A disabled woman, confined in her home after an access lift broke down, faces a three-week wait before she can leave the property.

Josie Haurau , 35, has spina bifida - a congenital spinal defect which often causes paralysis of the lower limbs.

The 35-year-old relies on a wheelchair to get around, and a lift to get her and the bigger of her two wheelchairs out of the North Shore house where she lives with her mother Donna.

But the lift broke down a month ago when a contractor arrived to service it.


Since this incident, Donna says they have been unable to get Josie's electric wheelchair out of the house - restricting her daughter to a smaller, manual wheelchair.

This "severely limited" her day-to-day activity, Donna said, as Josie's condition meant she quickly became tired from wheeling herself around.

"She can't even go out of the house," Donna said.

"I'd understand if it was something like, we need to replace the wheelchair, and she's got an old one that she can continue to use… But she can't even have a life."

Donna, 57, works 15 hours a week as a medical receptionist and has been forced to continue heading to work and leave Josie at home.

Donna has notified the Ministry of Health of their situation as well as the company contacted to service the lift - Vestner- and another company, Accessable, which controlled funding for the lifts.

After some back and forth it was established the lift would be fixed after September 17 - close to 2 months since the gear stopped working.

When contacted by the Herald on Sunday the Ministry of Health's group manager of Disability Support Services Toni Atkinson confirmed the ministry was aware of the issue, and was taking steps to achieve a solution "as quickly as possible".


"The quickest option was to provide a replacement lift, which is currently being upgraded and is expected to be installed in the week of 17 September," Atkinson said.

"In the meantime, Josie is able to use a manual chair in the house and has weekly outings using a mobility taxi and power chair."

While the ministry had looked into installing a ramp, Atkinson said this was not possible as it would restrict driveway access at the property.

In the interim, Donna said she was looking into stumping up the money to rent a ramp herself.

"We can't go for another month or two months with not being able to get in and out of here," she said.

Donna suffered from a bad back, an injury caused almost two decades ago when Donna used to lift Josie and her wheelchair out of their previous home.

"I broke two discs in my back - they actually shattered and that's left me a little bit disabled for the rest of my life," Donna said.

"It was hell - I lost the use of my legs and had to drag myself around on my elbows for about 8 months.

The Glenfield resident said the process of complaining and waiting for responses "does you in".

"Mostly you want to give up - but you can't give up because that's not achieving anything.

"So you just keep going until the point of exhaustion, really."

One of her primary concerns was that the loss of the lift meant a loss of Josie's only fire exit from their home.

"I kept saying to the Ministry of Health people and Accessable, who do the paperwork for all of these things, 'what about the fire exit?'."

"No one knows when they're going to have a fire - if they did then nobody would die in a house fire."

The lift for Josie Haurua's wheelchair outside their Glenfield home has been broken since midway through July. Photo / Doug Sherring
The lift for Josie Haurua's wheelchair outside their Glenfield home has been broken since midway through July. Photo / Doug Sherring

Frustrated by a lack of action from the Ministry of Health, Donna had enlisted the help of Auckland Disability Law to advocate on her behalf to make sure Housing New Zealand upholds its responsibilities as a landlord.

CCS Disability Action access advisor BJ Clark was surprised some type of temporary alternative exit solution hadn't been put in place.

"Getting out is very important for your health - to be locked up inside for some period of time is not healthy."

Clark said this kind of story was "thankfully, uncommon".

He had concerns about the risk the pair might face if an emergency like a fire were to occur.

"I would hope that some communication has been had with them in regard to what to do in the case of an emergency," he said.

"If they don't have the ability to use that lift to escape the house then they need to have a plan.

When approached for comment, Housing New Zealand Area Manager Darragh O'Loughlin said the agency sympathised with the situation.

"We understand both a work-around and a long-term solution for Donna and Josie are underway and we will also quickly work with our tenants and Accessable to make sure there is another suitable back-up option to get in and out of the house more easily in the meantime," he said.

"Housing New Zealand will pay for this."

Donna said the cost for installation and rental of the ramp exceeded $1365 for the first month.