Human rights report targets family's post-quake plight

MARC GREENHILL AND ASHLEIGH STEWART
Last updated 05:00 11/12/2013

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Elissa Urquhart, Angus Murdie and their two children are living in a house that leaks in eight different places.

The family has been living this way since the earthquakes, as well as battling bouts of diarrhoea and upset stomachs from the stagnant water lying around the house.

Their situation is one of many Human Rights Commissioner David Rutherford targeted in a 184-page report released yesterday to improve access to adequate housing, health services and help businesses make a positive contribution in Christchurch.

Urquhart said they had spent "a lot of money trying to make it [the house] watertight" but they were not covered for any consequential damage for the leaks.

Their daughter suffers from post-traumatic disorder after the earthquakes.

A hose is used to bring water into the house, which drips in places.

Urquhart believes the dripping hose led to the upset stomachs and her children having "diarrhoea for weeks" this year.

Her inability to gain traction on her plight led her to contact the Human Rights Commission.

"I know a lot of people who are really suffering and I think it needs to be acknowledged, because it's three years [since the quakes] and it's not OK."

Capping rent prices in the wake of big natural disasters and a warrant of fitness on all rental properties were among the commission's 33 recommendations.

City councillor Glenn Livingstone, chairman of the housing committee, said action on warrants of fitness was "firmly in my sights".

He expected the issue would be on the committee's agenda "early in the new year".

A joint approach with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment was needed, Livingstone said.

The commission also recommended the council review and update its social housing strategy for vulnerable people to reflect the lessons learned from the quakes.

Livingstone said work on the strategy, which was written in 2007, had started. "We're all in this together, but if the state or the council doesn't offer [assistance], who's going to? " he said.

Wider Earthquake Communities Action Network spokesman Mike Coleman said his group had been raising the same issues highlighted by the commission for the past two years.

Rental problems were a symptom of the wider crisis caused by housing stock repair and rebuild delays, he said.

Housing Minister Nick Smith rejected the idea of rent freezes but could see some merit in warrants of fitness standards for landlords.

He wanted to ensure any standards did not make it easy for landlords to simply pass on extra costs to tenants.

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- The Press

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