Many of my friends discuss how wonderful it is to live in Hawke's Bay. Most of us who live here have well-paid jobs, live in a comfortable situation, can afford to eat well, heat their houses and sometimes take these basic "Maslow's hierarchy of need" factors for granted.

This past week a coroner highlighted Housing NZ's role in a little girl's death in a state house. Emma-Lita Bourne, 15 months, died last year from a brain haemorrhage, resulting from a clot. She had been suffering from a pneumonia-like illness in the days leading up to her death. Coroner Brandt Shortland said "I am of the view the condition of the house at the time being cold and damp during the winter months was a contributing factor to her health status."

Dr Russell Wills quotes "if this is the case then this is just not good enough". On TV we see an example of a house with mouldy walls. Unfortunately those mouldy walls could have come from a house here locally. There will be some of us that point the finger and query why the parent/mother did not do more. Some of our families are disempowered. Trampled by the system and too scared to make too much noise because "at least we have a house".

"Not wanting to rock the boat" is what I hear some families describe. Unfortunately this little girl's death may not be an isolated case.


For other families turning a heater on is a luxury they cannot basically afford. However, I am optimistic solutions to these community problems lie within a community. There is much willingness and support to address substandard housing where our children get sick. There is movement afoot. We propose a Flaxmere Friendly Landlord Scheme. The cliches of working with the willing, creating partnerships, and working to our strengths is our proposed approach.

We know there are many caring landlords, and in most cases the quality of housing is good and of standard but unfortunately some of the standards of some of the houses is not so good. And in some cases it's third world living conditions in a first world country.

Some families need hands-on support with learning how to make a warm bed, and good ventilation, tips on heating, how to use a heat pump efficiently and how to reduce dampness are examples of what we propose.

Many health and social service providers see the need to provide this support but are bound by contractual obligations which limits their capacity. But more on the Flaxmere Friendly Landlord scheme at a later date.

There are a number of us in the early stages of planning. It is early days but this proposal has lots of promise. With the knowledge of a clear line of sight and a number of partners to support this proposal we are gaining much interest. Housing for U-Turn Trust and Te Aranga Marae is a big subject.

The Housing New Zealand partnership progresses. The potential for a (social) housing development on the land surrounding Te Aranga Marae, Kirkwood Rd is also part of our collective aspirations. Affordable housing built with good insulating properties is in discussion.

During the same week I spoke to a Tamariki Ora well child nurse from Te Taiwhenua Heretaunga. She rang to ask me where she can collect some pyjamas and thermals. I point her to Flaxmere Plunket. This nurse describes the family she is caring for - she counts - 4, 5, 6, 7 children all under the age of 8. They would be so grateful to receive something. So yes to those that contact me - good quality thermals, warm clothing and woollen blankets are much needed.

Today there is a constant stream of cars to our wood pile next to Te Aranga Marae. Bostocks have deposited wood pallets and discarded woodbins for people to collect for firewood. A source of free dry fire wood to heat the house. If there is anyone out there that would like to provide us with dry - (not green) firewood, untreated wood, pallets, wood bins - this is much appreciated on behalf of our families.

-Ana Apatu is chief executive of the U-Turn Trust, based at Te Aranga Marae in Flaxmere.