New window: Pensioner’s joy after two year wait

Mary Smith is delighted her new window has been installed in her council flat. Photo / Andrew Warner.

After two years of petitioning her council landlord to replace her deteriorating windows, pensioner Mary Smith’s home is warm and draught-free.

Smith’s new aluminium-framed window, and those for two other units at the Rawhiti Flats in Rotorua, had been sitting in a vacant unit a few doors down.

Smith spoke to Local Democracy Reporting early last month after seeing no progress from her direct requests to Rotorua Lakes Council.

The day after Local Democracy Reporting sent the council questions, it sent someone to put putty in a hole in the wooden frame.

Smith said within a week of the story being published, she had her new windows at last.

Her story prompted criticism the council was in “gross violation” of its obligations as a landlord.

The council said it took its landlord responsibilities seriously and the unit was weathertight, but the work was not done as it had struggled to find contractors, which had been a major issue since Covid.

Three businesses contacted Local Democracy Reporting after seeing the story with offers to install the window within a month.

Speaking about her new window this week, Smith said one of the other units’ was done as well, but the third unit was empty and awaiting a more complete renovation.

Smith said the wait had made her feel like a second-class citizen.

”I gave up.”

But she changed her mind, she said, as she knew she needed to stand up for what she believed in.

Smith said she felt the difference from the window on the first cold day.

“Now I can have the door open on a windy day and the net [curtain] will stay dead still.”

Smith said previously she would have all the windows and doors shut but the curtains would still move with the draught.

Mary Smith's old window was deteriorating. Photo / Andrew Warner.

She said the builder also put some insulation into the window wall. Smith said she now barely used her heater apart from a 5-minute blast on cold days to warm up.

She said it had shaved money off her power bill.

“It’s awesome.”

She wanted to thank the council staff who visited her, and the contracted installer from Shane Moore Services.

Moore said a lot of contractors he knew were busy at present.

“Everyone is sort of pretty much tapped out.”

He said it did a number of jobs for the council and so worked to fit this one in.

“We saw it in the newspaper … we’ll do what we can to do what it takes to get things sorted.”

Rotorua Lakes Council corporate services group manager Thomas Collè previously said repairs were prioritised and worked through as quickly as possible but it had been taking longer than the council would like to secure contractors.

The council acknowledged this was not ideal.

Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.

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