Children are suffering from Third World diseases and are "dead in the eyes" from the affects of the housing shortage and unhealthy living situations, it was revealed at the Cross-Party Homelessness Inquiry.

Jan Tinetti, who spoke yesterday's inquiry as Merivale School principal and on behalf of NZEI, said Tauranga was in a crisis.

The school had lost 20 of its pupils in recent months because they could not find housing.

"One family had a caravan lined up but that has fallen through because someone decided they could make more money and put the rent up four times."


Ms Tinetti said some children had already attended three or four schools this year alone.

"Some are dead in the eyes, they have no emotion at all. This is happening on a daily basis at my school. I dread families telling me they have no housing. There is just no housing left. I feel hopeless. Mums are in my office in absolute tears because they don't know what to do."

Brian Pointon, who spoke on behalf of the Bay of Plenty District Health Board, spoke of the specific health conditions arising from poor housing such as rheumatic fever, meningococcal disease and skin infections.

Mr Pointon said it seemed to be an accepted fact in New Zealand that older people died more often in winter than summer because of diseases like pneumonia.

He said Canada and the Scandinavian countries were much colder but did not see this pattern, which in New Zealand had been attributed to poor housing conditions.

Liz Moli of the Pacific Island Community Trust said the Pasifika community was suffering from high rates of diseases like rheumatic fever caused by overcrowding.

She said New Zealand's housing was substandard as houses were cold, damp and uninsulated.

Tony Noble, of Hamilton Catholic Diocesan Social Justice Commission, said New Zealand had appalling rates of what were usually considered third world diseases.


"The inadequate nature of housing regulations needs to be addressed and a warrant of fitness needs to be implemented immediately. All housing in this country needs to be fit for human occupation, particularly children."

Mr Noble said Tauranga land prices had gone up more than 200 per cent which made it virtually impossible to build low-cost housing.

Salvation Army Tauranga community ministries manager Davina Plummer said it was a human right that all New Zealanders should have shelter.

"Availability and affordability are what is impacting us. We need more housing, we need the bureaucratic tape that ties councils up taken away.

"We need homes the people on an average income in Tauranga can afford. We want our residents to be able to afford our houses."

Steph O'Sullivan, who spoke on behalf of the homelessness steering group established by Tauranga City Council and multiple social agencies and community groups in the city, said the group was looking to address medium to long-term solutions.


They were looking into the feasibility of a women's and children's shelter, doing a survey to get a hold on the numbers of homeless people, and wanted to established a central hub for people to get help from a "plethora" of agencies.

In a statement made to the Bay of Plenty Times, Nic Blakeley, deputy chief executive of social housing at the Ministry of Social Development said anyone who was concerned about having somewhere to stay should get in touch with Work and Income so it could look at what it could do to help.

"We can look at options including help to stay where they are (if appropriate), help to stay with friends or family, and if necessary help to stay in emergency accommodation while they look for somewhere more permanent to stay.

"We can help people access affordable private rentals by assisting with bonds and rent advances. We connect people with the highest needs with social housing providers and subsidise peoples' rents."