Grandmother faces rough return
A single 54-year-old grandmother, who is sleeping in her car, says she never would have left Australia if she knew how tough life was back in her home country.
Gayle White is sleeping in her Ford stationwagon, parked in her daughter's driveway in Richmond, while she waits to move into a Nelson rental home.
"I have wished I never came back here, but I am here and I can't turn the clock back," she said.
Social agencies say more older, single women living alone in Nelson are struggling to find housing they can afford to rent.
One-third of the Nelson Tasman Housing Trust's homes, set up to help low-income families, are rented by women in their 50s, 60s and 70s who are living alone.
Ms White, a mother of nine, said she left Victoria in May, soon after she and her husband divorced.
She started looking for a home as soon as she returned to Nelson, inquiring about 417 homes, before finding one she could afford and was accepted for.
Her two dogs were a big issue for most landlords, she said, but she refused to give them up.
Her 33-year-old son was relocating from Reefton to move into a two-bedroomed home with her, she said. Together, they would pay $350 a week.
"To me, this is ridiculous. I have been quite depressed because things are just so tough.
"The cost of living in New Zealand is so much more than in Australia. In Australia, New Zealand butter is half the cost, milk is $1 a litre and bread is $1 a loaf."
Ms White said she received $253 a week on her New Zealand sickness benefit, but this was about to increase to $350.52.
She said she was unable to afford a rental home in the region until her son offered to live with her. They are unable to move in until next Thursday, however.
In the meantime, she is sleeping in her car, parked at her daughter's three-bedroomed house, where a family of five live.
Mrs White said she was unable to sleep on a mattress on the floor in the house because of her health.
"I have lupus, osteoarthritis, fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue."
However, she was stumped when Housing New Zealand told her she was ineligible for a state house because she failed to meet the criteria.
"I'm on a sickness benefit, I was born in New Zealand and I can't afford to live on my own. What can I do?"
The Nelson Mail