Rent advocacy group launch plan to 'fix renting' in NZ

A plan to improve renting conditions in New Zealand from Wellington-based Renters United has been welcomed by other advocacy groups.

Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association, Manawatu Tenants Union and Child Poverty Action Group are among those who have spoken out in support of the plan.

The organisations say change is urgently needed, with the current situation leading to sickness from damp and mouldy homes, laws that do little to protect tenant rights, a lack of stability and unaffordable rent hikes.

Renters United's plan is based around security for renters, limiting rent rises and improving the quality of properties.

It also calls for regulation of the industry and harsher penalties for law-breaking landlords and property managers.

"We do feel like visitors in our communities sometimes because we don't have that security and that does make us feel like second class citizens," said Renters United's Robert Whitaker.

Mr Whitaker said all of the policies relate, noting that a tenant that feels insecure in their rental is less likely to raise issues with their landlord around the quality of the rental.

"That's why we feel like we needed to set everything out and say this is a plan, this is how we can go about fixing all of this mess," he said.

Not all the policies are of the same urgency for implementation, he said, such as the policy to allow renters to keep pets.

He said making the sale of a house that doesn't include the transfer of a tenancy, or the landlord's family taking occupation illegitimate reasons to end a tenancy was an urgent priority, among others.

"It's a serious issue, it's been overlooked, we've been concentrating on the supply of housing which is obviously important but I would say the quality and regulation of private rental housing is just as important," University of Otago, Wellington public health professor Philippa Howden-Chapman said at the Renters United Launch.

Just under a third of the country's 574,000 rental properties are deemed to be poorly maintained, according to an independent report for the Government that Ms Howden-Chapman helped produce, A Stocktake of New Zealand's Housing, February 2018.

The report also found rents are starting to rise faster than wages, in some areas up to double the rate.

It concludes renting policy is well overdue and the absence or regulatory enforcement and demand outstripping supply means there's little incentive for landlords to maintain or improve the quality of a rental.

Wellington renter Ruby Gray is also adding her voice to the many calling for regulation of the industry after being told her previous flat's rent was going to increase from $560 to $720.

She ended up leaving the flat and feeling powerless.

"Landlords and property managers have such control over your life when your renting.

"It's pretty hard to make a home in a market that is like that," she said.

Ms Gray also wants to see increased education for tenants and landlords on the Residential Tenancies Act.

Renters United says defective homes and high rental costs need to change. Source: 1 NEWS

South Auckland charity The Aunties takes home top Women of Influence Award

The founder of a South Auckland charity group dubbed The Aunties has won the top honour at the Women of Influence Awards.

Jackie Clark set up the not-for-profit organisation six years ago to help vulnerable women and children who've experienced domestic violence.

The group's primary aim is to provide material needs to those they support.

"The Aunties believe everyone has the right to be safe, to have shelter, to be fed, to be loved, to dream, to read, to write, to have their say, and to be heard," the group proclaims on its Givealittle page. "Where any of those things are missing, the Aunties mission is to help provide them - the practical things, and also in terms of advocacy and pastoral care."

The group says it believes in manaakitanga - protecting the mana of the people they help so that they can find their way towards living independently, and with dignity and joy.

"Jackie and her fellow Aunties give without seeking anything in return and without judgement," said Westpac NZ chief executive David McLean, whose company co-sponsors the Women of Influence Awards. "She, and her core of other Aunties, ask vulnerable women what they need and then set about making it happen, in a completely selfless way.

"They have made an enormous contribution to our local communities at grassroots level."

The award ceremony was held last night at SkyCity in Auckland.

Here's the full list of winners:
Supreme Winner: Jackie Clark
Lifetime Achievement: Theresa Gattung
Arts and Culture: Miranda Harcourt
Board and Management: Dr Farah Palmer
Business and Enterprise: Angie Judge
Rural: Rebecca Keoghan
Public Policy: Charlotte Korte
Community/Not for Profit: Jackie Clark
Innovation and Science: Professor Wendy Larner
Diversity: Sarah Lang
Global: Sarah Vrede
Young Leader: Maddison McQueen-Davies

Jackie Clark set up the non-for-profit six years ago, which aims to help vulnerable women and children who have experienced domestic violence. Source: Breakfast


Eleven Glenorchy homes still without power 48 hours after early spring snowfall

Some resident in Central Otago's Glenorchy are still without power 48 hours after a spring snowfall caused major disruptions in the deep south.

Eleven properties remains with power this morning.

Aurora Energy is hoping to have power restored to the area by this evening.

Around 360 households in the central Otago town are affected, with Aurora Energy hoping to have electricity back on by this evening. Source: Breakfast

In many places power was cut, schools were closed and flights cancelled. Source: 1 NEWS


Watch: Artist uses pyramid in central Auckland to spread some joy around town

A Kiwi artist are architect is using a pyramid in central Auckland to spread some joy.

Matt Liggins has made it his mission to ask people what makes them smile, but instead of rolling up to you on the street he's built a pyramid to help lighten people's moods.

TVNZ1's Seven Sharp's Lucas de Jong went along to take a look and share a laugh in the video above.

Matt Liggins has made it his mission to ask Kiwis what makes them smile. Source: Seven Sharp

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