Long wait for action on mould

Labour politicians Clare Curran (left) and Poto Williams  check out the damp, mouldy state house...
Labour politicians Clare Curran (left) and Poto Williams check out the damp, mouldy state house occupied by Tainui woman Karen Barnett (right). Photo by Dan Hutchinson.
Sickness beneficiary Karen Barnett is hoping for a warm, dry future after having lived in a damp Tainui house for nine years. Dan Hutchinson looks at what has been lurking under her state house all that time.

A Dunedin woman says she has been waiting more than four years to have her state house insulated but contractors will not tackle it because of mould under the floor.

Contractors were inspecting Karen Barnett's home again last week, a day after The Star asked Housing New Zealand the reason for the delay.

Housing New Zealand area manager Kate Milton said contractors had inspected the house but could not do the work until the mould was removed.

''We have arranged for the immediate removal of the mould, and will then install ground cover to be followed by insulation.''

She said mould was rare in Housing New Zealand properties and insulation contractors had not made her aware of any other problems.

The house is in a part of south Dunedin with a high water table and Ms Barnett said the land under and around the house was often wet.

Ms Milton said the ground cover should solve the moisture problem under the house.

Ms Barnett said she had been asking for insulation for ''at least'' four years.

Previous contractors had told her they could not insulate under the house because it was too low but, during the latest assessment a few months ago, they decided it could be done.

She said they made an appointment to do the work but when they arrived they discovered the mould and did not do the work. Nobody told her what was going on.

''It looks like there is progress but when you all go away, will it continue or will it stall again?''

Ms Milton said when ceiling insulation was installed in 2004, the floor was thought to be too low to install insulation.

''In hindsight, we should have had the space re-inspected earlier to see if underfloor insulation was possible. We apologise to the tenant for the delay.''

Ms Barnett said she had to move out of her bedroom because the smell of damp and mould was so strong and her windows got a lot of mildew on them.

After repeated delays in dealing with the mould, she contacted Dunedin South MP Clare Curran, who contacted The Star and brought Labour's associate housing spokeswoman Poto Williams to look at the house yesterday.

Ms Williams said the problem was a symptom of the lack of a scheduled maintenance programme by Housing New Zealand, which meant problems were not identified and got worse.

Ms Milton said most of the 1450 HNZ properties in Dunedin had been insulated, with 360 done in the past couple of years.


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