As a steppingstone, they had to attend the Sustainability Homes programme where families are given information on how to keep their homes warm.
“We live in an old four-bedroom house and were living marae-styles. We wanted advice on how to make our living conditions healthy. They told us, by opening all the windows in the morning for 15 minutes to let the air flow through would keep the mould away. So, we did that, and it helped.”
Sadly, in March this year, her father-in-law passed away and didn’t get to see the completed project. However, he played an active role in the upgrades.
“We have a massive home, so the fireplace – which was old and had broken bricks – wasn’t heating the entire house, especially his bedroom at the end of the hallway. He was 76-years-old, and it was hard for him to keep warm. He’d sit in his room all day with the heater going, so our power accounts were humungous – $800 to $900 every two months. We just couldn’t keep up with it. Our six kids were in school and we only had two incomes, so it was pretty hard, especially during winter trying to have a continuous supply of firewood for him.
“We also have a long passageway from my father-in-law’s room to the shower. Although the bathroom was close to his bedroom, the shower was literally in the kitchen. And he would walk halfway before needing a rest.”
Rahera says Whare Ora project manager Jody Wharekura and his team, assessed the house and advised they would fix the fireplace, replace the insulation, install a new shower and bath in the bathroom, put in a new toilet, and fix the plumbing. They also advised the wetback hadn’t been connected to the fireplace properly and had a leak in it, which contributed to the high power bill. They fixed the leak and installed a heat transfer, and the whānau changed power companies. The power bills have now reduced from $900 to $300.
“Jody always said to me if there were any problems to contact him and he would get it sorted. The tradies were absolutely awesome, and really respectful to both my home, and my father-in-law who was there the majority of the time. They went out of their way, and over and beyond what they were supposed to do, including fixing water damage and patching up holes they found along the way.
“When the guys did the bathroom, my father-in-law was so overwhelmed and speechless because it meant he didn’t have to walk to the other end of the house. He’s also one of those people who wants to get in and help, and the builders were really good at accommodating him, so he was comfortable enough to be part of it.
“We’re really grateful for everything that’s been done. It’s upsetting my father-in-law isn’t here to see it, but I’m glad he was able to experience some big changes before he passed.”