This winter, children's charity Variety is facing unprecedented demand for warm clothes, dry shoes and beds from New Zealand families in hardship. Isaac Davison spoke to families seeking help about how they got into hardship, what they need - and how Kiwi families can help.
To donate go to www.variety.org.nz/winter
Sunday is the hardest day of the week for Sarah Wilson.
When many families around the country are sitting down for a roast dinner at the end of the weekend, she usually goes without so her two sons can eat.
Wilson*, 34, makes $415 a week from her 30-hour-a-week administration job at the local primary school, and gets solo parent support, an accommodation supplement and a winter energy payment.
Once she has deducted the $460 in rent for her two-bedroom Manurewa unit, power, petrol, phone, internet bills and debts to various lenders she is left with around $100 for a week's food.
"I feel by Saturday I am struggling. Saturday, Sunday, Monday, then I get Working for Families – it comes through Monday night.
"Back when I was growing up, Sunday was an important meal to us. It was family time and roast. Now, I just can't provide."
Her eldest son - who is 8 and of Ngāti Porou and Ngāpuhi descent - says he and his brother do not go hungry because of their mother's generosity. She makes them cheap but tasty meals - macaroni cheese, fish fingers, or spaghetti.
But she struggles to clothe him and keep him warm in winter. He has one pair of shoes he wears every day and they are coming away at the soles.
Her son is embarrassed about his situation compared to his school friends.
"They have more clothes and shoes," he says. "It's hard for me, it's really hard."
He loves rugby and played on the wing at Manurewa Rugby Club last season. But the registration fees are $50 and his mum's old car is too unreliable to get him to away games. He's playing netball at the school instead because it's free.
Does he like it? "Sort of," he says.
He is on the waiting list for Kiwi Kids sponsorship through the children's charity Variety. His younger brother, 4, is too young to qualify. They have no grandparents or extended family in New Zealand to support them.
With a waiting list of 400 children, Variety is making its first nationwide appeal this winter for New Zealanders to buy warm jackets, polar fleece blankets, lace-up shoes and other essential items for children in hardship.
Wilson's previous rental property was so cold that her eldest son contracted pneumonia and spent 14 days in hospital. He was one of hundreds of Kiwi children hospitalised every year by diseases related to unhealthy housing, which disproportionately affects Maori kids.
The new house has what Wilson calls a real luxury: a heat pump. "I'm really stingy with that on," she says. "Just 20 minutes a day. And I find it's only an extra $10 to $15 a month in the power bill."
Wilson shares her bedroom with her two sons for warmth. Before they could afford bunks, they slept in the same bed. That's not a unique situation, Variety says. One in five New Zealand children do not have their own bed.
Wilson also shares that it is safer having them in her room. She left their father after he became abusive and she now has a protection order against him.
She said her life "went to custard" two years ago. Her parents had moved to Australia, and her ex-partner became an absent father, a P smoker, and eventually an abuser.
"I had to ring the police on him a couple of times.
"The first time … I was in the shower, and I had locked the door, and he unlocked it with a knife and came in.
"He kept yelling at me because I told him to leave me alone. He hit me in my head with his fist, told me why do I keep talking down to him, and got my head and banged it into the bath.
"At the time I had got up to the window, I was trying to yell out to my neighbours, he tried to jam my fingers in the window, I was naked on the floor in a ball. And he was still trying to hit me."
Her ex-partner went to jail for a year, and that's when her life began to slowly turn around.
Amid her troubles there have been glimmers of hope and a few Good Samaritans. There was an agent who lobbied for her to get into her rental property. There was a principal who gave her a job the same day she asked for one on a whim.
But week to week, life remains a struggle. It is difficult for her to see how her situation will ever be any different.
"This whole community is dense poverty," she says. "Every second house you go to, there is someone struggling. And I think the main part, a big part, is rent prices.
"I thought I was going back to work to have extra money. But I feel like I'm going to work just to pay my rent."
Those who say she should leave Auckland miss the point. she says. She is in the rare position of having a steady job, a good school for her kids and a warm, safe house.
"I have been in Manurewa all my life," she says. "This is all I know."
*Names have been changed or omitted for security reasons
RENTAL COSTS – AT A GLANCE
As homeownership falls in New Zealand, there is a push to make sure renting is more secure and affordable.
Government data shows renting is unaffordable for 54 per cent of people in Auckland, and 61 per cent nationwide.
That means these people have below average incomes once their rent has been deducted. The trend has been steady or falling slightly since about 2012.
As the proportion of renters grows, the Government wants to make tenancies more secure.
A law change to ban letting fees is expected before Parliament soon. It will be followed by further changes which will mean landlords can only lift rents once a year, rather than once a month, and will not be able to evict tenants without reason.
Landlords will also have to show how rent rises will be calculated when they sign a tenancy agreement.
It will not go as far as capping rent increases or allowing tenants to stay in a property as long as they want, which has been called for by some advocacy groups.
A law change in November paved the way for minimum standards for insulation and heating in rental properties, though the standards have not yet been introduced.
As part of a package of changes introduced in July, support for accommodation costs was lifted for some low and middle income earners.
For more on this Herald series, see:
• Hardship in NZ: After bills paid, family has $1.68 a fortnight
• Charity reports unprecedented demand for beds as families of up to six share a single bed