The winter chill and the winter damp has arrived in Hawke's Bay. And this year, it's more important than ever to stop it getting to our children. Shannon Johnstone reports.
School attendances are set to suffer as students with respiratory problems stay home to avoid Covid-19.
However, for many, remaining home will also mean staying in "incredibly toxic" damp houses.
Kimi Ora Primary principal Matt O'Dowda said the Flaxmere school had at least six students with asthma who are staying home until level 1 was announced.
On the first day of level 2, just over half of the school returned. It went up to 65 per cent the following day and slowly increased across the week.
There was a myriad reasons for the absences but O'Dowda highlighted the quality of housing that kids lived in during lockdown as one of them.
Lower decile schools are more susceptible to have students affected by asthma and other conditions, and ongoing colds and sore throats are common every winter, he said.
At level 2 parents are asked to keep any sick child at home and if a sick child does come to school, they will be sent home.
O'Dowda said parents were being "really responsible" in keeping kids home, but some of the housing stock needed work.
MOULDY HAWKE'S BAY HORROR - AND THE SOLUTION
Alice Peacock is a social worker with the Child Healthy Housing programme in Hawke's Bay.
The initiative was started about five years ago due to the high rates of children hospitalised for preventable housing-related illnesses in the region.
In that time she's seen some mouldy horrors in the region, including ceilings and walls that are barely recognisable they've been so overrun with it.
Housing that is mouldy, damp, drafty and cold can cause serious illness and it's often children who are the most affected.
Peacock said when children have to take time off school due to housing-related illness it not only impacts their education but puts financial pressure on parents who have to take time off work to look after children.
Peacock describes it as "incredibly toxic".
Children can get anything from a cough to bronchitis, strep throat, pneumonia or other respiratory illnesses which can hospitalise them.
It's something the Healthy Homes initiative hopes to help prevent in 500 Hawke's Bay homes a year - supporting vulnerable and low-income families with education and resources.
The team inspects the 500 homes then provides the families with education such as ways they can reduce mould, insulate, make the house less damp and warmer.
Many of the issues Peacock sees in unhealthy homes are to do with dampness.
Houses without mechanical ventilation in bathrooms can create a damp environment which can be a breeding ground for mould.
She recommends people open windows for 10 minutes a day, put lids on pots when cooking,
The ideal indoor temperature is between 18-20C and if air temperatures drop below 16C at night respiratory attacks can be triggered, she said.
To help families with this they educate about the use of heaters on timers, using towels or blankets as door stoppers and provide bubble wrap which can act as insulation on windows.
INSULATION ON THE WAY
Energy Minister Megan Woods said insulation installers for the Government's Warmer Kiwi Homes programme are gearing up to take on more staff after last week's $56 million funding boost.
Woods says the funding boost will deliver an additional 9000 insulation and heating retrofits across NZ, and will also see grants increase to 90 per cent.
The Warmer Kiwi Homes programme has done 20,000 installs of insulation and efficient heaters nationwide.
As of the beginning of March, there have been over 1000 insulation and heating retrofits in the Hawke's Bay region under Warmer Kiwi Homes, including 885 insulation retrofits, and 121 heating retrofits.
"Insulation and efficient heaters don't prevent the spread of Covid-19 but a warm, dry home does protect the most vulnerable and decreases the risk of hospital admissions from respiratory disease," Woods said.
"We're also proud of the significant third-party funding that has been leveraged through the programme to date. With the Government now meeting 90 per cent of the cost, we expect that top-ups from third-party community organisations will make retrofits free of charge to many applicants."
Woods encouraged homeowners to find out if they are eligible and apply for a grant by www.warmerkiwihomes.govt.nz.