Women questions safety of motor camp

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Siraya Forrester had an unhappy stay at Bignell Street Moteland Caravan Park Photo Stuart Munro

By melissa.wishart@wanganuichronicle.co.nz

A woman who says she had a "terrifying " time at a Wanganui motor camp is questioning how safe it is after claiming she was forced to sleep in an unlocked caravan and propositioned for paid sex.

The woman claims she was locked out of her caravan by Peter One, assistant manager of the Bignell Street Motel and Caravan Park, and then had to spend a night with a broken lock after she asked to be let back in.

Siraya Forrester said fighting at the caravan park was common and alleges she once saw a man running around with a knife.

Caravan park management have denied some of her claims.

Miss Forrester came to Wanganui from Wellington in July and moved into the Bignell Street camp having been told by Mr One that it was a safe and secure place to live. "I feel very unsafe here," Miss Forrester told the Chronicle. She has since moved to a different rental property with help from the City Mission.

Within her first three weeks at Bignell Street, Miss Forrester claims she was approached by two different men who thought she was a prostitute. She said one of the men knew her first name, though she had never met him before.

Miss Forrester said she spoke to the caravan park management several times about issues she had with security.

"You've got people that have come into the property late at night ... they're drinking alcohol," she said.

"Everyone seemed to end up fighting outside my caravan. They're arguing outside my caravan, and no security will come."

After her problems at the park, she approached the Chronicle to ask about its reputation. The Chronicle visited Miss Forrester at her rented caravan and Mr One - also known as Peter Maskery - immediately appeared saying he would call police on the Chronicle for trespassing. He also attempted to trespass Miss Forrester from the property.

However, she stood her ground as she said she had signed a long-term contract to stay at the caravan park and believed she had the right to bring guests (such as the Chronicle) on to the property, as stated in the park's rules.

After that exchange, Miss Forrester said Mr One called police to the caravan park three times over the course of the following week, the third time to have her removed from the property. The police turned up but took no action.

After police had been called the third time, Miss Forrester returned to her caravan to find the locks had been changed. She raised the issue with Mr One. She said she returned to her caravan later that day to find the caravan door had been forced open and the lock was broken.

Eventually she reached a deal with camp owner Nigel Maskery that she would leave the caravan park in return for her $200 administration fee being refunded.

Miss Forrester said she was often "terrified" while living there, and questioned a lack of security patrols.

"To be honest, I thought I was going absolutely bonkers. I felt a lot of anxiety, I didn't know who to trust, where to turn to. I felt disoriented, as if I didn't know what was up from down."

She claimed to have seen a man running around outside her caravan with a knife during her first few weeks.

She also claimed her caravan was also not secure because windows could be opened from the outside, and she said her electronic tablet was stolen.

Police would not comment on security at the caravan park or Miss Forrester's claims, calling it a "civil matter".

Mr One said Miss Forrester's claims that people were fighting outside her caravan were untrue, and the incidents did not happen.

He could comment on why Miss Forrester felt unsafe, but didn't want to.

Mr One said he handled security and there were surveillance cameras around the property. When questioned about asking Miss Forrester to leave the caravan park, Mr One said they ran a large caseload of people "and if there's somebody here who is a bully or not working in with the others then we do our best to combat the situation and, as a last resort, ask them to leave".

He said he was not calling Miss Forrester a bully.

Mr One declined to say why the Chronicle had been trespassed from the property.

He and Mr Maskery did not respond to further questions, including one about Miss Forrester's claims she was locked out of her caravan and forced to sleep without a lock for the night.

Bignell St is not unknown to police. Figures released under the Official Information Act show 46 police callouts there since January 2013. The most frequent callout type was for trespass, for which there were 12 calls. From the 46 callouts, there had been six arrests.

A neighbour of the caravan park claimed she was often woken in the early hours of the morning by "yelling, screaming and foul language", and another neighbour's son was allegedly approached on the street outside by someone from the park asking for "something quite sexual".

"I do feel uncomfortable. I don't even let my youngest ones walk to the shops," the neighbour said. "I don't feel safe."

She said police were often over at the caravan park, and there had been a number of fires there.

The chief executive of the Motel Association, Michael Baines, said they had handled a number of complaints about Bignell Street with "limited to no success".

They claimed to have had complaints from people saying they asked for quotes and were later charged for a room.

"He's taken that as an offer, they've been billed afterwards ... the tactics they employ, I don't think they're ethical."

The motel was not a member of the association, so all they could do was offer an assessment of the legal situation to the complainant, Mr Baines said.

The association said it had roughly four to five complaints a year about the Bignell Street camp.

Mr Maskery and Mr One did not respond when Mr Baines' claims were put to them.

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