Peter Parker and his 11 children at their state house, Te Pene Avenue, Titahi Bay, Porirua, New Zealand, Left to right: Peter, Julie (14), Bernard (13), Christine (11), Angela (10), Brenda (9), Timothy (7), Stephen (6), twins Helen and Lawrence (5), Michael (4), Nicholas (2) 1963, Photograph by The Evening Post, courtesy of Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand (Dominion Post Collection, EP/1963/2979)
- 'We excitedly ran through the new house … Light streamed through the curtainless windows …'
- Shirley Redpath, former state-house tenant, 2005
State houses were the product of New Zealand's largest house-construction scheme, launched by the first Labour Government (1935–49). The houses were like mansions to people who'd previously lived in city slums but could be rented for modest sums. The first was ready in 1937.
The houses were extremely well built and sought after. They boasted modern amenities like electric stoves, indoor bathrooms, and flush toilets. These were a dream-come-true for tenants who were used to heating laundry water over fires, cooking on coal ranges, and using shared outdoor toilets.
Yet their standard size served standard-sized families – mum, dad, and a few kids. Larger families, common in Maori and Pacific communities, had to squeeze in. The location of washing areas beside kitchens also offended some Maori.
Decline of state housing
From the 1960s, state houses were built more cheaply and densely. Some state housing areas, often far from town and with few public facilities, became associated with high unemployment and crime.
Read more about state housing in New Zealand