Historic housing conditions

Pushing for better housing conditions is a worthy goal for the Government, substandard housing can have a detrimental effect on the health and well being of tenants in particular. But, while there is good cause for concern now, conditions have been much worse in the past.

Dunedin City Council have posted online an interesting collection of archive photos. Some of them show what housing conditions were like for some people in the past.

HousingDunedin1923

Flood damaged houses, Dunedin 1923

HousingDunedin1923-2

Flood damaged houses on banks of the Leith River, 1923

HousingDunedin1957

Houses identified as substandard, 1957

HousingDunedin1959

Maori Road, Dunedin 1959

Going further back in history, Maori Road is so named because it was built by Maori prisoners of war, including some political prisoners from Parihaka. From Historic caves have story to tell:

That was because of the area’s links to Maori prisoners taken from Taranaki and forced to labour in Dunedin between 1869 and 1881.

The Maori prisoners came in waves, with the first group of 74 – known as the Pakakohe group – sent to Dunedin in 1869 after Titokowaru’s War, an armed dispute in the mid-to-late 1860s, sparked by land confiscations in south Taranaki.

…The Maori prisoners also worked on other city projects, including the Dunedin Botanic Garden’s stone walls and the city road eventually named after them – Maori Rd.

They were eventually followed by 137 of Te Whiti’s “ploughmen”, also from Taranaki, who were detained without trial after peacefully resisting European occupation of confiscated land and brought to Dunedin in 1878-79.

The prisoners were held at Dunedin prison and transported to work sites, but 21 died during their time in Dunedin and were buried in unmarked paupers’ graves in the Northern Cemetery.

Housing conditions have improved somewhat, as has recognition of injustices in our colonial past.

I actually live in fairly substandard housing as a child. Our ‘house’ was actually two cottages connected by a 4 meter long covered path. Scrim walls. Water pipes froze in the winter – we sometimes cleaned our teeth in an ice edged water race. No fridge (we had a meat safe). I forgot to get kindling in one night (I suspect not the only time) and my mother woke me up early on a frosty morning to get some in so she could cook breakfast on the coal range (and probably to teach me a lesson of responsibility).

Child labour on an orchard, mostly unpaid, but when I was 9 I earned enough money so I could go on a holiday camp. I grew up in what would now be called poverty.

Enough diversion.

52 Comments

  1. Blazer

     /  October 30, 2017

    apparantly its been even worse in the past.I’ve heard reports that humans used to live in Caves…with no electricity..either.

    • PDB

       /  October 30, 2017

      No nice, you’ll offend the odd Green poster on here who still live in such conditions.

      • I would love to know what some of the houses in the photos would be worth now.

      • Patzcuaro

         /  October 30, 2017

        The Greens may be living in caves but they have solar power & hot water plus other environmentally friend mod cons.

  2. Pete. I’d like to hear more about your childhood. That’s pretty interesting stuff.

    So many of our generation, the lucky ones, stood huddled over a paraffin heater, a donkey, or crowded around the coal range early in morning. I remember my brothers considered it as a source of pride to take off their shoes and barefoot it to school in winter. There is a great deal of namby-pambying children these days and I’m not sure that the prevalence of gluten intolerance, allergies etc aren’t directly attributable to this cosseting

    • Blazer

       /  October 30, 2017

      An unusual visage- huddled over a ..donkey..in the morning.The great gluten intolerance conspiracy theory raises its head.Do you think your children went to prison because you namby pambied them or deprived them of gluten free baked goods…perhaps!


      • This blazer, was what we called a donkey – it’s a stove.

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  October 30, 2017

          Some of our high school classrooms were “prefabs” that had a stove like that. The caretaker used to light a coke fire in them before school and they glowed red hot.

          • Gezza

             /  October 30, 2017

            Crikey! Your caretaker was burning coke in them?
            He must have been on a bloody good hourly rate!
            Did it affect the class in any way – like, were they faster at sums or stuff?

            • Alan Wilkinson

               /  October 30, 2017

              Inspired me to search for the history of the Christchurch Gas, Coal and Coke company and disappointed to find Google knows as little about it as you, Sir Gerald.

            • Gezza

               /  October 30, 2017

              My ignorance has sometimes been my saviour with those I have inadvertantly (or advertantly) offended, Sir Alan.

              It should never be sniffed at, sirrah!

              Sir Gerald

            • i knew that a donkey was a kind of water heater….it’s like a clothes horse which isn’t a real horse.

              Pete, are you having us on or are you much older than you look.

            • I knew…older than you look ?

              I have 3 old Valor kerosene stoves, the round ones. One big, one ordinary size and one very small. They are ornamental and probably still quite usable but I am glad that I have the luxury of being able to have them as retro artefacts and not be stunk out with kerosene.

  3. PDB

     /  October 30, 2017

    Homes should be fit for purpose but the demands that are starting to be made on rentals is in danger of becoming ‘over the top’, at a higher standard of many homes homeowners themselves live in, and seemingly moving away from the renter actually taking responsibility of looking after the rental and doing simple stuff like wiping away mold as it first appears on windows etc or simply airing the house out.

    It is almost getting to the point where children sharing a room will be looked down upon – something very common in the not-so-distant past.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  October 30, 2017

      Heaven’s knows why this clown subjected himself to Wellington’s bureaucratic nonsense but this was the result:
      https://www.stuff.co.nz/business/property/98200714/wellington-landlord-says-councils-rental-warrant-of-fitness-needs-some-work

      • Gezza

         /  October 30, 2017

        Williams paid $250 for the inspection, and failed because his porch light was not working, and some window fittings needed security stays.

        Williams said the person who inspected his property was from the Sustainability Trust.

        “I don’t know how they’re trained and what qualifications they have.” Like a car, the rental standard could be enforced by the central government to make it credible, he said.

        Williams said he believed the rental warrant of fitness scheme had good intentions, was good for landlords, and hoped it would be made compulsory. “But it needs to be tested better.”

        Williams said he has 10 rental properties in Wellington, and he wanted all of them to meet the new standard.

        His Johnsonville property which failed had passed all council inspections in 2011. “If this can fail, then what about all the other properties [in Wellington]?”

        The report was poorly written and had spelling errors, he said.

        Council spokeswoman Victoria Barton-Chapple said the Sustainability Trust, which conducts the council’s rental WOF inspections, were “independent and experienced home performance experts”. “Every inspector conducting rental WOF inspections has completed training specifically for the rental WOF.”

        Private Contractors, Al. Always much more efficient at fucking up things up than bureaucrats.

        • Gezza

           /  October 30, 2017

          (Sorry one “up” too many in that last line . Possibly should’ve said “stuffing” as well rather than the f word. Too late now. Soz)

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  October 30, 2017

            Yes. One day’s training makes them expert. Ludicrous. Another fool with a rule.

    • Alan Wilkinson

       /  October 30, 2017

      When there will be a WoF for tenants?

      • Ha ha.

        Landlords will soon have to build rooms on if the tenants have more children.

        There is a building firm that I walk past sometimes, it makes houses good enough for anyone to live in They are not huge, but are well designed to make the most of every bit of space. Ideal state houses, in other words. Some are, I believe.

        But I saw some state houses on the news once that were much larger and fancier than these-to me that made no sense. When there’s a need for them, why spend more than is needed on these houses ? If I had needed a house, I would have been wondering why there were not less expensive ones built-and more of them.The ones at the builders are low maintenance, have nice big decks, plenty of light…and because they are prefabricated, are not expensive.

  4. Conspiratoor

     /  October 30, 2017

    Who amongst the boomers here hasn’t got their arm minced in one of these infernal machines

    http://westcoast.recollect.co.nz/assets/display/22234-max

    • Gezza

       /  October 30, 2017

      Oops – posted in wrong place due to excessive heat in house. See below.

    • Gezza

       /  October 30, 2017

      And yup – we had one – I think that’s a Fisher & Pykel.

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  October 30, 2017

        Mere youngsters. Mum had one of these:

        • Gezza

           /  October 30, 2017

          Huh!
          Typical! you are SOOOO bloody competitive Wilkinson! >:D

        • Conspiratoor

           /  October 30, 2017

          I recall a washboard in the mental image I carry round on the day JFK was shot

          • Gezza

             /  October 30, 2017

            😳

            I really do think you should see a professional at the earliest opportunity c. 😕

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  October 30, 2017

            The wringer on that machine is missing the feed in/out flanges they had. Mum used to feed them into the wooden wash tubs beside the machine. And heat water in the “copper” with a fire under it:

            • We had an automatic washing machine by the time I was about 10, and a Hoovermatic before that; I dimly remember a wringer type when I was very small.I seem to remember a student flat having one, they lasted forever and could hold a massive amount of washing. When they had the water crisis in Raetihi a couple of years ago, a woman who had one in her shed took it out and became very popular with everyone using it. She kept it because it was still working, and had the last laugh on the family who said that it should be chucked out.

            • I have two washboards hanging in my laundry; they are fun to have as a bit of domestic history-I bet that this house had them-but they can’t have been much fun to use.

  5. Gezza

     /  October 30, 2017

    Me. Mum warned us what could happen. How long did it take the Fire Service to get your hand out of it, what age were you, & what on earth were you thinking at the time c? 😎

    • Conspiratoor

       /  October 30, 2017

      No worse for wear. It was a truly frightening ordeal for a youngster to watch his appendage disappearing between those rollers. They were relentless. From memory the thing exploded when it detected bone, so I’m still largely intact

    • Conspiratoor

       /  October 30, 2017

      No worse for wear. It was a truly frightening ordeal for a youngster to watch his appendage disappearing between those rollers. They were relentless. From memory the thing exploded when it detected bone, so I’m still largely intact

      • Gezza

         /  October 30, 2017

        Heard you the first time c.
        I must admit I did help mum once by putting a sheet through the wringer & it did not end well. Devil of a thing to get back out again the way if had wrapped itself into knots – god knows how – the process looked simple enuf.

        • Gezza

           /  October 30, 2017

          From memory, you theoretically just slammed it into reverse but that only seemed to worsen matters! 😕

          • Gezza

             /  October 30, 2017

            Eventually I found the release catch of course. There was an upside. I was excused laundry duties for life.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  October 30, 2017

            It’s a good illustration of how technological innovation simplifies and increases efficiency and therefore why there are no limits to growth.

            • There were all sorts of urban myths about people having their tits caught in the wringer, but one would have to leaning over the washer at a very odd angle. Physically impossible, I’d say.

            • Blazer

               /  October 30, 2017

              depends how droopy the bristols were..I guess.

            • Gezza

               /  October 30, 2017

              How droopy are yours, out of vague interest?

            • Blazer, people stand side on to the wringer, they are not close to it. Well, not that close. It would be physically impossible, like a bloke getting his dangly bits caught. And anything larger than a towel made the release thingy fly open.

              Gezza-mind your own business. You’ll just have to wonder.

            • Gezza

               /  October 30, 2017

              I was talking to Blazer Kitty

  6. sorethumb

     /  October 30, 2017

    I smell a rat with this post. You seem to be forgetting the state of housing in NZ prior to globalisation.
    https://www.nzonscreen.com/title/housing-in-new-zealand-1946

      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  October 30, 2017

        Your point is?

        • sorethumb

           /  October 30, 2017

          My point is NZ had a golden age post WW2.
          Prior to that Labour made state housing a top priority. The state house is a Kiwi icon.
          Whereas in the 1990’s we had America’s Cup, the birth of the internet, Lord of the Rings. The establishment embraced globalisation. I remember hearing Neville Bennet say “and we have a globalised property market”. Let’s not kid ourselves that now is no different to back then.

          • Alan Wilkinson

             /  October 30, 2017

            You are fantasising, st. The state housing blocks were no nirvana. A lot of the guys returning from WW2 were shattered. And:

            By 1949, Labour had been in power for 14 years. Labour’s interventionist ethos combined with the economic restrictions caused by World War II meant that the economy was highly regulated and consumer choice limited. National campaigned on the promise that it would keep the overall structure of Labour’s welfare state while moderating it in order to reduce the power of trade unions, increase consumer choice and generally abolish unnecessary regulation. On a relatively small swing, National gained eight seats and became the government for the first time.

            Domestically, the First National Government presided over a steady rise in the average standard of living, and by 1957 New Zealand was, in the words of the historian Keith Sinclair, “a materialist’s paradise.” In 1957, the National Party published a book entitled “A Record of Achievement: The Work of the National Government, 1949-1957,” detailing its accomplishments in office. Under National’s leadership, according to the publication, people now had more money, pensions, cattle, sheep, university scholarships, overseas trips, radios, washing machines, vacuum cleaners, electric toasters, houses, motor vehicles, and telephones. As summed up by Sidney Holland in a foreword, ‘New Zealand is a happier, healthier and more prosperous nation’

  7. sorethumb

     /  October 31, 2017

    What about infill housing?
    I could demonstrate my point by looking at Redcliffs, Diamond Harbour or Queenstown. Once Queenstown had baches along the lake now you get a thin slice of view if you buy an apartment.
    Once Redcliffs was an unprepossessing fishing village, distinguished by a collection of modest fishermen’s cottages. Most have now disappeared, replaced by more luxurious residences, and property values have escalated.

    “It’s a standing joke that we’re being taken over by the Americans and British, who have taken advantage of the stronger property markets in their own countires and favourable exchange rates”

    “I know an English couple who have summer here and go back to England in the winter”

    “What other parts of the city have such nice walks?..…