Community battles the cold and power bills for families

HAPPY HOME: Malachy Curry, 6, helps his Mum Rachel light a fire with free firewood delivered to their home as part of a large community effort from Shirley.

Being the sole bread-winner in a household with three children hasn’t been an easy road for Shirley mother Rachel Curry.

The oil heater she uses to warm her home burns through a “staggering” amount of electricity and recently contributed to a $700 power bill for one month. “I had the oil heater on 24/7 for a month and had no firewood and had to keep the family warm,” Miss Curry said. The previous month was between $400­ and $500.

But paying the bills has been made a little easier for the commercial cleaner. Her family is one of 18 in the Shirley area to receive free firewood.

The firewood deliveries were part of a large community effort to help families struggling to keep their homes warm.

As well as having the stress of heating her home taken away, Fire and Emergency New Zealand has undertaken a safety check of Miss Curry’s home and installed fire alarms.

Said Miss Curry: “I am just grateful there are these community groups that do go out of their way and support each other . . . we have had some cold days with cold morning frosts so it has been really helpful for us,” she said.

It comes as a Salvation Army survey showed almost half of its respondents said they had gone without heating because of the cost over the past year.

More than 50 people and various organisations were involved in the firewood initiative, including the Department of Corrections, Te Puna Oraka, the Shirley Community Trust, city council and Fire and Emergency New Zealand.

Mairehau’s Neighbourhood Trust, the Delta Community Support Trust, Shirley Rugby Football Club, Shirley Intermediate School, C3 Church, Housing New Zealand, the Helen Anderson Trust, New Brighton Volunteer Fire Brigade, New Zealand Army and St Johns Church also contributed to helping the families.

The wood was sourced by the Department of Corrections, which had old pallets to get rid of.

Community activator Steve Jones-Poole, who orchestrated the firewood project, said it was a community project.

He said some of the people who received firewood also helped deliver firewood to others. The community organisations selected families to donate the firewood to based on information from social service providers in the area.

Mr Jones-Poole said he had heard of some families heating their homes using an oven, while others were using small heaters which could cost up to $600 a month to operate.

“Of course, the bigger picture around it is you have got the heating for the homes which is good for them but the bigger thing was the people coming together,” he said.

Mr Jones-Poole met with families and Te Puna Oraka yesterday to work on a long-term solution to help families in need to collect firewood over the year.


GIVING: The New Zealand Army helping prepare wood to distribute to families in need in Shirley.