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'Non-stop bedlam': Rampant drug activity turns Nobbys Road public housing into 'hellhole'

May 20, 2023

Ray Grant at his Nobbys Road apartment. Picture by Jonathan Carroll Ray Grant calls the Newcastle East social housing complex "South By The Sea", a grim reference to what he says are its similarities to the troubled Hamilton South estate. Other residents describe it as a "hellhole" and "bedlam". Mr Grant, a 67-year-old former advertising executive, has lived in the Nobbys Road estate for five years and has grown frustrated at what he sees as "out of control" drug crime in the "rabbit warren" of 150 apartments. Mr Grant and other residents echoed the comments of people living in the Hamilton South estate who spoke to the Newcastle Herald last month of growing drug activity and violence in their buildings. "They're putting people straight out of jail in here and every drug addict they can possibly find on their books," he said. "It's just out of control. You've got that many people here who are not supposed to be living here, and they're all drug addicts. "In recent times, we get a lack of response from the police. You've got drug houses. I've constantly reported them, car registrations. You think you're doing the decent thing in passing it all on, and it's getting nowhere. "I've got court again on the 23rd of this month for an extension for an AVO that's been in place. "Two other people went to court on Tuesday for their applications to be heard. "You have people ... moving into people's apartments and standing over them and robbing them. They're extremely well known to the police. It's just ridiculous. I've never lived this type of lifestyle in my entire life." One long-time resident, 68-year-old Di Stewart, said she was "completely exhausted, worn out, frazzled" after 13 years living in the Nobbys Road complex. "It's non-stop bedlam drug activity all hours. I cannot sleep where I am. I am living right next door to the dealer. It's traffic like you would not believe," she said. Ms Stewart was attacked on Father's Day last year by four people in balaclavas who broke into her apartment building. "They forced their way in, pinned me to the ground. I've done both my hips in, my back, my left shoulder. I'm on a walking stick. They were in balaclavas, hooded up. I could only see their eyes." She said she had been attacked by three of her neighbours' dogs after getting out of a taxi and broken three ribs after slipping on oil left on the stairs by a neighbour. Ms Stewart also was critical of what she saw as Department of Communities and Justice (DCJ) and police inaction. "I've been doing the same thing since day dot. I arrived here at the end of 2009, and I've been going through this fight with DCJ, the police, everyone that doesn't want to know, since then. "It's a non-stop, non-hearing, ostrich effect. Stick their head in the sand and they don't want to know about anything. "I've been living with this filth for 13 years. There's not one child under 15 who lives anywhere in this area. Makes you wonder why that is. "It's pathetic. No duty of care. They just don't care. We all just get fobbed off like we're worthless. Like Ray says, 'Houso lives worth nothing." Mr Grant said the Nobbys Road complex was in an ideal location for families near the beach but was becoming an increasingly scary environment for many residents. He called for a culture change at the DCJ, which he described as the "biggest hurdle" to improving conditions at the estate. "They do not want to know," he said. "They don't care. As far as duty of care goes, there's a lack of that. "It's pretty frustrating to think that you've done the right thing with your life and I ended up in this environment. "You have people running into units and bashing people. All drug-related. You call the police. The police do turn up for that sort of thing. The people just turn around and say they'll deal with it themselves. That's just all the time here. It really is that bad. "I understand the police's hands are tied when it comes to the department of housing. The powers lie with the department of housing because of their antisocial behaviour policy, which they don't uphold." The DCJ antisocial behaviour management policy says "severe illegal behaviour", which includes "the manufacture, sale, cultivation or supply of any prohibited drug", will "generally" lead to DCJ applying to the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal to terminate a tenancy. A DCJ spokesperson said the department had a "robust policy framework in place to address illegal and antisocial behaviour issues in social housing properties. "DCJ Housing does not tolerate illegal activity and antisocial behaviour and takes complaints seriously. "We have evicted social housing tenants for antisocial behaviour and will continue to seek the eviction of tenants who engage in illegal and antisocial behaviour." The spokesperson said DCJ would "continue to work with the tenants at the Nobbys Road housing estate in Newcastle East to address their concerns". Mr Grant said one of the Newcastle East housing estate apartment buildings was known as "the ice palace". "The amount of people it brings here, the type of people, is just immense. It's non-stop," he said. "I've seen young mothers come here with babies in prams to buy drugs." The Newcastle Herald has been told some of the dealers are not DCJ tenants, but have "taken over" residents' units. Mr Grant said DCJ did not implement the legislated three-strikes policy for antisocial behaviour. "This is beautiful here, but it's just the most uncomfortable, daunting, unsafe area that you could possibly be in," he said. "The whole structure needs to change." Mr Grant said people living near the complex also felt the impact of the antisocial behaviour. "I'm surprised with the amount of people who live towards Newcastle beach. Their properties are worth quite a few dollars. I don't know how they're handling all of this. "We're not getting anywhere. Nothing gets done. They know about it, but they're not prepared to do anything about it, which leads me to think the culture needs to change in that office. "You've got to start caring about the decent people. There's elderly people here that are lovely people." The Newcastle Herald reported last month that the NSW Land and Housing Corporation had completed early investigations into "reimagining" Hamilton South estate with a mix of new social and private housing, as is happening at some public housing complexes in Sydney. Mr Grant said Newcastle East was "not as bad as Hamilton South, with the stabbings and murders, but it's heading that way". "This is now South By The Sea. Unless we put a stop to it, unless we get on top of it, this is what's going to happen here," he said. "There's a lot of doors being kicked in, and it's all to do with drugs, and they get away with it. "I'm anti-drugs. There's a drug house next door. The police know it's a drug house. So does the housing department. It doesn't matter who I speak to. It just goes on and on and on." Another Nobbys Road estate resident said he had been to "every department you can think of", including the NSW Ombudsman, with his concerns. "The junkies and drug dealers run it. The whole place. It's been like that for years. Everyone's terrified. You can't get anyone to do anything," he said. "Threats, loud music and obvious drug dealing. They walk around the joint like they own the place. They've got most of the older people shit-scared." IN THE NEWS

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