DAILY BLOG EXCLUSIVE: Auckland Housing Crisis Special Investigation – Homeless using after hour Bunnings Carparks as home



Starting out on this blog, I intended to look into Millennials on the move, escaping the rent trap and redefining the “good life” from home on the range, to home on the road.

Armed with Google and the #vanlife, my search took me through the highs of the movement to a community of inspiring vehicle dwellers, tiny house builders, shared-space organisers, off-grid homesteaders, environmentalist communities, and YouTube celeb status stealth campers. Butut beyond these highs was a great number more lows for everyday people.

There I found families in cars too afraid to get help, fearing Child, Youth and Family would tear their family apart for the lack of a stationary roof. Here were inimum wage or part-time employees having to choose between a car or a home: between gas or food or rent.

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Beyond the innovative and inspiration of this community is something else that’s more important.
I avoided anything #vanlife while searching as it seemed to paind over and somehow soften the hard edge of suffering of a much larger group of cara-dwellers whose photos were less than “Instagram-worthy”.

I settled on the study of ’Walmart City’, a nationwide community of vehicle dwellers sleeping overnight in Walmart carparks in the US. Sure the conditions these people lived in were far less than ideal and Walmart – as the exemplar of the job-chewing corporation – has a big part in the problem. But I could also see that it also provided a safe place for people to sleep, cook, eat, wash etc without harassment from security or law enforcement.

Kind of the equivalent of not kicking you so much when you’re down that you lose the ability to be useful to them at all.

Coming back home,, I started to look at New Zealand vehicle dwellers and found a disproportionate amount of airtime given to the #vanlifers – and next to nothing for the larger group of poverty-stricken New Zealanders not living,rather just surviving in vehicles.

This is not to criticise or detract from the awesomeness of #vanlife (which provides a some sort of answer to the problem of povertybut I can’t be complicit with the medias use of #vanlife to cover over the more pressing issue of New Zealanders struggling quite literally in our streets.
So who are these people? Are they lazy, uneducated, unskilled? Do they struggle with gambling addiction, crime or mental health issues? Unemployment and financial mismanagement? Are they driven by loan sharks and the foreclosure of homes? Or simply trying to feed too many mouths on welfare?

Short answer to these question, no. But talking to this community I learnt that the main reason for their vehicle-dwelling was the huge gap between wages and rent. There were also some who couldn’t afford to study because part-time work didn’t cover expenses. Or when student loan repayments took just a little too much out of their low wages for them to have enough to rent a home.

These people were mostly employed, studying, or had studied.They’d given themselves the magic ticket to a better life qualification (along with a large loan), yet they often found themselves without a job to their chossen field. Instead theyfound themselves on minimum wage struggling to make ends meet.

Attitudes towards WINZ were less than civil with good reason. Fears of children uplifted, the cruel treatment of beneficiaries and the disincentivisaiton by the system towards the often only available low paid or part time work were major factors. Punitive policies dished out for those without a fixed abode seeking accommodation supplement and tax credits meant work and income had become less useful to these people than the limited work they could aquire and the total downsizing of their living conditions.

Basically the consesus was “their help is no help and it costs me more than it pays not just finacially but emotionally and mentally.

WINZ had become for these people a bigger burden to bear than moving into and living in their car.
So these people have a car often have both an education trade or skill and a job and or study but where do they park?

Freedom camping areas are limited, often not in residential or industrial areas where these people’s jobs or education providers are and restrictions relating to self contained certification of vehicles means many are not allowed in these areas anyway.

Freedom camping areas are really designed for travellers to see New Zealands natural beauty, not for citizens to function in a local community.

So I went on a hunt for New Zealand’s Wallmart city. Which large organisations/ corporations parking policies allowed for overnight camping like Wallmart?

Well none actually (officially) butIi did find the closest thing to New Zealand’s Wallmart in Bunnings neighbourly attitude to vehicle dwellers.

Ringing around the stores asking to park my van and sleep in it for the night, Bunnings staff took to solving my problem like any other diy project I might amble into their isle with.

Staff told me where I could park, the best places to park, the most popular places to park throughout NZ and more specifically helped me with information for my search in Auckland.

North, South. East and West Bunnings staff had me covered, they even tracked down the stores without locked gates so I could get out in the event of a fire. They searched for and identified their carparks that happened to be busy or well lit or close to amenities because of neighbouring stores.
Staff seemed to know their carparks as well as their stores and even warned me off certain areas having trouble with break ins or that had Police patrols at the moment. They were helpful right down to suggesting diy projects I might consider for inside my van to make life more comfortable. every store I rung and every person I talked to was helful and offered support without being condescending, judgemental, or pitying.

Following these instructions melded together into a kind of road map, I set out to see the carpark campgrounds for myself. Starting in the North, I set myself up and watched as cars stayed longer than store closing and still more arrived a good hour after the doors shut.

Sure enough as it got darker I saw blue phone lights flashed about visible from the back windows of the cars, one man got out to smoke and stretch his legs, a dog owner let their dog sniff about around the car sand a young woman sat typing in the passenger seat with the glovebox forming a desk for her laptop.

These people were winding down and settling in for the night.

As I made my way out West, East and eventually out South, the numbers of people increased and the sense of community and ease about the location was more apparent.

People were visiting other vehicles or chatting outside and even three people cooking on butane burners with the van door open. Not quite a Bunnings carparks sausage sizzle (you cant walk past without smelling and wanting, if your a carnivor like me) but it fit the Bunnings vibe all the same.

The smell certainly got the attention of a few dogs that like their owners were camped out in the car overnight. I saw a few wet noses sniffing at the crack in the top of the window and thought how quiet they had been for me not to have noticed, they weren’t there barking or whinning.

After my mostly sleepless night people watching from the tinted windows of the cab on my ute, I slurped back some cold coffee and focused now on the morning routine of these vehicle dwellers.

I say morning, but it was 5am and in my world that’s still bloody night time! People were getting cleaned up, dressing, eating cereal packing up bedding and heading off to their jobs, study or other daily activities.

So it’s official, Bunnings is the closest thing we have to Wallmart city, no other large organisation had even allowed let alone encouraged me to sleep in their carparks to be safe when I rang around the main centers of New Zealand. Bunnings however offered me free lodgings and even free wifi in both North and South Island stores and specific information on Bunnings carark camping logistics from North of auckland to South of the Bay of Plenty.

I contacted Bunnings head office to try and find out if this was a policy and why they might be so neighbourly to a mostly moved along community.

In true Bunnings style my request was delt with swiftly by their management and media enquirement team and I received a reply to my email the following day. unfortunatly they would only comment on the Whakatane store as this carpark is the only one advertised online as offering shelter for vehicle dwellers having done so with no problems for 11 years as told to me by bunnings Whakatane staff.
Bunnings sent me this statement…….

Jacqui Coombes, Bunnings General Manager, New Zealand:

“Whilst Bunnings doesn’t encourage people to camp in our carparks, we are aware that over the years a small number of people have parked in our Bunnings Warehouse Whakatane carpark, outside of trading hours. We will continue to work closely with and be guided by the local council.”

Since my investigation, Bunnings took down yesterday their advertising of free camping at Whakatane but they haven’t been able to take it off the RV sites…


So really two things from this blog, firstly good on you Bunnings for being neighbourly and letting people doss down for the night (despite this not being policy) and secondly, and more importantly, why the bloody hell is New Zealand getting so unaffordable that an Australian companys carpark is the best help available to a growing number of our people?

Besides replacing our government with Bunnings employees what can we do about it?


Ruby Joy is a sex worker activist and writer


  1. It’s Walmart in the U$A.
    I would say to people living in vans and cars; go and live in Parliament Buildings in Wellington. It is, after all, yours. Not theirs.
    If they make a fuss then make a bigger fuss back. The cops will turn up so remind them that they are there to protect the status quo, and you are the status quo. Not politicians or their lobbyists. If the police act against the status quo, then that is treason. If the police don’t, in fact, enable entry to Parliament Buildings then they are not representing the democratically elected government to best serve the public. They are acting in an heteronomous and unilateral way for non democratically elected influences, and that is, by definition, treason within the context of our law.

    A Letter.

    Dear Governor General.
    How are you?
    We, us homeless, tried to get in to our parliament buildings to keep warm of an autumn evening, but our way was impeded by a police force acting for third parties. Please ask HRH QE2 to send an aircraft carrier, a compliment of soldiers and a destroyer over thanks?
    The Fascist Corporates have taken over our government and our police force are acting in their best interests, not for us, the voting public.
    There is some urgency with regard to this matter because people are losing hope and we all know what that does to society with its devastating down-stream consequences.
    In the meantime, we’ll hold them off as best we can.
    See what you can do. We really, really need your help with this one.

    With respect and best regards . The entire voting population of NZ/ Aotearoa.

    Something like that.
    And remember. I’m just a Joe Blogg like any of you.
    So, it begs the question.

    And pardon me while I get shouty and sweary.


    And remember. Public enemy number one? The Banks. The Banks are doing this. Behind your backs, in the shadows. The Banks are squarely to blame. Think of the Banks as cancer. Like the Banks, the logic of cancer is growth.

    • Wonderful, CB .

      You know , really… letters e – mails and public marches on parliament are necessary here.

      They need to be made to feel uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable.

      This is an appalling situation for sizable numbers of New Zealanders to have to endure. Its just not good enough.

      The same widespread sentiment expressed with the TTPA demonstrations needs to be directed towards this whole issue. Again , – this is NOT good enough.

      It is NOT good enough that all these neo liberals do is quote twisted statistics and are allowed to blather on while New Zealanders have to live like this.

      It is NOT good enough that they are allowed to justify themselves and their failed policy’s despite evidence to the contrary.

      It is NOT good enough that we hear constant excuses for this ongoing atrocious situation because of someone other than themselves being responsible.

      They purport to be our GOVT !

      That’s why we have a govt !

      To act in the best interests of NEW ZEALANDERS !!!

      This govt has NOT acted in the best interests of New Zealanders. And we have every right to not only call them to account – but to take measures to remove them from office even BEFORE a general election.

      They have not treated New Zealanders with fairness , decency or respect. They cannot be trusted .

      They must be called to account and then dismissed.

  2. Yes , indeed it is an excellent article and good on Bunnings.

    But people even HAVING to live like this is an outrage .

    And every time the National govt tries to justify how well this country’s economy is doing and how strong it is and how well they have managed affairs under their watch – they should be reminded constantly of this appalling reality.

  3. Thank you for writing this article, and for paying such careful attention to the relevant details. It really does not have to be like this, and a so-called cafe society that rides on the back of such things is a vulgar and shameful one. Good on Bunnings for giving people refuge – and bad on this government for driving so many to need it.

    • Top blog foks,

      Every time I see the temperature drop or rain pelts down I feel distraught thinking of those folks living in cars or tents or even under a bridge or park bench.

      I must be old school but at 72 I never will understand why a NZ elected government has run down all our services and left many without a home, its hard to understand, while they now offer some a carrot falsely before the election, I am astounded.

      Here is Winston’s latest word on this phoney Nactional Government for the rich only.

      Rt Hon Winston Peters

      Leader of New Zealand First

      Member of Parliament for Northland

      Leader’s message

      The prime minister has been crowing about having a supposed operating surplus of $1.14 billion for the last seven months to January despite that surplus being fictional.

      As the government was making the boast Lawrence Yule, Local Government New Zealand chairman, said there was an urgent need for $1.4 billion to build tourism infrastructure.

      New Zealand First has a list of names for his supposed ‘surplus’.

      We would call it a ‘bogus surplus’, a ‘spurious surplus’, a ‘fictional surplus,’ a ‘pull the wool over their eyes’ surplus.

      And predicting surpluses can be pointless. History has shown the government gets things wrong as was the case when Labour Finance Minister David Caygill forecast an $89 million surplus for 1990/91 and it was later found to be a $3.2 billion deficit.

      There’s no substance to Mr English’s ballyhooed surplus.

      You cannot have a legitimate surplus that relies, as the government’s does, on consumerism driven by mass population growth through immigration.

      How can you have a surplus when you make massive cuts elsewhere and everywhere?

      It’s easy to conjure up a bogus surplus if you have frozen the police budget since 2009 and taken a slasher to other sectors.

      National have slashed funding ($1.7 billion) to district health boards; to industry training ($15 billion) and to DoC ($424 million), just to name a few.

      At the same time they have allowed housing to run down to the point there is a chronic shortage of over 40,000 houses.

      Regions are crying out for funding to build roads but are having to wait. All the government can give them are promises.

      Look at Northland with the promises 10 bridges would be built and nothing has happened and what about the promises National have made for defence force spending worth billions of dollars?

      All National does is shuffle the figures around, cut this, cut that and they trumpet about a surplus.

      Bill English is talking of tax cuts but with a general election coming up it’s all just puffed up rhetoric.

      With an election approaching it looks and sounds good but they under-estimate the intelligence of New Zealanders.

      The true state of our society can be seen all around us and that tells a different story to Bill English’s surplus ‘spin.’

      The real situation is one of overcrowding – stress – pressure – largely stagnant incomes, a housing crisis and increasing levels of homelessness and child poverty, all of which are not helped by rampant immigration.

      Rt Hon Winston Peters

      Leader of New Zealand First

      Member of Parliament for Northland

  4. my god john keys brighter future may be bunnings should be running winz it may have more humanity.

  5. “Attitudes towards WINZ were less than civil with good reason. Fears of children uplifted, the cruel treatment of beneficiaries and the disincentivisaiton by the system towards the often only available low paid or part time work were major factors. Punitive policies dished out for those without a fixed abode seeking accommodation supplement and tax credits meant work and income had become less useful to these people than the limited work they could aquire and the total downsizing of their living conditions.

    Basically the consesus was “their help is no help and it costs me more than it pays not just finacially but emotionally and mentally.”

    What a great post, so true all this, sadly the mainstream, as they call them they have NO clue about what really goes on, they also do not damned well care anymore, those in the middle class that own housing, too many of them are more concerned with their value of their home, with affording a second vehicle, with the price of this or the other, that they care about.

    I went past Auckland Uni today, saw thousands of students, most relaxed, and it seems to me, that the CLASS SYSTEM is back with a vengeance. I saw mostly well dressed, casually walking, smart phone holding and relaxed students, mostly white of course, who all seemed to come from better off middle class families.

    I saw a fair few foreign students, and they also seemed to be well attired and casual, so probably enjoying the privilege of coming from better off backgrounds and well paid or earning parents in China, Malaysia or wherever else from.

    I saw almost NO Maori, Pasifika, and no people one may consider poor or struggling, and it appears to me, that the poor are put back to where they are deemed to “belong”, that is on the slave job market, where you get little more than the minimum wage, and cannot afford to study, and consider taking out a student loan to be too high a risk, as a chain around the neck for many years to come.

    We are back to where we once were, the Nats have brought us back there as they cater for their privileged pricks and nobody else. We are back with exclusive clubs and circles and the steady supply of brain conditioned academics to serve the vested interest holding and serving institutions there are.

    So naturally, the ones falling through the net and the cracks, the ones not able to compete with ever more expensive rents and house prices, they are forced to find alternatives, they are the ones sleeping in cars in car parks, in garages, in motels or even under the bridge, unless a sympathetic relative or friend puts them up for the night on the couch.

    This country calls itself “egalitarian”, as a migrant from another place that likes to see itself similarly, I am appalled what NZers put up with, this is not at all egalitarian, it is a society built on injustice on endless competition, on division and endless LIES.

    It is time to take damned action but I see none of this, I cannot believe the apathy or fear of people to not act. It is time to rock the boat, dear friends, to call things by what they are, unfair and crap, thanks, and to storm the offices and homes of the privileged office holders that are there, who exploit and lie to us. Why the hell are you not getting going to deal to the bastards, dear Kiwis???

  6. But of course it isn’t REAL news until Newstalk ZB and Stuff.co.nz decide that it is news.
    They won’t be covering it because it clashes with what they want their image of New Zealand to be.
    New Zealand the way that National wants it.

    • I don’t accept this Robert. The housing crisis not caused by lack of energy or resources, but by a lack of political will. Humans have been housing ourselves in shelter appropriate to the climate we live in for hundreds of thousands of years. Access to housing is not a product of the industrial revolution driven by fossil fuel use, and I believe that even in a situation of energy descent, we can still provide every person who lives in Aotearoa with suitable shelter as part of our transition to a post-carbon society. To do that, we need leadership to make it a priority, and release the necessary resources.

      • My great grand father use to say something similar if not short. He use to say he never neded a license to do anything. I replied you needed maori to sign off on it. Then he replied go and get my bourbon (worked every time)

  7. This is certain peoples “God’s Own/Zone” NZ, their “(corporate) paradise”.

    Those homeless people no one cares about to take in to their homes? Its not just the govt and banks and elite, its a great majority of NZers are seemingly selfish comfortable “christian” middle class knobs. Just like no one cares also about some of us who are suffering other bad things like having no clean running water (because of forced fluoridation), etc. I also agree that people are apathetic.

    No doubt certain people will bash homeless as “bums”, “bludgers”, “lazy”.
    Mind you, cars cost alot too….
    People who are lucky to have health, jobs, families/partners, houses etc should be darn grateful (and “grateful” should mean how they treat others who are less fortunate).

    By coincidence i had just recently (re-)written an article on Key’s Housing Crisis. I’ve just posted it in a blog at:
    (I didn’t deal with the incomes/wages / employment side which you and also W Peters mentioned, just the housing (crisis) side. I think i will have to add this too now.)

  8. Good post. And good on Bunnings to allow car dwellers a safer place to park for the night without being judgemental.

    I hope the publicity does not change this – because Bunnings are doing a public service.

  9. Great post thank you.

    I agree with Country Boy, we need a whole host of people who are homeless and living in vehicles and a whole lot of others to be there to back them up. Then when they are evited from parliament grounds – which they will be – we need to shout out loud ‘the whole world is watching’…. to ensure the media goes far and wide.

    Alternatively we need a host of people who aren’t homeless to do this action on behalf of the homeless. As the homeless rightly so are frightened of getting their kids taken off them and other retributions by the state for nothing that is their own doing.

  10. Here’s a copy of a letter I sent to Brendan Boyle. 7th Week of been stuck in a Motel ….Sent: Friday, 17 March 2017 Auckland, Wellington
    To: information@msd.govt.nz; A Tolley (MIN)
    Subject: URGENT! No REPLY or CORRESPONDENCE FOR 3 DAYS! I need your assistance urgently.

    17 March 2017

    Brendan Boyle

    Chief Executive

    Ministry of Social Development

    P 0 Box 1556


    Dear Mr Boyle & Minister A. Tolley,

    I am living in a motel, 7th week at $1190.00/wk, $8330.00 in total plus $640 for storage costs. I am a Glen Mall WINZ client in West Auckland.

    It appears I have been ex-communicated. I was told I would be dealing with one person from Tuesday this week instead of the 9+ people I had dealt with and have been directed to two service centres and then back to Glen Mall, 20km’s apart as well as dealing with people from HNZ,MSD, the SCM, Nicky Spencer. Since then, I have not been able to speak to her or receive a response from my email(s) in which I have made a number of important requests, but no response.
    I have called the call centre several times and I have left messages with the CSR to pass on to her & other CM’s but still no response.

    I was also informed on Tuesday this week, that I would not have to go to the service centre to renew my next 7 days’ emergency accommodation on Monday 20th March, I can do that over the phone? I find that a little unusual?

    Iam & son are concerned & stressed as there seems to be a plan to isolate me and possibly deliberately jeopardised my situation. I have been compliant in every way.

    And the reply from the Minister of MSD’s office is …..

    From: Hon Anne Tolley
    Sent: Friday, 17 March 2017 2:55 PM
    Subject: RE: URGENT! No REPLY or CORRESPONDENCE FOR 3 DAYS! I need your assistance urgently.

    Dear xxxxxxx

    The Hon Anne Tolley, Minister for Social Development, has asked me to thank you for your emails of 10 March 2017 and 17 March 2017 regarding accommodation assistance.

    The matter you have raised falls within the portfolio responsibilities of the Associate Minister for Social Housing. I have therefore referred your emails to the office of the Hon Alfred Ngaro for their consideration and response to you.

    Kind regard

    | Ministerial Secretary | Office of the Hon Anne Tolley
    Minister for Social Development | Minister for Children | Minister of Local Government | MP for East Coast
    Parliament Buildings | Wellington | DDI: +64 4 817 9333

    WTF! Doesnt acknowledge her own Ministry MSD & its responsibilities!!

    I did cc HNZ Min A Adams & A Ngaro into the same email.

    Here comes week 9 in a motel when there are 2 houses waiting for WINZ to say yes for me to be able to move into just one of them??

    Week 9 $9520.00 later??


    • Another 7 Days in a Motel:
      After speaking to another CM (no.10 & informed I’d be talking to another one next week?WTF?)
      Looks like I could be here/motel until September at least! Scorecard; 9CM’s, 3xSCM’s & $9730.00
      When I reply to there Q;What have I done to source accommodation.
      A: There is a Housing & Rental Crisis and my income is insufficient to afford any suitable rental accommodation!
      Repeat every-time they ask that question.
      Evidence is TradeMe

      Why are they so inept & incompetent, and have f$%k’n jobs!?


      • Alfred Ngaro is a piece of garbage, in my opinion, I met the man once, he was not only looking like he is a total hypocrite and full of crap, he is full of crap. Sorry to read about your predicament and challenges. Keep up the fight!

        • The good news! 30 minutes after sending the letter(above) to B.Boyle. The SCM’s were in covering arse mode! They couldn’t do enough! MSD/WINZ Housing CM fixed their fuck up on my file which halted me getting one of the two houses that were available & earmarked for me 2 weeks ago!
          My files arrived electronically & a hard copy is on its way!
          This is the biggie and should be known by all, the Service Centre Manager DOES have the same discretion as the CEO of MSD/WINZ! I no longer have to pay the cost of the stay at the motel & the $9000+!

          Bad news is, I’m still in the motel. But back on the Emergency Housing list??

          Now … those storage cost??

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