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Heartless government

Written By: - Date published: 3:00 pm, June 13th, 2015 - 123 comments
Categories: bill english, child welfare, health, housing, national, workers' rights - Tags: , , ,

A few stories of recent weeks which show exactly what kind of government we have.

Last August, Emma-Lita Bourne died of pneumonia because the state house her family lived in was cold and damp. Soesa Tovo died after being admitted to hospital with heart and lung problems and pnuemonia. His house was so cold and damp they had to wipe down the ceiling every morning.

The response from Minister of Housing Nick Smith?

“People dying in winter of pneumonia and other illnesses is not new.”

Because people who expect state houses to not be so cold they kill people are clearly confused about the concept of mortality.

Marnia Heke and her children are living in their car because they can’t find stable accommodation. She doesn’t want to go to a motel for a night because it’ll get the kids’ hopes up.

The response from WINZ?

“We have told her that the Ministry would help her to cover the financial cost of temporary accommodation. We wouldn’t be paying for all of the accommodation as it would be reasonable to expect her to contribute.”

Because when a woman and her three kids are sleeping in their car what’s really important is making sure we spend the absolute minimum amount required to put a roof over their heads.

Peter Talley is given a knighthood for “services to business”. His business involves locking out workers, paying women less because they’re women, and trying to force workers to sign individual employment agreements which deny them the right to hold workplace meetings, criticise Peter Talley and his mates publicly, or deny their boss access to their entire medical history.

The response from the Deputy Prime Minister?

“It’s a big complicated business and I’m sure there’s been things go wrong over time, but I think the contribution he has made over the years has been beneficial.”

Because systematically, repeatedly exploiting your workers is just a boo-boo.

This is heartless government. A government that literally does not care about people. Not about providing warm safe housing (it might cost too much). Not about making sure they can come home every day after work (it might cost too much). Not about protecting workers’ right to freedom of speech and forming unions (it would definitely cost too much).

New Zealand is surely a better country than this.

123 comments on “Heartless government”

  1. weka 1

    “We have told her that the Ministry would help her to cover the financial cost of temporary accommodation. We wouldn’t be paying for all of the accommodation as it would be reasonable to expect her to contribute.”

    That’s unclear. Do they mean they can pay something separate to accommodation supplement, TAS etc?

    Why can they not just pay her accommodation supplement and TAS for whatever accommodation is available?

  2. Andy 2

    If I had my way Govt would fit log fires to all state houses and grow forests to supply free firewood for all state house tenants,plu I would make sure all State house tenants had the very latest of computer and cellphone techknowledgady plus widescreen TVs fitted to the walls. These people have gone without for too long.

    [Stephanie: do not troll this post. Basic, liveable housing is not a goddamn luxury only to be afforded to the privileged.]

  3. The government can’t force you to heat your house, nor prevent you from making it damp. For all that Nick Smith’s a mean-spirited piece of shit, if I was Minister for Housing I wouldn’t let journos pin this on me either.

    [Stephanie: This is perilously close to victim-blaming. I will not tolerate this kind of “well Emma-Lita’s parents should have ~made better choices~” rubbish in general, but especially when Housing New Zealand has admitted it didn’t handle her case or the Tovo case properly.]

    • It has admitted it didn’t handle their cases properly, yes. At the least it didn’t have carpets on the floors in their houses. However, you’re saying they died because their houses were “cold and damp,” and implying that this is Housing NZ’s fault. That’s an unfair implication and it’s reasonable for me to point out why.

      • It’s not an unfair implication at all. We have case after case of people living in state houses dying from preventable illness, with coroner’s findings supporting the fact their houses weren’t liveable. That is clearly the responsibility of Housing NZ and the government.

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          So charged, HNZ would be best advised to instruct their lawyer to call attention to systemic underfunding and neglect, and failed right wing nonsense like ‘market rents’, not to mention failed right wing nonsense like ‘Max Bradford’.

          The SOE model is broken and is killing state housing tenants.

        • Psycho Milt

          The fact that their houses were cold and damp is not “clearly the responsibility of Housing NZ and the government,” for the reasons provided in my first comment. It is “allegedly” the responsibility of Housing NZ and the government, but so far nobody’s made a case for it.

          • One Anonymous Bloke

            I’ve alluded to the case, as have others, several times.

            In a nutshell, the SOE model is broken, and any government that maintains it fails in its statutory duties.

            • Colonial Rawshark

              Its a Labour model and it helped make Cullen made 9 budget surpluses off of it. Can’t be that broken, can it?

            • Psycho Milt

              That’s the thing – you allude to things, without actually presenting an argument to support it.

              • One Anonymous Bloke

                Are you familiar with the phrase “the buck stops here”? The government is responsible for the condition of state houses, period.

                Are you familiar with medical advice regarding cold, damp housing?

                Can you perhaps point to an State Owned “Enterprise” that has lived up to the free market hype?

                • Are you familiar with the phrase “the buck stops here”? The government is responsible for the condition of state houses, period.

                  The buck did stop there, in that Housing NZ accepted some work needed to be done on the houses. However, if we’re to hold the government to a completely unconditional level of accountability, then the government would have to take some basic steps to protect the condition of the nation’s state houses: warning and if necessary evicting tenants who won’t ventilate the house, and evicting and blacklisting tenants who wilfully/negligently damage the house. If we won’t let it do that (and we don’t, and shouldn’t), we can’t hold it solely responsible for what tenants do to its houses.

                  Are you familiar with medical advice regarding cold, damp housing?

                  Yes. Its relevance to the question of Housing NZ culpability for these two houses being cold and damp?

                  Can you perhaps point to an State Owned “Enterprise” that has lived up to the free market hype?

                  Have you stopped beating your wife?

                  • One Anonymous Bloke

                    From your last sentence, can I take it that you agree that the SOE model is broken?

                    “Difficult” tenants come with the territory. The high inequality, low wages, anti-worker territory swells their numbers. All these conditions are the direct responsibility of Parliament.

          • RedLogix

            Well before you can have that discussion, you’d need to agree on what constitutes “made a case for it”.

            Certainly we’d find no smoking Ministerial Memo requiring maximum cold and damp delivered to the households concerned.

            Nor is it likely any HNZ official went to work that day thinking “how many kiddies can I kill from pneumonia today?”

            Yet when we look at the big picture it’s not hard to discern a toxic mix (sometimes literally) of poor housing design and maintenance, lack of affordable heating, overcrowding, poor diet, under-education and so on that everyone recognises are definite contributors to these kinds of deaths.

            While it’s true we are unlikely to find any individual culpable for these deaths, it is nonetheless reasonable to suggest that government and it’s agencies hold a level of responsibility for addressing these contributory factors.

            And that these on going deaths (not to mention the thousands of unnecessary illnesses and hospital admissions) are evidence to suggest they have failed in this responsibility. And should be held politically accountable.

            • Colonial Rawshark

              Seems to me like some people are more interested in making excuses, than accepting that there is a real problem and then participating in setting out solutions.

            • One Anonymous Bloke

              “…politically accountable.”

              I disagree. There are responsibilities that come with being in government. Chief of these is the protection of human rights. Where governments fail those duties for reasons of, for example, famine or war, these may be mitigating factors. Ideology, not so much.

              Prosecute human rights violators.

            • Psycho Milt

              Well before you can have that discussion, you’d need to agree on what constitutes “made a case for it”.

              How hard can it be? We’ve had multiple posts and comments saying that Housing NZ is responsible for the houses being cold and damp. OK – how, exactly? What exactly did Housing NZ do or not do to make these houses cold and damp?

              • RedLogix

                Well as a private landlord you would no doubt want to pin the responsibility onto me if the houses I rented were cold and damp shit-holes.

                Quite possibly the term ‘slumlord’ would get an airing.

                But you are of course being selective; as I clearly stated in my argument there is a mix of contributory factors going on here, not all of which (power prices for example) can be laid onto HNZ.

                But most of which one way or another can be sheeted home to government inaction. In my world we elect and fund governments to undertake a number of serious responsibilities. One of them is to protect public health – and this issue clearly falls into that remit.

                • As a private landlord, what would your approach be if you found your tenants were making your property damp? Mine has been to tell them they need to open the windows occasionally. One in particular I was seriously concerned was damaging the place, fortunately they moved out before it came to giving them the boot. Housing NZ doesn’t have that luxury, it has to suck it up when its tenants make its houses damp, and apparently it also has to suck it up when bloggers then declare it responsible for the houses being damp.

                  Agree re the mix of contributory factors: low wages, ludicrously high property values, high electricity prices, Housing NZ failing to keep up with maintenance – also, ignorant tenants failing to ventilate the property, not using contraception, letting their church tithe them etc. Some of it’s definitely the government’s responsibility, but blaming it for killing people is ridiculously over the top.

                  • When people have literally no money to heat their homes properly, how do you propose they “just open the windows occasionally” when it’s freezing outside? Soesa Tovo’s family tried exactly that – and it was too cold for them to air the house properly.

                    I’m going to advise you once again that this kind of victim-blaming “well poor people should just stop breathing and cooking indoors, it makes the house damp” crap is not welcome on my post and if you really must, take it to Open Mike.

                    • You are attributing blame for these deaths, but you don’t welcome people disputing your attribution of blame. Fair enough, the blog owner’s judgement is final, but if you can’t stand people disputing your claims, why enable comments?

                    • I’m not attributing blame, the coroner did, Housing NZ accepted it, and I’m quite happy to be an unreasonable moderator when it comes to blaming people who lost a partner or child to preventable illness for ~just not opening the windows enough~.

                      It feeds a frankly hateful narrative about poor people and beneficiaries being stupid/wilfully negligent/deserving of their deaths.

                    • RedLogix

                      Absolutely Steph.

                      Even if PM would argue that both the families AND the govt have in their own manner contributed towards this tragedy – Soesa Tovo’s family have most certainly paid a very high price, while this heartless govt has completely denied, indeed openly washed it’s hands, of any accountability for it’s own inaction.

                    • Housing NZ accepted responsibility for a tenant’s death? Please provide a citation. Also, the coroner did not blame Housing NZ for these deaths, on any reasonable reading of the report.

                      Even if PM would argue that both the families AND the govt have in their own manner contributed towards this tragedy – Soesa Tovo’s family have most certainly paid a very high price, while this heartless govt has completely denied, indeed openly washed it’s hands, of any accountability for it’s own inaction.

                      I would argue that nobody’s presented any coherent argument for Housing NZ’s culpability for these deaths, that the Coroner did not hold Housing NZ responsible, and that anyone wanting to claim it is responsible needs to actually present a fucking argument in support of that claim – is that too much to ask?

                    • Colonial Rawshark

                      a child dies and but you don’t seem interested in the simplest question of all – what could the government have done differently to save the young life.

                    • RedLogix

                      needs to actually present a fucking argument in support of that claim – is that too much to ask?

                      Yes I have. Repeatedly. Either address it or fuck off.

                    • Yes I have. Repeatedly. Either address it or fuck off.

                      You’ve argued that in general terms the government is responsible for poverty, ignorance, high power prices and deferred maintenance on Housing NZ properties, so if people die in Housing NZ houses it’s the government’s responsibility. In the vague sense implied, the government does bear some responsibility for these deaths. However, you haven’t presented an argument for the specific claim being made by journos and bloggers: that Housing NZ caused these houses to be cold and damp. How exactly did it cause these houses to be cold and damp, and how do we know that it, rather than the tenants, was responsible? After three different comments threads on the subject I still haven’t seen a reasonable answer.

                    • RedLogix

                      No I have been quite specific. This is not a complicated or difficult matter as I outlined below:

                      Heartless government

                      Of course the root problem here is that this pack of Tory arses have – from Pike River onwards – have sought to dilute or deny the collective responsibilities we elect and fund governments to fulfill.

                      In a word – heartless.

                    • Your argument in that comment is effectively the same as mine: that there is distributed responsibility in cases like this, and that both landlord and tenant are likely to have contributed to these incidents to a greater or lesser extent, said extents being at this point unknown. It’s not an argument for Housing NZ having made these tenants’ houses cold and damp.

                    • Lanthanide

                      @ PM:
                      If it takes education for tenants to be ventilating their houses so they’re not cold and damp, then HNZ should be providing that education when the tenant first takes up residency in the house.

                      If it takes weekly visits from a HNZ agent to go to the house and check that it isn’t damp, and remind the tenants on how to keep the house damp-free, and also do whatever is required to achieve that goal (ie, install carpet, fix up / install extraction fans / range-hoods / vented dryers), then that is what HNZ should have done.

                      Did HNZ do those things? Almost certainly they did not do the latter things, and I doubt that they did the former.

                      Could HNZ do those things? Yes. They would of course need more funding from the government.

                      If HNZ had done all of those things, would the house have been damp and contributed to the death of the child? The house may still have had a likelihood of being damp, but much lowered if all practicable steps were being taken (and the steps I have listed *are* practicable, but of course require more money to achieve).

                      Therefore, HNZ is responsible, for having *not* taken these practicable steps. The government is responsible for under-funding HNZ and also not requiring such practicable steps be taken.

                    • RedLogix


                      Lanth puts a solid bold on the argument. I’ve nothing more to add.

                    • Could HNZ do those things? Yes. They would of course need more funding from the government.

                      Yes, Housing NZ could hire an army of inspectors to visit its 30,000 Auckland properties weekly to ensure its tenants aren’t damaging the property through ignorance, negligence or malicious intent, if the government were that profligate with taxpayers’ money. But if we’re going down the money-no-object path, it could build brand new houses for all its tenants with the latest in passive systems for heating, ventilation and energy conservation, with more funding from the government. No matter what the level of funding, the government can’t be and shouldn’t be entirely and completely responsible for adult citizens unless they’re mentally incapacitated.

                    • RedLogix

                      No that’s the Angry Dick argument – taking a position to an extreme in order to mock it.

                      It’s also the same argument I encountered in an interesting legal case I was peripherally involved in back in the 80’s.

                      A good mate of mine (a lawyer would you believe) took on a case of gross negligence against a major industrial operator. His client had lost a leg in a horrible accident where he was caught in a hydraulic ram that was used for crushing scrap aluminium into billets. About 3-4 times a shift he had to physically enter the machine and clean out the bore to keep it working well.

                      A workmate of his started it while he was in it … and while he got most of himself out … one leg didn’t.

                      In those days the employer was adamant that it was nothing to do with them. It was entirely the fault of the employee for not making sure his fellow workers knew where he was and the fault of the guy who started the machine. No sirree … no liability on us! Stupid workers go killing and maiming themselves all the time – what are we expected to do about it?

                      Of course these days the pricks would be hung six ways for Christmas. The machine design was a death trap and by even the most elementary analysis it was obvious there was no tag out or basic isolations in place. No-one had done a risk analysis, there was no procedures in place, there was no training, there was absolutely nothing from the employer to mitigate this blindingly obvious risk.

                      Now over 30 years later we accept without question that the employer would have been liable in this situation. Their inaction and failures would see them prosecuted, fined and quite possibly put senior management in prison.

                      The parallel with what is going on here in State Housing (and other substandard rentals) is pretty obvious, just on a bigger scale. Government does have a public health responsibility in this matter – a broad corporate (in the widest sense of the word) responsibility they are openly refusing to acknowledge.

                    • I don’t think it’s unreasonable to characterise weekly visits by Housing NZ staff to 30,000 Auckland properties as a “money-no-object” approach. “Angry Dick” better describes the practice throughout the threads on this subject of presenting extreme outliers (“What if the house was X?” “I lived in a house once that…” etc) as though they disproved the idea that your house will get damp if you put lots of people in it and never open the windows.

                      As to the employer analogy, not even Housing NZ is saying it did nothing wrong in these incidents. The claim is though that Housing NZ caused these houses to be cold and damp – and there’s no evidence it did.

                    • RedLogix


                      The claim is though that Housing NZ caused these houses to be cold and damp – and there’s no evidence it did.

                      There was zero evidence that the employer pressed the start button on that machine either. But that does not mean they carried no responsibility for what happened.

                      Management at Pike River probably didn’t go down the mine and light a match – but the Royal Commission was absolutely scathing about their shoddy failures all the same.

                      And while no-one is suggesting that HNZ actively created or caused the cold and damp in these homes – they most certainly failed to do enough to prevent it.

                      It baffles me why you’re so stuck on this simple distinction. As we said above, the families of these children have through whatever actions they did or did not take, paid a very high price. That is a personal matter which no decent human would pick over in a public forum.

                      But at the same time HNZ and the government have openly absolved themselves from their responsibility here. And that is a matter of political accountability – and this is a political forum.

                    • Lanthanide

                      @ PM:
                      Where did I say that all 30,000 houses had to be visited weekly? Nowhere, in fact. You made that strawman up yourself.

                      Obviously there are some houses that will be more problematic than others. Also there are some tenants that will be more problematic than others. The good ones to initially target are the ones that have been complaining for years to HNZ that their house is cold and damp.

                      For houses and tenants that have shown no long-term issues, a courtesy call once during winter may be sufficient.

                      Also, saying “30,000 houses in Auckland” makes it sound terrible. But if HNZ owns every house on a street, then 1 or 2 people could likely visit all the houses in a day or two (assuming there’s someone home).

                      Nevertheless, this is *not* impossible, and it is practicable for it to be done, if only the government would spend more money on it. Which requires the public at large to not keep electing these amazing economic wizkids that cut taxes during a recession and then wonder why they can’t reach surplus.

                      Investing in preventative health care for citizens on a large scale should also reduce the cost of the health budget. So while the HNZ budget might go up, the health budget could go down (or, stay the same, and have a better service offering).

                    • It baffles me why you’re so stuck on this simple distinction.

                      It’s straightforward: far from “no-one suggesting that HNZ actively created or caused the cold and damp in these homes,” multiple posts and commenters have directly blamed Housing NZ for these deaths. If you’re going to leap to blaming people for a death, there’s a hefty burden of proof, and “I have a burning sense of injustice” isn’t a substitute for that proof.

                      There’s a big gap between Housing NZ not doing a good enough job at replacing carpets, and Housing NZ being responsible for people’s deaths. If authors/commenters avoid evidence-free blame attribution, I’ll avoid pointing out the landlord can’t prevent you making your house damp.

                  • RedLogix

                    I can appreciate where you are coming from. As I’ve said before – some tenants are a problem and about two years ago we finished up with a $6k bill for exactly that reason. Major bathroom repairs (and I didn’t have the time to fix them) because some twat put an unventilated clothes dryer in there.

                    The same tenant also came with other major problems, like getting months behind on rent. On top of this she had relationship problems and a sick baby which meant we held off acting for way too long. In the end we just made an offer to waive the back-rent and found her (via the manager we now use) a place she could afford.

                    So despite what you are imagining I’m not trying to evade the fact that tenants (well all householders really) have a responsibility for some basic understanding of how moisture works. On the other hand in my experience people rarely come with just one problem, any many of them are not of their own making.

                    (And now I think about it, back in the early days we did have one person who was just unaware of the need to ventilate – and a simple request entirely solved the problem. But this person was a fine tenant in every other respect.)

                    But often just asking them to ‘open a window’ isn’t necessarily the whole solution. They may well feel that this lets out the heat, or it they’ll have security issues around this, or maybe just no-one responsible is at home during the day.

                    In my case I just installed a properly vented clothes dryer … and in three other units I’ve got a decent ventilation system in place. None of these solutions are perfect but so far I’ve not had a repeat of the problem.

                    Landlords despite what people imagine generally do far more than just collect the rent and clip the ticket. We do have a responsibility for the maintenance and upkeep of the property – and the tenant is involved in the process as well. But if either party abdicates their part of the deal – then problems are guaranteed.

                    And to try and drag this back on topic … the evidence is that this do nothing govt has entirely ignored it’s role in this rather massive public health issue.

                  • David H

                    Are your houses Insulated warm and dry? or are they just ways of making money and to hell with the health of the tenants. Oh and they must open the Windows, which usually means they are cold and damp, as warm insulated walls don’t weep.

                    • My houses are as insulated as most other NZ houses, ie there’s insulation in the ceilings and that’s about it. They’re warm if the tenants heat them (it’s up to them whether they run the heating or not) and dry unless the tenants make them damp (it’s up to them whether they air the place or not). Are these questions relevant to the OP in some way?

              • maui

                Heard of a coroner’s report.. guess not.

          • infused

            Pretty much the comment made below. The only place I’ve seen where these deaths have been said to be caused by the state house is The Standard.

            • Colonial Rawshark

              The condition of the house will have been one of the primary factors, but not the only one.

              • infused

                So if that’s true, which it may well be, where is the evidence? As to date, I’ve seen none, except from the experts here.

                • Given that every single news story about Emma-Lita Bourne’s death this month has been triggered by a coroner’s report saying the state of the house was a contributing factor I’m calling bullshit on your “oh but I haven’t seen this proven anywhere”.


                  Now you’re probably going to complain that “contributing factor” doesn’t mean “one and only cause” and make various other excuses for our government’s neglect leading to a child’s death but that’s on your conscience, not mine.

                  • Look at the headline you’re linking to there: “Damp state house played part in toddler’s death.” You’re making the bold claim that this damp was caused by Housing NZ, when damp is largely a matter of whether the people living in the house open the windows and doors occasionally or not. Explain how it was caused by Housing NZ.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      You seem to be fixated on ventilation when there are multiple other causes. Why is that?


                      Yes, poor ventilation is the commonest cause but in old houses I’d put the main cause into all the rest of the problems listed in that article. For houses 50+ years old we’re probably looking at pulling them down building new ones. Hell, for a number of the Leaky Buildings that happened in the 1990s that was the only option as well.

                    • Multiple other causes? Which ones, exactly? Rising damp isn’t a significant problem in this country. Leaks can be a problem, but the richest source of those is houses built under National’s “improved” regulatory regime of the 1990s. Few state houses fall into that category. In this country, unless your house is on a southern slope among tall trees, damp is almost certainly down to insufficient ventilation.

                      As for houses 50+ years old, there’s nothing wrong with them unless they haven’t been maintained over a long period or they’ve had successive tenants who don’t ventilate them. Which applies in the case of damp Housing NZ houses is still an open question.

                    • Colonial Rawshark

                      So apart from making excuses, what course of action are you suggesting?

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      Leaks can be a problem, but the richest source of those is houses built under National’s “improved” regulatory regime of the 1990s.

                      Probably but that doesn’t mean that other houses aren’t leaking or afflicted by other forms of damp that can’t be addressed by simply opening the windows.

                      As for houses 50+ years old, there’s nothing wrong with them…

                      And that’s a load of BS as well. As I’ve said before, several members of my family are in the construction business. My nephew is a builder and has been in the trade for 20+ years and he tells me that the places he really hates working on is old houses because the walls are inevitably rotten. He and others in the building industry refuse to do refurbishments on anything but an hourly rate because of it.

                      You deluding yourself if you think that simply opening the windows will fix everything.

                    • Probably but that doesn’t mean that other houses aren’t leaking or afflicted by other forms of damp that can’t be addressed by simply opening the windows.

                      Sure it doesn’t. Any evidence that either of the two houses in question featured one of these uncommon sources of damp?

                      My nephew is a builder and has been in the trade for 20+ years and he tells me that the places he really hates working on is old houses because the walls are inevitably rotten.

                      Well, yes. The only times I’ve ever asked a builder to work on an old house was because something was rotten, so it’s unsurprising that a builder would never work on an old house that didn’t have rot. Most of the houses I’ve owned and lived in have been upwards of 50 years old – the oldest was 100. There was nothing wrong with any of them, other than that every few decades the owner needs to get builders in to work on them.

                      So apart from making excuses, what course of action are you suggesting?

                      I’m not the Coroner. Based on the coroner’s report mentioned above, however, it sounds like Housing NZ needs to make clear to incoming tenants what their responsibilities are when it comes to ventilating the place.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      Any evidence that either of the two houses in question featured one of these uncommon sources of damp?

                      How about evidence that it wasn’t lack of ventilation?

                      [77] They confirm a number of interventions were carried out as part of their Healthy Housing Programme. This included the Hometech passive and window ventilation system; and installation of an electric heater in the lounge.

                      Bold mine.

                      Then we have to consider that it is an old house which is evidence that it has other difficulties that haven’t been discovered yet:

                      However, with the average age of HNZ homes sitting at 43 years, there were properties that were old, cold and difficult to maintain, she said.

                      The only times I’ve ever asked a builder to work on an old house was because something was rotten, so it’s unsurprising that a builder would never work on an old house that didn’t have rot.

                      He wasn’t there to do repairs but renovations. The rot was discovered after other work had been started.

                      Based on the coroner’s report mentioned above, however, it sounds like Housing NZ needs to make clear to incoming tenants what their responsibilities are when it comes to ventilating the place.

                      According to the coroners report, it’s highly probable that they did.

                      Really, you’re stuck on your first explanation as being the only factor when the evidence would suggest that that was only one of the problems – and one that looks to have been taken care of.

                    • How about evidence that it wasn’t lack of ventilation?

                      Occam’s razor. Damp in an NZ house is nearly always caused by lack of ventilation. Which means, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, lack of ventilation is by far the most likely explanation for damp in a house.

                      …a number of interventions were carried out as part of their Healthy Housing Programme. This included the Hometech passive and window ventilation system;

                      In other words, the problem was lack of ventilation. It also suggests the tenants were so resistant to ventilating the house via its built-in systems that Housing NZ was forced to spend taxpayers’ money working around this unwillingness to ventilate.

                  • infused

                    Nice cop-out at the end there Steph.

                    Have you actually read the report?

                  • Ovid

                    As an aside, it’s unhelpful that the NZ Coroners Court website doesn’t appear to have been updated since 2013 and the reports on NZLII haven’t been updated since December last year. It would be useful to have the original report available with the coroner’s weighting of the contributing factors rather than just through the lens of the media.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  Did you miss the coroner’s report?

                  • infused

                    Yeah, read it?

                    • One Anonymous Bloke

                      “…the house unfortunately was unhealthy for this family…”

                      You read that, and now you’re here claiming the house wasn’t a factor.

                      What a low-life you are.

          • tricledrown

            Psycho we are supposed to be a civilised developed nation you are proof that neanderthal thinking is still alive and well ,laws of the jungle still rule by your heartless emotional
            Only the strongest fit and cunning deserve to live .

  4. lprent 4

    Meanwhile over at Kiwiblog, David Farrar is running a National party probe piece for the people who want their blood money in the form of minor tax cuts. It has the usual range of stupid greedy fools.

    I think that there was a single mention of the need to drop back the massive government debt that National has foisted on us for the last 6 and half years, and absolutely none on the need to fund the obligations of an aging population heading into retirement and increasing healthcare with a much smaller tax base. That would seem to me to be the core of a debate about tax changes right now as we head to the non-working demographic peak in 15 years.

    It might be a heartless government, but it appears to accurately reflect the more vocal of the ignorant short-term layabout parasitical shitheads who seem to support it. Looking through the list of people that I recognize writing comments on that post there, then considering what they have revealed about themselves over the years, my impression is that we could drop them from NZ society and improve society as a whole. Most of them seem to work in the more parasitical internal economy occupations.

    None of them appear to have any other redeeming qualities that you couldn’t find in a baboon troop.

    • Policy Parrot 4.1

      In order to National to pay for broad based tax cuts, it will have to shift the public mindset away from the “era of austere” that it has presided over up until now; and yet the statistics have not got any better:
      – Record government debt (in absolute dollar terms).
      – Failure to produce a surplus despite seven years in government.
      – Claim of insufficient funds to equalise accommodation supplement payments in Auckland and Christchurch (costed at $100m), despite rents now being roughly equivalent (and incomes in Christchurch being lower on average).
      – Failure to restart contributions to the NZ Superannuation Fund.

      Its like that guy (everyone knows at least one of them) who always claims poverty when it is their turn to pay for something, yet they always can come up with the readies if/when it suits – usually referred to as “cheapskates”; “short arms, deep pockets” etc.

  5. David 5

    If government is heartless, why do many here seem to want government to own all the housing?

    • You are confusing the general “a government” with the specific “this government”, and I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt as to this being a genuine mistake.

      • David 5.1.1

        Government is Government regardless of the colour of the rosette, or do you really think that these cases never occur when your preferred colour rules?

        [Stephanie: This is a blatant derail. The post is commenting specifically on the actions of a specific government and makes no such claims about “my preferred colour”. Given your previous commenting history of facetious off-topic trollbait I’m giving you a warning about your behaviour on this thread.]

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          Meanwhile, on Earth, in New Zealand, whenever the National Party occupies the Treasury benches, unemployment rises, per-capita GDP falls, the GINI coefficient goes up, median wages fall, and the social gradient of child morbidity gets steeper.

          Why are you ignorant of these things David? Is it because you’ve never attempted to measure a single one of your deeply held beliefs against reality in your whole life? Or what?

        • David

          You seriously think this is a problem that has arisen in the last 8 years? Shate houses have been like this for decades, it’s not specific to ‘this’ government.

          • One Anonymous Bloke

            Do you seriously think your deeply held beliefs mean anything outside of the confines of your own mind? I asked you a question: why do you keep yourself ignorant?

          • linda

            but in past decades income covered the cost of living that is no longer the case the issue is one of the collapse of real income and trashing of the economy this could be a case of intergenerational injustice the baby bloomers have looted the economy and there needs to be some form of pay back for there greed

    • One Anonymous Bloke 5.2


      Really? can you list them?

  6. Colonial Rawshark 6

    It is time to bring voters some materially different options. But beware – upgrading NZ’s substandard housing stock will cost many billions of dollars. And with housing related deaths every month it can’t be done over say ten years. It has to be done ASAP.

    Is there a political party in Parliament publicly willing to commit to this level of additional expenditure?

    • wyndham 6.1

      Isn’t a big part of the cause of rundown stock due to the government demanding a large (like multi-millions of $) “contribution” from Housing N Z ?

      • Colonial Rawshark 6.1.1

        Likely. Trying to close the deficit gap.

      • weka 6.1.2

        “Isn’t a big part of the cause of rundown stock due to the government demanding a large (like multi-millions of $) “contribution” from Housing N Z ?”

        Do you mean part of the rents go into the general accounts rather than being for HNZ to spend?

    • weka 6.2

      “But beware – upgrading NZ’s substandard housing stock will cost many billions of dollars”

      Where does that estimate come from?

    • RedLogix 6.3

      But beware – upgrading NZ’s substandard housing stock will cost many billions of dollars.

      I’d think a fair chunk of the job could be done quite cheaply with a fleet of bulldozers. The ChCh earthquake gave us a fair old head-start. 😉

      Meanwhile back in the real world … it’s not like we don’t know how to build really good housing, it’s just that the current market model really doesn’t want to deliver it. Or at least not at a sensible price.

      Nor has there been a shortage of capable, well-intentioned people who’ve tried to address this one way or another. What we need is a circuit breaker like the 1930’s State Housing intervention. The big disrupter from that initiative was not so much the number of houses that got built, but the introduction of (for the time) innovative techniques and skills into the industry.

      There are relatively few houses left built prior to the 1930’s mainly because they were such awful shacks. But all those people who’d worked on the State Housing plan – all took their new ideas and skills with them into the wider industry. It was a transformation.

      I’ve said it yesterday – the problem with these moneyed Tory arses is not so much maliciousness, but that because so few of them have done a real days work in their lives, they have no sense of what it takes to get anything real DONE. Sure they all know how to cut deals, massage a spreadsheet and work the room – but when it comes to so much as holding a hammer – they’re useless.

      • Draco T Bastard 6.3.1

        …but that because so few of them have done a real days work in their lives, they have no sense of what it takes to get anything real DONE.

        I’m certain that that was behind the sale of Telecom that has now cost us so many billions dollars for no benefit.

        Apparently no one in government since the 1970s has truly understood the sheer physical nature of doing anything. The idiots just see the money.

    • But beware – upgrading NZ’s substandard housing stock will cost many billions of dollars.

      Coincidentally enough I have a subsequent draft post noting the fallacy of the “cost” argument (as in, sure, it’ll take a hell of a lot to repair NZ’s housing stock – but how much does it ultimately save in education/healthcare/law enforcement).

    • maui 6.5

      The current Government are bulldozing the existing state housing stock and in their place putting in more private homes, with a much reduced number of state homes. So we’re heading in the opposite direction of what you’re proposing. The party that seems to be most serious about building new homes and addressing the needs of the disadvantaged is Mana. I think they proposed 10,000 state built houses.

  7. infused 7

    Because people who expect state houses to not be so cold they kill people are clearly confused about the concept of mortality.

    Where has it been stated the house killed her?

    • One Anonymous Bloke 7.1

      The Lancet is very explicit about the health costs of poor housing. You will deny the evidence for as long as you can.

      • infused 7.1.1

        So no where then? Good to know.

        • maui

          You obviously didn’t read any of the media reports when the news broke.

          • infused

            I have, as well as the corners report.

            • maui

              You better read them all again then.

            • RedLogix

              Sighs … in the industrial health and safety arena this question of ‘responsibility’ is pretty well understood.

              The employer has a responsibility to provide a safe workplace which will entail providing systems, equipment and training to ensure that the job can be done at the ‘lowest reasonably practical risk’.

              Equally the employee has a responsibility to use the systems, equipment and training in a manner that avoids harm to themselves and their workmates, or avoids damage and loss.

              In the event of a fatality or serious harm incident, the investigation will generally find a chain of contributory causes … often called the ‘swiss cheese model’ in which a series of factors all lined up on the day to cause the actual event. Almost always both the employer and employee are found to have contributed their part in the chain.

              Substitute HNZ for employer and tenant for employee; and the concept is exactly the same. Just on a larger scale.

        • One Anonymous Bloke

          You keep telling yourself that, denial boy.

  8. infused 8

    And the women in the car…

    “We have told her that the Ministry would help her to cover the financial cost of temporary accommodation. We wouldn’t be paying for all of the accommodation as it would be reasonable to expect her to contribute.”

    The Ministry had also offered to help her pay for a bond and rent in advance to get her into permanent accommodation and to set up a redirection of benefit payment directly to a landlord if that would help her obtain temporary or permanent accommodation, Dowding said.

    While it seems there was an issue to begin with, they have been offered accommodation, but refuse to take it?

    • weka 8.1

      That’s not an offer of accommodation, that’s an offer of bond and paying the landlord directly.

      What makes you think she refused?

  9. Scintilla 9

    In my dreams, the government builds a massive processing plant to produce a range of pre-fabricated houses, that don’t require specialists to put together onsite (gosh maybe put some of the unemployed to work erecting them), and concurrently develop other prefabs for export. Apparently the govt has plenty of land for housing, we’ve got lots of trees, wool for insulation – is it really that difficult to do something so sensible??

    It’s that ongoing, sustainable, added value model that always seems to elude these cretins.

    • Plus the benefits of a strong, well-supported manufacturing sector, plus adding value to our primary exports instead of shipping them overseas in their raw form, plus job creation … yep, it doesn’t seem like rocket science, does it?

    • Karen 9.2

      I’m with you, Scintilla, except rather than one huge processing plant, there are a few scattered around the regions making various components for prefabricated houses. It needs to be for export as well as for home use because of the scale required.

      These would be truly affordable homes but they would start out as state houses that are rented out, and they would be insulated and have a heat pump or efficient log burner, plus pv panels for solar power. A certain proportion would be available for the renters to buy if their situation made it possible, but any house sold would need to replaced so that there was always enough rentals.

      IMO everybody has a right to a warm, dry, safe home, and it is up to the government to make sure it is possible,.

      In my experience right wingers are always stupid, greedy, or ignorant – and sometimes they are a combination of all three.
      Is this government heartless? Absolutely.

    • Colonial Rawshark 9.3


    • linda 9.4

      its not a dream they do in Europe and the us once an house automation and prefabrication is widely used https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1MdojvTwig

  10. Bill 10

    Here’s a question.

    If governments can bail out banks to the tune of x million/billion or whatever $….y’know, they suddenly ‘found’ the money, then where the fuck are the powerful voices demanding that they ‘find’ the money to bail out us?

    Retrofit all housing, provide the social means for health. Make all homes resilient in the face of future climate shock…

    Hmm. Flies in the face of wish fulfilling sentiments such as

    New Zealand is surely a better country than this.

    It’s not. We’re not.

    • You’re welcome to your own view of course, Bill, but if I really believed we’re not better than this I’d probably stop wasting time and energy trying to do good in the world and apply for a job with Carrick Graham.

      • lprent 10.1.1

        I’d second that.

        Besides, I did see a number of beneficial changes in society in the 5th Labour led government. Not the least of which was a pretty credible attempts to increase the diversity of our economic base towards a higher returning job base, to spread the benefits of economic growth wider, and to cut back on debt in preparation for the aging population issues due to hit us. Certainly enough to try for a 6th.

        You’d have to look frigging hard to find *any* benefits in this current government unless you are financing government debt or offshore buy ups of local property or have bets on the number of corrupt, expelled and downright stupid ministers.

        Certainly their attitude towards the economy more resembles a drug addict given free access to the bank than anything ‘responsible’. They radically shifted us towards a milk powder monoculture by shutting almost all incentives for anyone apart from crony businesses, sucked out most of space in our forward government budgets, and have been flogging off productive government assets largely to overseas buyers who are busy raising costs for NZ businesses.

        Moreover they have been completely useless at doing the basic roles of government in managing the economic infrastructure. The shortage of new housing in Auckland is a direct consequence of the National housing ministers like Williamson not providing any reason to build the required numbers of houses because the liabilities arising out of their leaky building screwup in the 1990s.

        BTW: Best thing that ever happened to NZ recently was the price crashing back on milk powder back to normal in the last 18 months. Hopefully it has stopped these National idiots from chasing their el dorado white gold (heroin?) for a while. Being lazy arseholes, they will instead probably spend the 2.5 years explaining how this is all Labours fault, and that even more unaffordable taxcuts will fix it.

  11. aaron 11

    numerous other examples of heartless government over recent times…with a trend toward neglecting social supports…introducing social bonds for mental health, sudden pull funding for relationship counseling, lack of financial support for domestic violence NGOs (Shine) and lack of support for sexual assault support groups.

  12. Reddelusion 12

    With climate change damp and cold houses will be a thing of the past. Problem solved

    • weka 12.1

      Try telling that to people in South Dunedin.

    • tricledrown 12.2

      Research has shown that rightwing fundamentalists don’t think deeply.
      Bluebaiter so how is it that I paid high taxes to help pay for John Key’s State house free education mums widows pension.
      Power and house prices were extremely low in those days so keeping the house warm wasn’t a problem

  13. Drowsy M. Kram 13

    Given the content of Stephanie’s post, Reddelusion’s ‘joke’ (it is a joke, right?) comes across as tasteless. “Heartless Government” is putting it mildly.

    “Last August, Emma-Lita Bourne died of pneumonia because the state house her family lived in was cold and damp. Soesa Tovo died after being admitted to hospital with heart and lung problems and pneumonia. His house was so cold and damp they had to wipe down the ceiling every morning.”

  14. Ovid 14

    The World Health Organisation, along with the Ministry of Health, recommends a minimum internal household temperature of 18 degrees. 20 if there are vulnerable people including infants and the elderly.

    If public housing cannot meet that standard, then steps have to be taken to bring them up to scratch. Ventillation systems, double glazing, ceiling and underfloor insulation and thermal drapes should be standard along with a heat pump, pellet fire or wood burner. The Greens warm housing scheme along with the work of a lot of local authorities has been excellent in this field, but clearly there is work yet to be done.

    • Lanthanide 14.1

      Yes, this is true, but, if all state houses were raised to this level, it would instantly put them in the top quartile of housing in the country. Possibly even the top 10%.

      Apart from already being unaffordable, this would immediately be met with cries of “why should bludgers get better housing than what I can afford?”. So the only fair response would be for the government to upgrade *all* housing in NZ, both private and publicly owned, which would be astronomically unaffordable, and there wouldn’t be enough skilled and qualified people to do the work even if we wanted. Also I would expect that at least 10% of housing, probably even up to 20-30%, would more cost-effectively (over a future payback period of 50 years) be demolished and re-built which is again even more unaffordable and logistically impossible as there wouldn’t be enough excess housing available to house those who had to move out of their houses until they were rebuilt.

      In short, the whole situation is intractable and will only be very gradually dealt with over a long period of time.

      What can be done very quickly however, is significantly beef up the building code, to ensure that newly built houses are much more energy and resource efficient.

      The rebuild of Christchurch also represents a massive missed opportunity by this government. They could have instituted a special building code in Christchurch, equivalent to a homestar 5 rating. All the builders that came to CHCH would be forced to up-skill, and they’d take these skills with them back to the rest of the country. The large building companies would have been forced to up-skill themselves into designing better homes to meet these requirements, and again these skills would filter into the rest of the country.

      • Sable 14.1.1

        And yet the narrow minded, self serving little Kiwi voter still trots out and votes for them.

  15. Sable 15

    Hate to say it but New Zealand is not really a very nice country. It has a history of taking a shit on anyone who is poor, mentally ill, a minority or in any way disadvantaged.

    The sort of Dickensian bullshit we are seeing now is simply history repeating itself. Go back in time to the 1930’s and it was just the same. My parents lived though it and this all sounds horribly familiar.

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    6 days ago
  • New Principal Environment Judge
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    7 days ago
  • Digital connectivity boost for urban marae
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    7 days ago
  • Govt increases assistance to drought-stricken Hawke’s Bay farmers
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    1 week ago
  • Investment in New Zealand’s history
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  • Driving prompt payments to small businesses
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    1 week ago
  • Rotorua tourist icon to be safeguarded
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  • $14.7m for jobs training and education
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    1 week ago
  • Is it time to further recognise those who serve in our military?
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  • Paving the way for a fully qualified early learning workforce
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    1 week ago
  • Sport Recovery Package announced
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  • Major boost in support for caregivers and children
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  • Great Walks recovery on track for summer
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  • Māori – Government partnership gives whānau a new housing deal
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  • Keeping New Zealanders Safe In The Water
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    2 weeks ago
  • Legal framework for COVID-19 Alert Level referred to select committee
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  • New Zealand condemns shocking attacks on hospital and funeral in Afghanistan
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  • Government to close tobacco tax loophole
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  • $62 million package to support families through the Family Court
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    2 weeks ago
  • Tailored help supports new type of job seeker – report
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  • A modern approach to night classes
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  • Christchurch Call makes significant progress
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  • Christchurch Call: One year Anniversary
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    2 weeks ago