Concerns about homes in disrepair and disadvantaged rural communities have been raised by Toi Te Ora in a newly published select committee submission.
The Environment Committee has sought feedback on the first of two pieces of legislation to set up the Government's urban development authority – Kāinga Ora–Homes and Communities.
The Crown agency would bring together Housing New Zealand, its development subsidiary HLC, and the KiwiBuild Unit.
Toi Te Ora, the public health unit for both the Bay of Plenty and Lakes District Health Boards, services about 304,000 people between Katikati, Te Kaha, and Tūrangi, including larger centres such as Tauranga, Rotorua, Taupō and Whakatāne.
Its submission, signed by Lakes DHB chief executive Nick Saville-Wood and Bay of Plenty DHB chairwoman Sally Webb, said: "Homelessness and living in unhealthy homes and insecure tenancy arrangements is largely beyond the control of individuals, especially children, and requires action by public authorities at all levels."
They supported the bill but wanted four sections changed.
Firstly, the submission said "there is no requirement for the collective members of the Board (for Kāinga Ora) to have experience of or capability in public health or healthy housing" and called for these criteria to be added.
Secondly, it referred to 2013 Building Research Association of New Zealand figures, showing 88 per cent of homes in the lowest household income bracket required immediate repairs with an average cost of $5139.
"For the lowest household income bracket, this represents more than 25 per cent of the annual household income... beyond what they can afford."
It said financial assistance currently available for heating and insulation was limited by the condition of the walls, roof, windows, floor and doors, and any defects such as cladding gaps or broken windows, so it asked for "financial assistance for immediate repairs" to be added.
Thirdly, the submission cited Statistics New Zealand's medium population projections issued in June, showing 17 district councils in New Zealand would have fewer residents in the next 25 years.
These include Kawerau (0.8 per cent reduction predicted) and Ōpōtiki (0.9 per cent reduction predicted).
"If the impact of population reduction is not managed it is likely to have a
detrimental effect on housing quality and therefore community wellbeing," the submission said.
It said Kāinga Ora would likely have housing stock in these 17 areas, and recommended the bill add "an additional function" to help communities and councils plan for negative growth with "stewardship and sustainability principles".
Finally, the submission expressed opposition to the term "urban" being used throughout the bill.
"The Bay of Plenty and Lakes region has many rural settlements that face significant housing challenges which could benefit from support with regeneration projects.
"A high proportion of those living in rural settlements are Māori. Applying a strict definition of the term urban could disadvantage rural settlements and Māori with the level of assistance they receive."
It recommended all settlements, regardless of size, be included.
The committee is now preparing a report on submissions, such as Toi Te Ora's, due by November 30.