New log burner no use for widow

CHILLY: Monica Wallace, 90, has been unable to use the log burner in her state house since it was installed in March.
CHILLY: Monica Wallace, 90, has been unable to use the log burner in her state house since it was installed in March.

Monica Wallace's cat is the only one using the log burner in her state house.

The 90-year-old Christchurch resident is unable stack wood, cut kindling or load up the fire.

Daughter Margaret says Housing New Zealand (HNZ) had promised the earthquake-damaged log burner would be replaced with a heat pump when her mother moved into the Papanui property.

Instead, Monica got a visit "clean out of the blue" in March from a contractor who installed a new Environment Canterbury-approved log burner.

Christchurch has endured floods, frosts and freezing evenings, but her log burner sits in the living room untouched. Monica uses two electric heaters, which run all day as she sits by the window knitting.

She has made a curtain to pull across so it sits out of sight, dust free, and as new as the day it was installed.

Her cat, Natara, uses the fire as sleeping quarters if the door is left open.

The Government was this week criticised for replacing 362 log burners in state houses with new compliant log burners instead of upgrading to cleaner forms of heating.

Government rules say Christchurch can have no more than three high pollution days a year and ECan has cracked down on log burner use.

When The Press visits, Monica is knitting yellow and red hot water bottle covers, "just in case of emergency" when it gets really cold.

She been a state housing tenant for 36 years - since husband Jim, a railway worker, died. "A train derailed and he was helping to get them back on the track and got jammed between two engines."

The railways looked after Monica and her eight children, arranging for her to go from the stationmaster's house into a state house. "I couldn't stay where we were. There were just too many memories," she said.

Monica was grateful to HNZ but wanted them to honour the promise to install a heat pump, to make things a "bit easier".

She buys a packet of wood each week, stockpiling it for when she must inevitably use the log burner.

Margaret said she had been battling HNZ on Monica's behalf. Phone calls have been recorded, and who she spoke to and when noted.

Her mother had battled enough in life, Margaret said, bringing up a household of eight without a husband, losing one child to cancer and two adult children to the disease.

After The Press contacted HNZ, it said a heat pump would be installed within two weeks.

South Island regional manager Symon Leggett said it had no record of Margaret's phone calls requesting a heat pump.

"It is unfortunate the tenant didn't raise their concerns when the new log burner was installed in April," he said.

The Press