16 Aug 2015

Toddler's death triggers widespread house repairs

8:10 pm on 16 August 2015

Housing New Zealand has repaired more than 2,000 state houses in the wake of a critical coroners' report which said a cold, damp house may have been a factor in the death of a south Auckland toddler.

The Housing NZ property in Otara.

The Housing New Zealand property in Otara where Emma-Lita Bourne lived. Photo: RNZ / Kim Baker Wilson

The agency began an urgent check of its stock after the coroners' report into the death of two-year-old Emma-Lita Bourne was published in June.

Following the report, Housing New Zealand immediately reviewed all repair requests, giving priority to homes affected by cold and damp.

A Housing New Zealand spokesperson said all work requests were immediately reviewed and priority was given to homes affected by cold and damp.

She said managers also identifed the most vulnerable tenants and checked their homes.

Repairs made to around 2800 state houses included upgrading insulation, installing ventilation, heaters, carpets and thermal drapes.

Social Housing Minister Paula Bennett said she was impressed with the response of Housing New Zealand in carrying out the urgent maintenance.

She said Housing New Zealand had always had a strident maintenance programme, but the way in which it responded to urgent cases clearly needed to be looked at.

"So they put a maintenance action team in place in June 2015 of this year and I tell you they've been going great guns and I'm really impressed with the numbers of properties that they've been upgrading and getting maintenance teams into."

A survey of 400 Housing New Zealand homes last year found only 4 percent passed a Warrant of Fitness scheme being considered by the Government.

Cabinet papers showed it would have cost tens of millions dollars to bring all stock up to scratch.

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