Desperate family forced to live in tent

By Ruth Keber -
18 comments
The tent where the family of seven, including five children aged between 2 and 11, had been living for the past five weeks. Photo/Ruth Keber
The tent where the family of seven, including five children aged between 2 and 11, had been living for the past five weeks. Photo/Ruth Keber

Housing New Zealand has apologised to a family of seven who lived in a tent for five weeks as they waited for a house to become available in Tauranga.

The family, including five children aged from 2 to 11, have been living in a two-bedroom tent next to the Wairoa River, just outside Bethlehem, since December 13. They have had to use the public toilets across the bridge and bathe in the river.

Housing New Zealand yesterday offered them a home after Maori MP Te Ururoa Flavell intervened.

The mother of five, who wanted to be known only as Kylie to protect the identity of her children, said the family moved from Rotorua for work and health reasons. Initially they stayed with a family member but moved out after the situation became strained.

"Long story short, it just got too cramped.

"We thought we would come this way [to Tauranga], as my partner works on the boats, and it was a chance for him to get to know his dad, who had been absent from his life.

"And healthwise for my kids and I, we have really bad eczema and my breathing was terrible with asthma, it was worse over there with the sulphur."

The mother said she had applied for more than 15 rental houses through Trade Me but had not heard from any of the landlords she contacted.

"So my best option was Housing New Zealand, but they hadn't even made a home visit to us," she said on Sunday.

"I'm going to do anything for my kids."

The girls were starting to moan about not having hot showers, she said.

"It's a three-compartment tent, so us and baby on one side and the four children on the other side, with the kitchen in the middle."

Housing New Zealand regional manager Darren Toy acknowledged staff could have visited the family sooner.

An apology had been made to the family for the delay, Mr Toy said.

Yesterday, Kylie and her family were offered a four-bedroom property.

"The property is the first suitable property we've had available, and has only just become vacant," Mr Toy said.

"It needs some repairs, but we're fast-tracking these and hope the family can move in before they are completed."

There was high demand for Housing New Zealand homes in Tauranga, so it could be difficult to find properties quickly, he said.

"Especially larger properties. However, we are in the process of building six new, large properties which at this stage should be available by May.

"This will go some way to help addressing demand."

The family's former Rotorua rental property owner, Gareth Hobson, said he was surprised to hear about their struggles in Tauranga.

"She was an awesome tenant ... they never missed a payment and made the house their own."

Mr Flavell said he was made aware of the family's situation after a friend saw Kylie's post on Facebook.

"Luckily, something has fallen through with another family so they [Housing New Zealand] were able to offer a house.

"Hopefully, this is an isolated incident, there could be other people in the same situation that don't put their hand up."

Kylie said yesterday: "We are so grateful to have been offered a house, but there was no indication of when we would be able to move in.

"I hope it doesn't take too long."

In total, 87 people are on Housing New Zealand's Tauranga waiting list.

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