Elderly residents in the Far North are living in tents and makeshift shacks with no running water or power. Jenny Ling reports.
Far North grandmother Rachel didn't want to be a burden on her children.
So she didn't tell them when she lost her main source of income as a caregiver living in Auckland two years ago.
She didn't tell any of her kids or any other whānau when her landlord increased the rent from $200 to $300.
The 62-year-old applied for other jobs, but couldn't land one because of her age, and the benefit didn't come close to covering her bills.
So, she packed her bags and left Auckland to return home to the North.
Initially she lived in a tent on her whenua at Ngapipito, 15km south of Kaikohe.
And when winter came and her asthma started playing up and the floods washed away access to the road, she started wandering.
She paid regular visits to whānau, keeping her stays short and sweet so they wouldn't suspect anything was wrong.
She slept on couches, and if the houses weren't too crowded, a bed.
"I was living in a tent for quite some time," she said.
"I've been going from home to home ... one week here, one week there.
"I'd stay with a son or a daughter in Whangārei, I'd go to a cousins' in Kaikohe ... they all thought I was on holiday. They thought, cool you've come for a visit."
It all came to a head in October, when Rachel could no longer keep lying to her family.
The fiercely proud wahine who doesn't believe in self-pity, finally told them the truth of her living situation.
She never asked before, simply because "They've got their own lives to lead.
"It's been eating me up, the guilt has built up about so many lies.
"They cried and said I should have told them; they were shocked because I've always been a strong woman.
"It's funny how things can change on you just like that.
"You don't foresee what's coming; one minute I'm in a lovely home and the next minute it's taken away from you."
Rachel is not alone.
Other elderly in Te Tai Tokerau live in worse conditions that can only be described as Third World.
One kaumātua, who is in his 60s with a chronic health condition, lives in a house north of Kāeo with no power, no shower or toilet and no running water.
The windows of his house are boarded with corrugated iron as he can't afford to replace broken window panes and there is cardboard lining the inside walls.
A kuia who has suffered from a stroke, also in her 60s, lives under a lean-to in the same area.
But there is hope for Rachel and other Northland residents who are severely housing deprived.
The Kaikohe-based Whakamanamai Whānau Trust has set up a Whare to the Whenua scheme which sees small portable cabins delivered to residents' whenua to give them a chance at home ownership.
Run by local nurse and businesswoman Rhonda Zielinski, so far over a dozen cabins have been given to vulnerable residents who pay what they can afford each week.
The cabins cost $25,000, and if regular weekly payments of $200 are made, they can be paid off in just over two years.
Rachel, who is currently staying with her son and daughter-in-law in Whangārei, is rapt to have found a solution.
Her son is building a house on whānau land at Ngapipito, and she plans to locate her cabin nearby.
Zielinski said there is huge demand for the portacoms.
More than 100 people are already on the trust's waiting list.
"The demand shows the Government needs to do way more to help our whānau," she said.
"Their housing strategy has been very city-centric. We know how to be self-sufficient; we just need the resources to do it.
"They've got to let our strategy fit our worldview and stop putting barriers in the way."
Ministry of Social Development figures show there are 716 Northlanders on the public housing waiting list as at June 30.
Of the 247 located in the Far North, 235 are classified as people at-risk with urgent housing needs.
Of the 419 in Whangārei, 384 have urgent housing needs and of the remaining 50 in Kaipara, 39 are deemed urgent.
Te Tai Tokerau MP Kelvin Davis said he is aware some people are living in poor conditions, and that the Far North faces a "range of complex challenges".
Davis also recognised Zielinski's "amazing work to uplift and support our community".
Last term the Government invested $2 billion in the region to create jobs, drive economic growth and improve the lives of locals, he said.
The Government has also rolled out a number of programmes to tackle poverty, lift incomes and address addiction.
"We've delivered more public housing places than any other government for decades, and increased investment in wraparound services to support those who are homeless, and in programmes to help prevent people becoming homeless in the first place," Davis said.
"Everyone in New Zealand, no matter where they live, has the right to live in warm, dry, healthy homes, whether we rent or own our homes."
Zielinski said though basic, the portacoms "bring a bit of security" to whānau.
"Sometimes when they're couch surfing and their housing is not finalised the stress that goes with it is huge.
"It doesn't matter how humble your whare is, if it's yours and you know you don't have to move, you can relax.
"It's so nice to know they're safe and secure and no one's going to kick them out or sell their house.
"I know it's only an 18sq m portacom but all our whānau have got them looking beautiful. The sense of pride, it warms your heart."
Te Hau Ora Ō Ngāpuhi's housing plan
Last December Te Hau Ora Ō Ngāpuhi became the first kaupapa Māori provider in Northland to be registered by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development as a community housing provider.
This means the organisation - whose mission is to improve the social and wellbeing outcomes for whānau - can start negotiations for a contract with the ministry to provide subsidised social rentals.
Te Hau Ora Ō Ngāpuhi general manager Te Rōpu Poa said 36ha had already been purchased for the development of social housing on Bisset Rd in Kaikohe.
Of this, 7ha has been set aside for between 20 to 37 houses to be built starting after Waitangi Day next February. It is expected they will be finished within 12-24 months.
The project is part of a 30-year strategy to improve social housing in the area.
The project has not been costed, Poa said, but she expects the infrastructure alone to be $3.8m.
It is also dependent on getting resource consent and funding.
"It costs money we don't have government funding for," she said.
"We can't do that unless we have infrastructure support, like roads, sewerage systems and power connections. Until we find the funding we can't do anything."
The housing will be a "mixed tenure" of social housing; some will be sold to first home buyers and others will be rented out.
The organisation has also purchased land on Broadway for transitional housing which would see 12, two-bedroom units built to "meet current demand of homelessness and people who can't afford to pay the market rents".
Work was expected to start this month, Poa said.
Read the series
Day one: Our Hidden Homeless: Families living in cars and tents; couch-surfing grandmas
Day two: Eric Monk finally has a place to call home