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Overcrowding link to Meningococcal Disease

10 August 2000 Media Statement

Overcrowding link to Meningococcal Disease

EMBARGOED UNTIL MIDNIGHT, 10 AUGUST

Research linking Meningococcal disease to overcrowded living conditions shows why housing reform is a Government priority, Housing Minister Mark Gosche said today.

"We have been fighting third world epidemics like Meningococcal disease in South Auckland for many years," said Mr Gosche.

"But despite the rise in disease and warnings from community groups the previous Government continued selling state houses in Auckland – a city where overcrowding and escalating rental costs have pushed many below the poverty line."

"Making sure affordable, decent housing is available for low income people is a fundamental way this Government is working towards easing overcrowding."

The case-control study was carried out by ESR Wellington, ESR Auckland, Auckland Healthcare and Auckland University from 1997-1999, and was funded by the Ministry of Health and the New Zealand Health Research Council. It aimed to identify potential modifiable risk factors for the disease in Auckland children.

"We hare working on a range of policies that will increase the state house stock, lower the rents paid by low income people and focus resources in areas with the greatest need."

"Market rents and the sell-off of thousands of state houses forced many into overcrowded, substandard housing."

"In 1990 there were around 50 Meningococcal cases nationwide but by 1997 this had shot up to 613. New Zealand – specifically South Auckland - now has the highest rate of meningitis in the Western world."

The study found South Auckland had the worst rates in New Zealand while Maori and Pacific youngsters were twice as likely to suffer from meningococcal disease than other children. Research also revealed that 74.6 % of people living in crowded conditions were Maori or Pacific New Zealanders.


"Many state house tenants in South Auckland are Maori and Pacific families and I am convinced income related rents will ease the financial hardship they have been living with for many years."

"Our Government is committed to closing disparity gaps and making affordable, decent housing is available for vulnerable, low income families is a fundamental way in which we will do this."

Income related rents will be restored for low income state house tenants from December 1, 2000. Independent research has revealed that people who live in state houses are more likely to experience poverty than those renting from private landlord.

"State houses do not exist so we can sell them to make profits."

"State houses are there to make sure that affordable, decent housing is available for those on low incomes."

"We believe housing is fundamental to the health and wellbeing of New Zealand households, families and children."

Mr Gosche said the previous Government should bear some responsibility for the housing conditions and desperation they helped create in South Auckland.

"I wonder whether National MP Tony Ryall is still proud of his Government's market rents housing policy?"

ENDS

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