A Christchurch father who lost a baby son in the February 2011 earthquake fears that black mould in his Housing New Zealand house is harming his children's health.

Since Grant Smith's 8-month-old Jayden Harris died when a television fell on him during the quake, his family has been moved around three HNZ properties.

For the last four years, Smith's family-of-seven has lived in a three-bedroom house in the eastern suburb of Aranui.

But Smith is concerned that toxic black mould (Stachybotrys chartarum), growing on the walls of the state-owned house, including in bedrooms and the lounge, is affecting the health of his five children.


His concerns appear to be supported by his family GP who, after seeing 2-year-old Benjamin Smith, wrote a letter saying: "This lad and the family should not be living in their current house because of mould. Help in finding a suitable house is appreciated."

However, Smith and his partner Linda Philip are unhappy with HNZ's response to their black mould concerns.

An offer to attempt to clean the greenish-black fungi has been rejected by the Smiths.

They just want out.

"The kids are constantly sick," said 36-year-old yardman Smith.

"We've had nothing but bad luck with this house."

Black mould in Grant Smith's Housing NZ home in Christchurch. Photo / Kurt Bayer
Black mould in Grant Smith's Housing NZ home in Christchurch. Photo / Kurt Bayer

The children - Stephanie, 9, Vanessa, 8, Latesha, 7, Jennifer, 4, and 2-year-old Benjamin - are repeatedly ill with colds, flus, ear infections, and skin irritations, Smith says. His daughters suffer from febrile convulsions when under the weather.

Smith, who has his late son Jayden's name and date of birth tattooed on his right arm and initials on his neck, is terrified of losing another child.

"We need to get out of this house. We just want the best for our kids," he said.

Housing New Zealand inspects all of its properties at least twice a year.

Area manager Fraser Benson said staff gained access to the house in late July after Smith had cancelled several earlier appointments.

"This inspection noted the inside of the house was not very clean and cluttered with various possessions - both factors which can contribute to mould," Benson said.

"Our staff noted mould in one bedroom and immediately logged a job so this could be addressed."

But Smith was not at home for contractors and doesn't believe the problem can be fixed.

The lack of cooperation is "frustrating and confusing" for Benson who says, "We are here to help and want to resolve this issue".

"Our staff have previously given Mr Smith some helpful tips and advice on how to deal with this. He was also advised on the best way to ventilate the property and to de-clutter his house," Benson said.

Leak-loving toxin

Stachybotrys chartarum is a toxic mould associated with leaking buildings in New Zealand in recent years.

• The mould is caused by leaks that originate outside the building and from leaks within wet areas in buildings.

• Stachybotrys is a greenish-black mould that grows on materials that contain cellulose. Finding Stachybotrys in a building does not immediately mean that the building occupants have been exposed to allergens or toxins.

• While Stachybotrys is growing, a wet slime covers the spores, preventing them from becoming airborne. Exposure will only occur when the mould has died and dried up.

Source: BRANZ, an independent and impartial research, testing, and consulting organisation aiming to help the building and construction industry provide better buildings for New Zealanders.