Damp state house linked to toddler’s death

Damp state house essentially kills two year old, a coroner's report reveals Photo: Google Street View
Damp state house essentially kills two year old, a coroner's report reveals Photo: Google Street View

The death of an Auckland toddler in a cold and damp Housing New Zealand (HNZ) house has renewed calls to introduce a Warrant of Fitness for all homes.

Two-year-old Emma-Lita Bourne died on August 8 last year in Starship Hospital after an acute brain bleed, which was related to an earlier case of pneumonia.

The toddler’s mother Latisha Bourne said she repeatedly tried getting in contact with Housing New Zealand about the poor condition of the state house she lived in with her partner and children.

“I kept ringing up. Everything in the house needed fixing. We needed carpet, drapes to try and keep the warmth in. There was hardly any sunshine in the house,” she said.

Housing New Zealand attempted to help the family by supplying them with a heater, but the electricity costs were too much for the family’s budget.

Bourne said she doesn’t want any other family to suffer a tragedy the way she has.

“I still think about her every day. I cry every now and then,” she told Stuff.co.nz.

“I felt like half of me wasn’t all there. I just didn’t want to talk to anyone. People ask me if I’m alright but I’m not alright. I’m OK now I get a lot support.”

Housing New Zealand said the seriousness of the health risks due to the damp, cold and leaky living conditions that the family lived in “flew under the state housing provider’s radar”.

HNZ general manager of tenancy services Kay Read said at the time Emma-Lita died the family was on the social housing register.

Coroner Brandt Shortland’s report has revealed that the toddler’s death was a result of the cold, damp state house where she lived with her family.

Shortland said that her sickness could not be ignored as a contributing factor to her death.

“I am of the view the condition of the house at the time being cold and damp during the winter months was a contributing factor to Emma-Lita’s health status.”

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei said the coroner’s report was a call to action.

“The young girl’s tragic death shows what can happen if we continue to do nothing about the cold, damp and shoddy homes many Kiwis are forced to live in, particularly our state houses.”

Mrs Turei told the New Zealand Herald that there are many vulnerable people living in houses that aren’t in a fit state for humans.

She believes that National knows about the condition of state houses, but has done nothing to improve the situation.

Mrs Turei thinks that the Government needs to release the results of the state housing Warrant of Fitness trial it ran last year.

“The million or so New Zealanders who rent deserve minimum guaranteed warmth and energy-efficiency standards in their homes,” she says.

“No New Zealander should be living in a house that makes them sick.”

The Bourne family are now living in a four bedroom house, which is insulated, carpeted, has thermal quality drapes throughout the house and a heater in the lounge.

Georgia Dunstan-Brown
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