With the onset of winter comes the added expense of higher power bills, putting the pinch on everyone's budgets including the elderly.

This year, however, the burden is set to be eased with the Government's new winter energy payment to help people on a New Zealand superannuation or a veteran's pension to heat their homes.

The payments won't start until July 1, meaning in its first year those eligible will not receive the full annual amount, but from next year payments would be made in full from May 1 to September 30, amounting to $700 for married couples and $416 for a single person.

The money was not means-tested and was also to be paid to people under 65 on a "main benefit".


Hastings and Districts Grey Power president Ron Wilkins said while it was disappointing the full amount would not be available this year, it was good to be getting something.

"We are very pleased that at least they have listened to us.

"At a national meeting recently we heard some of our members, particularly in the South Island, are turning off the heating and going to bed at 4pm to save money - it's good they have done something this time round."

Mr Wilkins moved from Auckland to Hastings three years ago and said he was advised the region's line charges would be more expensive.

"After a year here I wrote to Mr Key about this in a personal capacity but was told it was my personal choice to move.

"So I then sent the same letter to Winston Peters who replied that he was looking at it."

Mr Wilkins said his power bill had reduced since moving into a masonic village unit in Havelock North, which was warmed by a fan heater.

"My wife and I will get an extra $31 a week for power now so we can have a bit more comfort and may be able to afford an air conditioning unit."


Age Concern Hastings manager Deborah Biggs said that being the first year of the subsidy she could not say how people were benefiting but said people they had spoken to were looking forward to receiving it.

Napier Labour MP Stuart Nash said the payment was recognition of the fact that power bills went up substantially in winter.

"Too many people can't afford this cost in winter so do not heat their houses, and there are cases where people have got sick and so are not learning or earning, and possibly end up in hospital.

"There is a whole lot of preventable illness in winter because people can't afford to heat their homes and we thought that was unacceptable."