Sunday, November 28

The family loses most of their possessions after a repair error contaminates the state house


A distraught family had 30 minutes to select a handful of belongings from a home in Kāinga Ora after a roof repair failure contaminated it with asbestos.

Some of the family's belongings were dumped in the front yard.

Some of the family’s belongings were dumped in the front yard.
Photo: Supplied

The Christchurch family say that three-quarters of their personal possessions, including treasured mementos and relics, were dumped in a container.

The estate owner has been accused of showing no compassion and mishandling home repairs, which could affect the family’s health.

Kerin Buckingham, who shared her state home in Linwood with her two children, ages 11 and 13, was initially relieved when merchants showed up to repair the damage to her roof.

However, the lockdown meant that work had to stop.

“There was a lot of rain that night. There was a lot of rain the next day and a lot of leaks. I called them and told them the carpet was wet, the wall was wet, the ceiling was wet, ‘what do we do?'”

Kāinga Ora’s response was to hire fans to dry out wet areas.

When someone showed up with a humidity reader to see if the fans were doing their job, they fell straight through the soaked plaster, throwing asbestos particles onto the floor below.

Buckingham and his children stayed in the house for an additional two and a half hours while the fan blew directly onto the exposed, asbestos-filled plasterboard, scattering the toxic dust throughout the house.

When a builder showed up to fix the problem, he was surprised by what he saw.

“He said it should never have happened like this, that it was completely wrong.”

He took the phone from Kerin and spoke directly to Home Health.

“He wanted them to know how bad the situation was and that he couldn’t leave me and my kids living in that kind of situation. He said it wasn’t safe.”

The family was transferred to a motel that night taking nothing but the clothes they were wearing.

A week and a half later, Buckingham was asked to come to the house.

He said he had no idea what was about to happen.

“They had already dumped everything in the cabinets or drawers into plastic bags. And then they told us to check the bags and they stipulated that everything we wanted to try would cost $ 250 and we couldn’t collect too much.”

Kerin Buckingham and her son Shay Mattheou.

Kerin Buckingham and her son Shay Mattheou.
Photo: Supplied

Everything he owned, memories and moments of a lifetime, photographs and family heirlooms, were in those clear plastic bags.

He said they gave him 30 minutes to find what he could, without opening them.

Struggling to contain her emotions, Kerin said she was told that the rest would be placed in the huge container that had been parked in her driveway.

“I lost all the things from the birth of my children, pregnancy scans, hospital bracelets, first haircuts, teeth, umbilical cord, the ring of my great, great nana, my eighteenth birthday ring, necklaces, my ring of weddings, my wedding dress, pictures darling, just disappeared. “

His adult son, Shay Mattheou, who was there that day, said that the Kāinga Ora staff had obviously not considered how distressing all this would be.

“They started talking to us like in a kindergarten [children] Trying to hurry up and make us try to check everything It was just awful, it was absolutely awful. I don’t know how they thought we could deal with it in that 30 minute window they gave us. We definitely dragged it for a lot longer than that, but they only realized it once they saw Mom’s reaction. “

The jump where three-quarters of the family's possessions ended up.

The jump where three-quarters of the family’s possessions ended up.
Photo: Supplied

Mattheou estimated that they only managed to recover a quarter of what was there.

He said that while they received an apology from their mother’s case manager, more should have been done to prevent their belongings from being abandoned.

“If there was a plan of attack in place before they just came in and started rummaging around and bagging everything, Mom could have informed them where the important items were and we couldn’t have lost the great-great-grandmother’s ring.

“We couldn’t have lost Mom’s wedding ring.”

Kerin Buckingham had given up all hope of getting her things back and was now concerned about the long-term health impact of being exposed to asbestos while they were still in the house.

No one from Kāinga Ora was willing to be interviewed for this story and instead responded to questions through a series of emails.

While he admitted that the asbestos contamination was “a mistake,” he refused to accept any blame, instead pointing the finger at a subcontractor he hired to dry the house.

He denied that a 30-minute time limit was set for the family to collect belongings from the plastic bags, saying they ended up having four and a half hours to do so.

Kāinga Ora said it was “regrettable” to lose precious things, but compared what happened to the loss of possessions in a natural disaster or fire.

The house was now being thoroughly cleaned, repainted, and carpeted so that the family could live there once more.


www.rnz.co.nz

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