Nikki Preston

Nikki Preston is a Herald reporter based in Hamilton.

Country warms up, under budget

Auckland lagging behind in uptake of subsidised home insulation scheme.

About 185,665 properties have been insulated under the Warm Up New Zealand scheme. Photo / Thinkstock
About 185,665 properties have been insulated under the Warm Up New Zealand scheme. Photo / Thinkstock

The Government has helped insulate 12 per cent of New Zealand houses in just over three years under its Warm Up New Zealand scheme - but Auckland is lagging behind with 9.9 per cent of homes insulated.

About 185,665 properties have been insulated under the initiative and the Government has spent $252 million of its $347 million budget, according to figures released under the Official Information Act by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority.

The scheme subsidises up to 33 per cent or a maximum of $1300 for the cost of underfloor and ceiling insulation in under-insulated houses built before 2000. Community Services Card holders are eligible for a subsidy of up to 60 per cent under the scheme.

The programme was launched in July 2009 and was extended by the Government in May to include an additional 41,500 homes on top of the initial 188,500 target at no extra cost. The $347 million funding is expected to run out in September next year.

EECA team manager of residential projects Jenny Lackey said Auckland's low uptake was because it was a large metropolitan area with a large number of houses, while Marlborough and the West Coast also had fewer insulations because of their large geographical areas and small populations making it harder to reach. These areas had not attracted as much third party funding as other regions such as Gisborne where more than a quarter of homes had been insulated.

Eastland Community Trust general manager Leighton Evans, whose organisation had provided more than $4 million in funding to low-income households in Gisborne, said the main advantages had been to people's health as there had not been a noticeable reduction in the power bills.

Mr Evans said the cost savings could not be seen because residents were now heating their entire houses rather than just the main living room. Research into the benefits of the programme found that for every $1 spent on insulating homes there were $5 of benefits and 99 per cent of the total benefits from the scheme were health related.

Marlborough District Council - one of the regions with the lowest uptake - struggled to pinpoint why it lagged behind the rest of the country.

Mangere Budgeting and Family Support Services chief executive Darryl Evans said a lot of his clients' landlords refused to take advantage of the scheme which he found baffling.

"Uninsulated homes is a major problem for our families as the houses out here are more often than not, cold, damp and miserable.

"Many of our families report the kids are often sick with respiratory illness, which includes coughs, colds and pneumonia. As a result many turn on all the heaters to try and combat cold and as a result they end up with large unmanageable power-bills. Others don't turn the heaters on and so get sick quite often."

Mr Evans said some families had even put bubble wrap on the windows.

But Property Investors Federation president Andrew King disagreed and said a recent survey found 5300 rental properties were well insulated. Mr King said most of the properties had been insulated before the scheme was introduced and felt since 2009 providers were charging well above the store price.

- NZ Herald

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