A rodent problem in the Far North has compounded concerns for poorer families amid the cold snap, as some children are having to sleep on flimsy mattresses on floors instead of beds.

In Kaitaia demand for Salvation Army services, including bedding for children, has been "incredibly high" so far this winter, said Lieutenant Nikki Mellsop.

"Lots of children are sleeping on the floor on mattresses.

"There is a desperate cry for mattresses and bedding," she said.


With the cold weather causing mice to make their way indoors, she said families were becoming increasingly concerned for children sleeping on cheap mattresses close to the floor.

"It normally wouldn't be an issue but there's been a double breeding of mice this year," she said, referring to the increased breeding due to the long, hot summer this year.

As well as the increased demand for beds this winter Kaitaia Salvation Army has experienced a higher demand for food parcels as power bills begin to weigh down on Northland families.

"People have come in looking for food because they have spent their money on the power bill," said Kathy Elkington, Salvation Army Director of Community Ministries in Whangarei.

She predicts the trend will continue through winter this year. "We will see this again in July and August."

Whangarei Salvation Army had about 160 people come through its doors last week seeking help after daytime temperatures dropped to as low as 7C in Whangarei.

Of that total 90 were seeking food parcels.

However, Major Elkington said people receiving the food parcels could be getting them for up to eight people.


"Last week was wet and miserable." Everyone who came to the Whangarei Salvation Army last week was offered a hot cup of soup, she said.

Despite tightening up the eligibility for who qualifies for food parcels, the Whangarei branch of the Salvation Army has still seen an increase in the number of people needing help.

There was also added pressure on families with school holidays three weeks away, right in the middle of winter.