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WISE Works; healthier homes and more jobs!

WISE working hard to improve wellbeing and create jobs
WISE working hard to improve wellbeing and create jobs

It’s a simple formula. Make a home warm and dry, keep its inhabitants healthier and create hundreds of jobs.

WISE Better Homes started this multi-pronged approach in the late 1990s and this year reached a milestone: they have insulated 10,000 homes and created 300 jobs. Long-term its target is 33,000.

TSB Community Trust has significantly funded the Waitara-based charitable organisation, contributing over $1.8 million since 2004.

“When we talk about a healthier home we are not talking about it just feeling warm but about it being a healthier environment for the people who live in it,” says WISE chief executive Anaru Marshall.

Families report being warmer, they get sick less, tend to have less time off work and school, enjoy lower power bills and are generally happier.

Research by Otago University backs the anecdotal evidence.

Its professor of public health and director of the Housing and Health Research Programme, Philippa Howden-Chapman has found clear links between damp, cold homes and issues like respiratory diseases in children, hospital admissions and reduced productivity in adult occupants.

Training workers, particularly those registered as short to medium term unemployed, is another part of WISE (Waitara Initiatives Supporting Employment).

A typical employee will gain accreditation and certification in first aid, use of hazardous chemicals, health and safety, use of motorised machinery as well as a national insulation qualification.

“That sets them up to move on to other things, maybe in construction or the oil and gas industry. It makes them a much more employable prospect for a potential employer.”

The backing of the TSB CT has been a springboard to stability and growth for WISE, says Anaru.

“What it’s done is demonstrate to other potential funders that it’s a worthwhile cause as well as allow us to have a bigger programme, insulating more homes.”

It also provides practical application to the TSB Community Trust’s developing Child and Youth Wellbeing strategic focus, which considers issues facing the region’s young people.

“We are parallel to that because we are addressing the health and education needs of children and their families.”

The next step, says Anaru is working towards new affordable homes. While homes are insulated, many remain old and tenanted, posing long-term risk to occupants.

“Everyone is entitled to live in a decent environment. This is where we see our organisation putting a lot of energy and focus over the next five to 10 years.

“If we measure our success by the way the people at the lower end of the economic scale live rather than those at the higher end, we start to see the anomalies.”