Tenancy law investigation wins 2022 Jesson journalism award

An investigation which exposed the failure of New Zealand’s regulation of rental housing has won this year’s Bruce Jesson Emerging Journalism Award.

Massey University journalism students Mary Argue, James Pocock and Lucy Revill found that many Wellington tenants living in clearly mouldy and sub-standard housing were unable to win cases against their landlords in the Tenancy Tribunal.

Although the law has required all private landlords to comply with “healthy home standards” for tenancies started or renewed from 1 July 2021, the investigation found that the tribunal and other government agencies have failed to enforce the standards.

The three students’ findings were published by Newsroom and Stuff on 9 May 2022 in a detailed and powerful article headed, “The mouldy misery of Wellington’s rental market.”

The story has won this year’s $1500 Emerging Journalism Award from the Bruce Jesson Foundation, a charitable trust incorporated in 2001 in memory of Auckland journalist Bruce Jesson, who died in 1999.

Foundation co-chairs Dr Maria Armoudian and Simon Collins said all trustees were “immensely impressed” by the students’ work.

“You combined personal stories with comprehensive research to produce a disturbing piece that cannot be ignored,” they told the students.

“This is exactly the kind of analytical and investigative journalism that we want to encourage because it has an impact and helps to build public pressure for action in an area where our society is failing badly.”

The Emerging Journalism Award, previously $1000, has been boosted to $1500 thanks to a gift from the Grace Memorial Trust in memory of Wellington peace campaigner and human rights advocate Diana Unwin.

The award is open to all journalism students, who must be nominated by journalism programme leaders, for published work of “critical, informed, analytical and creative journalism or writing which will contribute to public debate in New Zealand on an important issue or issues”.

This year’s winners will be announced tonight (18 Oct) at the annual Bruce Jesson Memorial Lecture being delivered this year by Auckland University associate law professor Claire Charters on the topic, “Legal myth-takes and the Crown’s claim to sovereignty over Aotearoa/New Zealand: What are the implications for New Zealand’s constitution today?”

The Bruce Jesson Foundation also offers a senior journalism award of up to $4000 as advance funding for critical, informed, analytical and creative journalism on an important issue. No senior award has been made this year.

Media contacts:

Dr Maria Armoudian, Bruce Jesson Foundation co-chair, 027 777 9974
Simon Collins, Bruce Jesson Foundation co-chair, 021 901 036

The Bruce Jesson Foundation is reliant on your donations to fund its activities. You can donate using this link.