The relationship between unhealthy Kiwi homes and sky-high asthma and respiratory illness rates is being put under the spotlight with the upcoming launch of impactive new documentary Healthy Homes, A Kiwi Dream by Asthma NZ, in collaboration with building scientists Oculus.

Respiratory illness is the third leading cause of death in New Zealand and the country has the second highest asthma rate in the developed world. Over 3,000 children are hospitalised with asthma each year, and in 2018 alone, 77 people died a preventable death from an asthma attack.

Asthma NZ’s mission is a 50% reduction in asthma hospitalisations by 2029, but the health of Kiwi homes is getting in the way of achieving that mission, says CEO Katheren Leitner.

Making this documentary was a way to bring people’s attention to this crucial issue, and hopefully prompt a national conversation on how to change things for the better.

“Unhealthy Kiwi homes are making people sick. They are too cold, too damp and directly contribute to high rates of asthma and respiratory illness,” she said.

“The documentary aims to bring awareness to the fact that New Zealand’s frequently substandard housing is actually directly impacting health”.

Healthy Homes, A Kiwi Dream examines a common Kiwi home, identifying the factors likely contributing to the respiratory illnesses of its occupants.

Oculus co-director and architectural engineer James Powers then leads a team making a series of accessible and affordable changes to the house to improve the way it functions and impacts on health, while also looking at the deeper reasons behind what is going wrong and why a shocking 53% of New Zealand’s housing does not meet minimum healthy home standards.

Advocating for change in both policy and the building industry are crucial, Powers says.

“Respiratory illness statistics continue to rise every single year. There is a well-researched link between healthy housing and respiratory illness,” he said.

“The substandard housing in New Zealand has been a topic of conversation for a number of years now and despite tens of millions of dollars in research, there has been very little in the way of improvement”.

Healthy Homes, A Kiwi Dream will be launched on December 5th, alongside a nationwide social media campaign to raise awareness of the issues. For more information, visit


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