Fleas, stock market crash and cost of rent - hear the stories behind some of Auckland's 26,000 homeless

A carpark in the Auckland suburb of Onehunga has become a drive-in for the homeless.

Over two nights, 1 NEWS went to several locations across the city where people had parked up last year and where social agencies knew of people now.

Over 26,000 people are classed as homeless in Auckland - here are some of their stories. 

Nowhere else to go

Charlie said he was sleeping in a shopping centre carpark in Onehunga because he was broke and had nowhere else to go.

The 60-year-old used to be a truck driver before his last flat got infested with fleas and he was forced to move out for health reasons.

Charlie said he had been in the carpark for six weeks waiting to be placed in a state house as the private rental market was too expensive.

A neighbouring van was sheltering a man who moved to New Zealand from the Pacific, fresh out of a long-term relationship.

The father of two is in full-time employment but said due to ongoing child support and debt payments, he could not afford to pay rent at the moment.

Dad and two sons live in a station wagon

Across town, another father is housing his two sons in a station wagon, where they spend most nights watching movies on a cellphone.

He said while he could afford to move into a house thanks to savings, he didn't want to pay thousands of dollars to secure a property when he did not have a job.

The family is considering a move south where the cost of living is cheaper and they'd get easier access to help.

WINZ too complicated says elderly woman who sleeps in her car

An elderly woman who used to work full-time before she retired said being homeless was just another chapter in her life.

She had owned her own house before she was forced to sell it due to a stock market crash. She now sleeps in the driver's seat of her Toyota, wrapped in a blanket, overlooking a duck pond.

She said she had never asked for help from the state before but when she turned up to Work and Income, the system was too complicated and so she walked away.

The woman said she has family but is too embarrassed to reach out.

We need to be able to track whether we're resolving this problem or if the problem is getting bigger - Auckland Mayor Phil Goff

Last winter, Bruce Pulman Park in Takanini was the place to bunk up but is now empty because Auckland Council has started locking the gates at night.

Mayor's response

Mayor Phil Goff said Auckland is New Zealand's biggest and wealthiest city but it's struggling with "extreme homelessness".

Mr Goff announced the first region-wide count of people living without shelter today, saying there is little data on the size and nature of chronic homelessness.

Mr Goff said social and government agencies need to know what the scale of them problem is.

"We need to be able to track whether we're resolving this problem or if the problem is getting bigger and we're not putting sufficient resources into it," he said.

It's estimated that as many as 26,000 people are homeless in Auckland, including those in temporary accommodation with relatives or in unsuitable dwellings.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has fronted up over residents being forced to live life on the street or in cars. Source: 1 NEWS

Meet the transgender Wellington school caretaker brightening up kids' days

A transgender caretaker at a Wellington school has been using her musical talents to brighten up the kids' days.

Molly Mason was born as Michael, but soon discovered she was a female born in a man's body.

"I believe I'm a woman, and I associate as a woman, so I live my life as a woman," Molly told TVNZ1's Seven Sharp.

Molly has a love of music that began when she was just six.

Now, in her role as caretaker at a Wellington school, she uses her talent to good effect by beat boxing with the kids at lunchtime.

"When I realised that beat boxing and making sounds was something I couldn't live without, that was it, nothing else mattered."

However, to be this woman - that little boy Michael, had a fight on his hands.

"I got bullied from primary school right through until the day I left college and left Blenheim."

Molly is now proud to be transgender and says the stage is her safe place. She performs as her drag alter ego called Bette Noir.

"Anything that makes me sad, makes me worried, makes me scared, anything that I find stressful, it's not there, it's gone." 

Seven Sharp’s Arrun Soma spoke with Molly Mason. Source: Seven Sharp


Ministry of Justice union members strike, launching a month of industrial action over pay

Court security officers and Family Court coordinators are among Ministry of Justice employees going on strike for two hours nationwide today as they start more than four weeks of industrial action over pay.

Ministry of Justice members of the Public Service Association will strike from 10.30am to 12.30pm today.

PSA National Secretary Glenn Barclay said on Monday that eleventh hour meetings were held between the PSA Bargaining Team and Ministry of Justice to reach a resolution but no movement on fundamental pay issues was offered.

He said the union is seeking an outcome that ensures members including court security officers, registry officers, victim advisors, court reporters and Family Court coordinators are reasonably paid. 

The ministry’s own engagement survey shows that only a third of staff feel valued for the work that they do, with a clear impact on recruitment and retention issues across the ministry, Mr Barclay said. 

He said the ministry offered the third lowest average salary in the public sector last year and the PSA believes this is being worsened. 

As well as strike action today, the employees will ban overtime, only work contracted hours of work and take common breaks until October 19 "to push for fair pay systems and a modest across-the-board pay increase," Mr Barclay said.

Kaitaia, New Zealand - August 18, 2014: Kaitaia District/Family Court outdoor sign and symbol. It is the most northern District Court in new zealand
Kaitaia District Court. Source: istock.com


Netsafe won't pursue Sir Ray Avery's complaint over media website

Scientist and entrepreneur Sir Ray Avery will have to go to the district court if he wants to pursue his complaint about media website Newsroom any further.

Sir Ray complained to Netsafe under the Harmful Digital Communications Act, regarding five articles Newsroom had published about fundraising he was doing for his LifePod inventions, and about his other past products.

He said the articles caused him severe emotional distress and amounted to harassment and digital harm under the Act.

Newsroom has refused to take the articles down.

Netsafe Director Martin Cocker said there isn't anything more Netsafe can do through mediation.

"As soon as one party says, you know they're not prepared to engage in the process, then that's a pretty strong sign that it's time for Netsafe to conclude its process."

That mediation process is a mandatory first step under the Act, and most Harmful Digital Communications Act complaints are sorted at this point.

However Mr Cocker said the main thing they do to get resolution, is to advise parties on what the likely legal ramifications are of different actions that they might take.

In this case, Mr Cocker said, there is not clarity in the Act about how these particular cases should be handled.

"It is for the court to set that precedent, so our recommendation is that has to happen," he said.

Mr Cocker said if they did not feel they could progress the case, their advice was to consider taking it to the district court. But he said that was "entirely optional" for the complainant.

By Gia Garrick


Newsroom is standing by its reporting on the former New Zealander of the Year, and questioning the method of the complaint.
Sir Ray Avery. Source: 1 NEWS

What to do and what not to do if you come across a kiwi in the wild

A rare daytime encounter with a kiwi on the Heaphy Track got TVNZ1's Seven Sharp thinking - what to do and what not to do when you come across the native bird in the wild.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) says it's pretty unusual for these nocturnal birds to be out during sunshine hours.

As we all know kiwi don't fly so escaping predators can be pretty tricky. An average of 27 are killed every week, so we've got to be pretty careful around them.

DOC gave Seven Sharp some important tips to remember if you encounter one of these unique birds.

Firstly stay still and just enjoy the rare experience. Stay a few metres away and don't worry if they approach you, just keep still.

Second, don't move towards the bird or try to pick it up - it's an offence to hold kiwi without permission from DOC.

Also, be weary of their sharp claws - they're wild animals and can get stroppy.

Lastly, feel free to take photos or video, but only in low light conditions and don't use a flash as it can stun the birds.

An encounter with one of the birds on the Heaphy Track got us thinking. Source: Seven Sharp