spokesperson said police are aware of the incident and are following strong lines of inquiry.

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