Your Home: Cold and Damp, or Warm and Dry?

As someone who was raised in Germany and now lives in New Zealand, I’ve got to say I love this videoclip!

Most of New Zealand’s houses have poor thermal performance. In winter, most of them are cold and damp. The remainder are warm but expensive to run. Ian Mayes says the problem is most Kiwis have not lived in warm, dry homes; poor quality homes have been normalised. It is so common, that  parts of the Census is dedicated to asking whether your home is cold and whether these is mould growing in it.

Thermo-Hygrometer: Modell HM 16We should all have thermo hygrometers in our homes. If everyone had one, there would be riots as people realise they are paying so much for cold, damp, poorly performing homes.

Ian Mayes, 2018

Making our homes warmer

Our homes can be made warmer by heating them well and reducing heat loss.


There are different ways we can heat out homes, and EECA has created a great resource to compare the options, depending on the size and use of the space you want to heat.

Reducing Heat Loss

Tips on insulating and reducing heat loss can be found in this blog post but here’s a little bit of extra info about my favourite topic – windows!

A single pane of glass only has an R-value of between 0.15 and 0.19. Standard double glazing is around R 0.26 and the fanciest double glazing might reach R 0.6.

Because even the best double glazed windows still have low insulating abilities, curtaining is very important.

The 4 rules for good curtaining are:

  • Cover ALL glass. Windows. Doors. Funny glazed spots. The lot.
  • Always 2+ layers. It is the air around and between layers that insulates, rather than the material itself. A single layer doesn’t trap nearly as much heat as a double layer.
  • Energy saving curtains should close off airflow over the window glass
    Image from

    Stop reverse convection currents. By having curtains touching the floor, or  pelmets, or both!

  • Good behaviour. Close curtains in the afternoon, to stop daytime heat escaping. Open curtains in the morning to allow heat in during the day.

Making our homes drier

Ventilation and moisture control can help us make homes drier.

Note: Ventilation is different to draughts in that the former is a chosen air exchange, while draughts are uncontrolled air exchanges and heat leakages.

We want less moisture in our homes because it makes them healthier and less prone to mould. Good ventilation combined with other moisture control practices can reduce relative humidity.

Once again, EECA have created a great resource for tackling dampness and reducing indoor moisture, which can be found here:



Urban Design: People, Places, Spaces


Today, over half the world’s population live in urban areas. By 2050, it may be as high as 80%. Despite cities only occupying approximately 2% of the world’s land surface, they account for approximately 70% of global CO2 emissions, and this is only going to increase in the future.

In addition, spaces are designed for economic growth, rather than people: parks, playgrounds, community centres and dwellings are pushed out of the centre – to make space for businesses and parking lots.

(Full movie available here:

Image: AcidFlask via flickr.  CC license: Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic
Sustainable Cities Net

So how can we ensure cities and city developments keep people at their heart? And how can we make sure we look after the earth, and the other fauna and flora we share urban spaces with?


A Good Use Of Space…

Until recently, many urban designers were not aware that the way a city is designed determines how people behave, interact, and enjoy it.

A well designed city (or area within a city) will look different to everyone, but some key features are:

Elliott St has become more liveable thanks to Auckland Council's laneways programme.
Elliott St, Auckland
  • Foster interconnectedness: there are many opportunities for people to meet and interact. Cul-de-sacs are great for dwellings as they do not have any through traffic, and are often relatively safe. Pedestrianisation of areas has also been found to radically change how people use a space; with more pedestianised areas resulting in more people coming out, walking, and socialising.
  • Foster well-being: there are opportunities to connect to nature, education centres, community services, and these are accessible to all.
  • pexels-photo-878000.jpeg
    Fostering interconnectedness and well-being.

    Working within the bioregion: ideally, urban and rural settlements within a bioregion will be self-sufficient, or almost. Bioregional self-sufficiency means the area will be more environmentally sustainable (for example it may have lower emissions, as less needs to be imported), it will have a vibrant local economy (as people will be supporting their local initiatives and businesses), and there will be a stronger identity (as each bioregion develops to suit its local area).

  • Make the most of available resources: good design turns ‘waste’ into resources, utilises horizontal and vertical space, and means features have more than one use (e.g. a living wall can produce food, help purify air, and provide insulation to buildings). Even space itself can be a resource; if buildings are arranged randomly, a lot of ‘lost space’ can exist, but with some care, space that can be used positively is found.


Aiming For Utopia…

After the industrial revolution, many cities became progressively less liveable; congestion, pollution, and unreliable supplies of resources meant many people suffered or lived in poor conditions.

There have been many ideas and movements to try and find solutions. Some have been somewhat successful, and others have resulted in additional challenges. One thing that has been discovered, is that there is no one-size-fits-all solution: to be effective, ideas need to be tailored to the local social, cultural, political and environmental circumstances.


Ebenezer Howard is the founder of the garden city movement. As well as the links, this video offers an informative summary:

Though he and many others have attempted to solve city problems, those that forget to put people at the heart of design may find their ideas less successful.

For example, many past and present city planners like to zone the area they are working in. Zoning is the process of diving land into different zones and encouraging certain activities within each. While this may seem rational and make a place appear more organised, it is likely to be less practical for the people that live, work and play in the city.

In mixed use spaces, everything is much closer and convenient. Zoning can be a result of a disconnect between urban design and the people that use the space.


Image result for waimarama papakainga
Waimārama opens first papa kāinga

Bringing Back Papakāinga…


When New Zealand was colonised, traditional Māori settlements experienced extreme disruption and destruction. With traditional lifestyles threatened, many Māori migrated to growing cities and were made to live in culturally inappropriate houses.

Fortunately, there is now a growing movement to bring back papakāinga.



Introducing Jane Jacobs…

Jane Jacobs.jpg

Jane Jacobs was a writer and activist who was greatly influential in urban studies, sociology, and economics.

Her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities became one of the most influential American texts about the inner working and failings of cities, inspiring generations of urban planners and activists – Project for Public Spaces.

jane jacobs
From Project for Public Spaces

For example, in many cities, 90% of road space is for cars and 10% for people. However, 90% of the street population is pedestrians. So, it is time to stop catering for cars and start catering for people.

City Nature and Nature in Cities…

Ecosystem services are the services an ecosystem provides us for free, and include resources (e.g. raw materials), regulating services (e.g. air quality and pollution management), habitat services (e.g. maintenance of genetic diversity), and cultural services (e.g. tourism).

A healthy, sustainable city values ecosystem services and encourages biodiversity.

Urban areas are not only the living areas of humans, but fauna and flora as well.

– Bruce Clarkson, University of Waikato




Te Ao Māori – Opportunities for Learning and Connection

Disclaimer: I am in no way an expert in any aspect of New Zealand’s history or present, or te ao Māori or any part thereof. This is just based on my personal perceptions and experiences.

Māori people and culture have faced many challenges and injustices through the process of colonisation of Aotearoa New Zealand. The effects and impacts this has and continues to have on Māori people, te ao Māori (the Māori world), and New Zealand more broadly are another post (or book, or several books!) in itself, and there are many knowledgeable people that have written on the subject.

But perhaps a single-sentence summary is that there are still many societal issues that need to be addressed, many grievances that need to be resolved, and many mindsets that need to be changed if Aotearoa is to decolonise, the Treaty of Waitangi is to be upheld, and appropriate respect and justice is to be given to Māori people and culture.


(Photos of Kirikiriroa Marae meeting house, from their website)

One way I believe we can contribute to the decolonisation of Aotearoa, upholding of the Treaty of Waitangi, and generally do right by the tangata whenua, is to educate ourselves about and engage ourselves with te ao Māori. Here are some of the ways I have found to engage:

  • Read beyond mainstream media. Māori Television and Māori radio stations are some resources I find useful. I also like reading and researching different topics as I come across them, making sure I am not just getting information from one source.
  • He Papa Tikanga course – this is a free course offered through the amazing Wānanga o Aotearoa that gives an introduction to Māori tikanga, values and customs. It also addresses some of the events that have been all but wiped from mainstream (coloniser-written) history education. You get supported the whole way through and receive some amazing reading resources and textbooks .
Wharenui at Kirikiriroa Marae. Image from their website.
  • Visit and become involved with your marae. If you do not know your marae, iwi or hapū, there are people to support you finding out this information. All people, from all across Aotearoa and the world are welcome at Kirikiriroa Marae in Kirikiriroa Hamilton.
  • Learn to speak te reo Māori. Until I started learning to learn this beautiful language I did not understand why it was considered the most precious taonga (treasure). Now I get it; because there are concepts that we just can’t communicate in English words. I have completed a number of different te reo courses which use different teaching methods, and so far my favourite is Te Ataarangi. It uses little rods (rākau) as the main teaching tool and I cannot explain how amazing and easy it is to learn this way!
Te Ataarangi – teaching with rākau

If you have other resources you would like to see mentioned here, please let me know 🙂

Post Script

I have noticed for many people (of both Māori and European descent) engaging in te ao Māori can sometimes be difficult, uncomfortable and/or emotive, for different reasons.

For example, when I initially expressed my desire to send our non-Māori daughter to kohanga reo (Māori preschool), I was surprised at the controversy this caused within our family and social circles. I ended up writing an article about my experience which ended up being one of the nationally most-read articles of that year, led to follow up articles, several radio interviews, and all sorts of responses from the public – from praise and support, to abuse and even death wishes!

Camilla Carty-Melis
Why my Pākeha child goes to Kōhanga Reo

Still to this day I struggle to understand why it caused such a ruckus. But I suppose this was a turning point for me when I realised I needed to better understand te ao Māori and the strange, tense race relations that currently affect this country.

But I guess what I would like to say is that even if it is challenging, daunting, or uncomfortable… I urge you to pursue, if it is something that you would like to do. I love everything about the learning journey I am on.  I am sometimes really placed outside of my comfort zone. But so far it has always been worth it, because what I learn enriches my life in ways I struggle to put into words. It has most definitely changed my understanding of the world. It has made so clear me the value of co-operation and community strength; challenging the notions of independence, competitiveness and individualism so valued by the Western worldview. And I have grown spirituality as I learn about the sacredness of nature, and my connection to it.

Arohanui, Camilla ❤

Statue of Earth Mother at Ngarunui beach in Whaingaroa Raglan