The Tokelau community and the research team worked together to design and build a demonstration healthy house for extended-family living. A series of meetings talked through the community’s specific housing needs.

This project was part of a research partnership that has been developed by researchers at the Wellington School of Medicine and the Wellington Tokelau Association to improve the health of the Wellington Tokelau community by increasing understanding of the links between housing and health and then acting on this information to improve the houses that Tokelau people live in.

In the first stage of the research we explored with key groups in the Wellington Tokelau community the concerns they held about their health in relation to housing. Seven focus groups were held with older men, older women, middle-aged men, middle-aged women, young people, professionals and sole parents.

In the second stage of the research key issues identified in the focus groups were disseminated and incorporated into a questionnaire on health and housing which was administered to a random sample of the Wellington Tokelau community. There was a 85% response rate to the survey.

In the third stage of the research partnership we focused on the physical design of the houses. We carried out action-research, where researchers and members of the Wellington Tokelau community met together in consultation with Housing New Zealand Corporation officials to consider the results from previous focus groups and the random survey and other available information.
This stage of the project was co-funded by the Centre for Research Evaluation and Social Assessment and was built around a collaboration with architects from the Wellington School of Architecture and Design, Victoria University of Wellington.

We worked together to design an appropriate, affordable, sustainable, new, multi-family state house. We evaluated the process by carrying out in-depth interviews with the family, including the children, both before and after they moved into the new house. We also monitored the temperature and humidity inside the the house for several months.


  1. To discuss the results of the focus groups and community survey with the Wellington Tokelau community in community meetings and ensure that their concerns about housing and health are incorporated into the design brief.
  2. To work with the Tokelau community, tenants, landlords and architects to refurbish an existing state house for an extended family that is health promoting and energy efficient.
  3. To involve the community in the building work in order to create employment in the community, to use the existing building skills in the community and to up-skill other members of the community.
  4. To carry out an in-depth process evaluation of the community-action programme.
  5. To qualitatively analyse the experience for extended families of being rehoused.