Otara state houses 'damp, full of cockroaches' but Govt defends HNZ after death

The government has defended the work of Housing NZ in upgrading its properties after a coroner linked the death of an Otara toddler to poor housing.

Children’s Commissioner Dr Russell Wills says the toddlers death from pneumonia was preventable. Source: 1 NEWS

Two-year-old Emma-Lita Bourne died in hospital last August of a brain bleed caused by a "pneumonia-like illness".

Described as "a happy and healthy child" who lived in the home with her parents and two older siblings, Emma-Lita began exhibiting flu-like symptoms a week before her death.

In Coroner Brandt Shortland's findings, he wrote "It is entirely possible the condition of the house had contributed to the pneumonia-like illness that Emma-Lita was suffering at the time of her death," he wrote.

Coroner Shortland described the Housing NZ property as "very cold and not getting much sunshine [with] no carpets and only floorboards".

A resident who lives on the same street this afternoon told ONE News "the houses are damp, full of cockroaches and mice ... really cold."

Silema Taufa said many houses are overcrowded with children and said authorities have long turned a blind eye to conditions in Otara's state houses.

"When we ask for things to be fixed, it never gets done," she said.

Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei issued a statement today following the findings calling on the government to urgently implement a building Warrant of Fitness scheme it is trialling.

Deputy Prime Minister Bill English said the death was tragic, but defended Housing NZ processes, saying he understood the property had aleady been retrofitted with ceiling insulation and that underfloor insulation was not possible in the structure.

"There is a Rheumatic Fever Prevention Programme where families who are assessed as being at risk are given extra resources to keep their houses warm and dry.

"The first HNZ knew that there was rheumatic fever in this family was not until after the girl's death - the family now lives in a more suitable house."