Welcoming warmer homes for Southlanders

  • David Parker

David Parker's speech notes for the launch of the Southland Warm Homes Trust
2pm, 25 July 2008, Invercargill


I’d like to thank Tracy Hicks (Mayor, Gore District Council) for introduction

I’m delighted to be here today to launch the Southland Warm Homes Trust.

I want to congratulate the trust members and the project team and especially acknowledge the leadership of Neil Boniface from Electricity Invercargill, Martin Walton, Chief Executive of Powernet, Vaughan Templeton, Chair of the Southland Electric Power Supply Trust and Ian Macara, from Southland Primary Health Organisation. I would also like to acknowledge Lesley Soper, who is engaged elsewhere, but has been active in her support of this project.

I’m aware it’s been a long road to get to this point – I understand it has been three years since Neil Boniface called the first meeting to discuss what could be done for the province.

I also pass on the congratulations of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority chief executive Mike Underhill. He met some of you when he was here earlier this year but unfortunately is unable to be with us today.

It’s very pleasing to see fourteen organisations getting together, and putting funding towards improving the health and well-being of people in Southland.

I commend you all on your commitment. Your support is greatly appreciated, because by working together, our money can go further.

On that note, I am pleased to announce that the government, through the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority, is increasing the proportion of funding we are offering to this project, from 33 percent to 60 percent.

The increased level of funding means we are able to raise the levels of the insulation we put into your homes – which has got to be good thing in these colder parts - and we can reach more Southland families, sooner.

That means that $1.05 million from EECA, along with 690,000 dollars from funding partners, totalling $1.74 million each year, will go towards making Southland homes warmer and healthier.

That brings the total project cost to 5.22 million dollars over three years.

With this money, the Trust aims to insulate 600 houses each year.

This is just the sort of initiative that we need, if we as a country are to have a sustainable future.

There’s a tremendous amount of interest in energy efficiency and conservation at the moment – driven by a number of factors.

Climate change is now squarely on the agenda – we in New Zealand need to take steps to reduce our emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. While there’s considerable debate about some of the policies in that area, there is no question in anyone’s mind that using our energy more efficiently is a practical and relatively easy step towards reducing emissions.

That’s because using less electricity reduces the need for generation from non-renewable sources. We in the South all know that all forms of power generation have environmental effects.

The low lake levels in the South Island hydro lakes have also prompted discussion on the need to use electricity more prudently.

And the third factor that’s prompting increased interest in energy efficiency is energy bills. Consumers around the world are facing rising energy costs. The increases in petrol and diesel are of course the highest, but around the world electricity costs are also increasing, especially in countries reliant on gas. Of course the power bill is always bigger in the winter months. Every year, the arrival of these bills prompts people to start thinking about how they can save.

This year, people in Southland will have some practical solutions on offer, thanks to this programme. They can plan ahead to have a warmer home next winter that is cheaper to heat.

Our action on retrofitting poorly insulated homes is part of our wider push for energy efficiency. We have introduced the principle that investing in energy efficiency should occur where it is cheaper than using more energy or the cost of building more energy capacity.

When we developed the New Zealand Energy Efficiency and Conservation Strategy we looked at some of the barriers to change, including problems meeting the initial cost of improvements, lack of information, and split incentives (for instance between a landlord and tenant where neither benefits enough to do the work and so noone does).

Many of the policies and programmes set out in the NZEECS are designed to overcome these barriers.

The ENERGYWISE funding programme, delivered through EECA, is one of these. It provides finance to help people afford energy efficiency improvements.

Across New Zealand, already over 42,000 low income families have seen their homes retrofitted with insulation and other energy efficiency measures as a result of our ENERGYWISE™ Home Grants.

We’ve extended our support to middle-income New Zealanders to help make energy efficiency measures more affordable and accessible for more homeowners.

I understand Southland has the highest percentage of inadequately insulated pre-1978 homes in New Zealand. And that’s a particular problem because it’s also one of the coldest regions.

In an average home, about 35% of the energy bill goes on heating. If you don’t have adequate insulation, then a lot of this heat is just being wasted. You go colder and pay higher bills.

It’s healthier to live in a warm home - in homes where insulation was installed, visits to the doctor dropped by 19 percent, admissions to hospital due to respiratory conditions dropped by 43 percent, days off school were reduced by 23 percent and days off work by 39 percent. The figures speak for themselves.

Investments like this programme are so worth while - for every dollar spent on insulating old, cold houses, there is close to a two dollar benefit from energy savings and health savings.

I’m pleased to see your programme includes an energy assessment and other energy efficiency measures.

While insulation and heating are often the big ticket items there are many smaller but still significant steps that kiwi families can take.

We know a lack of credible information is another barrier to people taking action to improve their energy efficiency. EECA provides authoritative general information, such as the action sheets that are available here but the energy assessment helps translate that general information for your specific circumstances at home.

I know some here have been involved in the Bluff Healthy Homes scheme over the last few years and an energy efficient lighting campaign, as well as promoting other community well-being projects such as smoke alarms and first aid kits in Invercargill homes.

Bringing your resources together into a region-wide project gives you economies of scale. I note that one of your objectives is to employ Southlanders where possible to deliver the project to Southland and I think that’s a great objective.

The Government is delighted to work with communities who are prepared to step up to the challenge.

Once again, I congratulate the Southland Warm Homes Trust for turning this from a good idea into a tangible reality for the people of this region.

I want now to acknowledge all the funding partners, by presenting each with a certificate:

• Electricity Invercargill Ltd
• Energy Efficiency Trust
• Environment Southland
• Gore District Council
• Hokonui PHO
• Invercargill City Council
• Invercargill Licensing Trust/Mataurua Licensing Trust
• Invercargill PHO
• Local Trusts-Railway Trust
• Southland Community Trust
• Southland District Council
• Southland Electric Power Supply Consumers Trust
• Southland Public Health Organisation
• Takitimu PHO

Congratulations again on your initiative. Together we really are making an important difference to the lives of many people. I look forward to hearing of some very good results over the next three years. Thank you.