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Heating homes - and changing lives - in the Bay of Plenty

Aroha’s wish list was pretty modest - a vanity for the “rundown and depressing” bathroom in her timeworn Tauranga home. But thanks to Phil Gregg and the ‘20 Degrees’ programme she was given not just a vanity, but a whole new bathroom. Better still? She was given hope.

“Tradies came and replaced the bathroom just before Christmas, and it was the best Christmas present ever,” says the solo mother of seven. “Seeing the smiles on my kids’ faces was overwhelming - the kindness of Sustainability Options has totally uplifted me.”


For the past two years, Sustainability Options has worked with Aroha to help make her home warmer, drier and healthier.


They’ve relined some of the moldy walls and ceilings with GIB® plasterboard, given her new beds and curtains, installed a heat pump, and repaired multiple roof leaks. One of thousands of Bay of Plenty residents living on the breadline, these are the sorts of home repairs Aroha can’t afford to tackle, and as a result, ill-health has been a constant headache.

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“I’ve been diagnosed with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) and two of my kids have been in and out of hospital for asthma. The doctors referred us to Sustainability Options and their 20 Degrees programme to try and get my home insulated and that’s when our journey with Phil started. The programme has made such a huge difference to our family, and my 11-year-old hasn’t had asthma since we got the heat pump and dehumidifier.”


That’s music to the ears for Phil and his team, who are on a mission to boost thermal efficiency across the Bay of Plenty. Their goal? Ensuring every home is warm and dry and meets World Health Organisation recommendations of 20 degrees. It’s no easy task though, with an estimated 30,000 houses across the region not up to scratch.


“Every home in the Bay of Plenty should be able to reach 20 degrees on a cold night, but that’s far from the case,” says Phil. “We’re visiting a thousand substandard homes a year, it’s a huge challenge.”


Phil and his brother Nik founded Sustainability Options in 2012, with a vision of helping people embrace more sustainable living solutions. The 20 Degrees programme was originally a partnership with the District Health Board to assist families with Rheumatic Fever, later expanding to include under 5s with continuous respiratory problems. The repair and maintenance side of the programme was launched about five years ago, and with the support of funders, agencies and businesses like Winstone Wallboards, it is uplifting Bay of Plenty communities, one low-income household at a time. Since the programme’s inception they’ve carried out repairs and maintenance on over 1500 homes, funding $1.9 million worth of repairs, and injecting over $11 million of value back into the homes. They’ve also run multiple workshops equipping homeowners with the tools to undertake some of the work themselves.


“We see this as a hand up, not a hand out,” says Phil. “It’s about empowering whanau to help themselves because that’s what builds further confidence and hopefully community uplift, and that’s what’s sustainable. Most people have no idea of the level of hardship some people face – we go to places with no sewerage, no power, no water. You see people living like this but at the end of the day they just love their kids. When you give them some support and the confidence to change their situation the results can be transformational.”

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Jade is a shining example. After his release from prison, the Tauranga father of five struggled to get back on track, but in the last four years he has turned his life around, attributing some of his success to Phil and Sustainability Options.


“20 Degrees has helped me push forward – if it wasn’t for that opportunity, I wouldn’t have been able to get my kids back,” says Jade.


“I was gifted some land and put an old shed on it, but to get my kids back I needed to add on a bedroom. Phil helped me get the products I needed to build the extension, from the GIB® plasterboard and insulation, to a heat pump, a shower dome and even some bunk beds!”


With guidance from a few building pros, and plenty of YouTube videos, Jade has managed to create a home he and his kids are proud of.

“Before all this work, the temperature inside was the same as outside, even in the thick of winter. Now it really feels like a home and the kids love it – I can’t get them out of bed some mornings because they’re so cozy! My whanau wouldn’t be where we are today without 20 Degrees helping us on our journey.”


It’s stories like this that get Lee Siegle out of bed in the morning. A project lead at 20 Degrees, she is deeply passionate about the power the initiative has to uplift communities.


“I love seeing the whanau progress in themselves,” says Lee. “You might think what difference does hanging a curtain make? But it really does! Once people start doing things themselves, they become more engaged and empowered. It’s really cool seeing that transformation in people – and that’s when you can start seeing that difference it’s making long-term. That’s when it really becomes sustainable.”


By partnering with Sustainability Options’ 20 Degrees programme, Winstone Wallboards is helping to create healthier homes and better lives for thousands of Bay of Plenty families. But there is more work to be done. Think you can help? Visit or contact Phil Gregg on 027 496 0995.

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