Around a million New Zealanders will be warmer as the Winter Energy Payment resumes today.
The Government introduced this payment as part of our Families Package, to help seniors and families with the cost of heating during the colder months.
It's simply about being able to run the heater when you need to.
Too many New Zealanders are hospitalised because of cold, damp homes. The Winter Energy Payment sits alongside our Warmer Kiwi Homes insulation programme, as well as new Healthy Homes Standards requiring the insulation of rental properties – all part of our plan to ensure every Kiwi home is warm and dry, and to ultimately keep people well.
I've had many people here in Hawke's Bay tell me what a difference the Winter Energy Payment makes and that they are grateful for the support with their power bills.
The Government is committed to boosting the incomes of Kiwi families, so everyone can afford the basics. Closing the gap between rich and poor in New Zealand will take time, but there are plenty of things we are already doing to tilt the balance in favour of our lowest paid workers.
To increase household incomes, we have rolled out the Families Package, including the Winter Energy Payment and Best Start.
We've also steadily lifted the minimum wage, invested heavily in employment support, made targeted training and apprenticeships free, indexed main benefits to wage growth so families aren't left behind, lifted abatement thresholds for working people on benefits so they can keep more of what they earn, and increased main benefits by $25 per week.
Cumulatively, the Families Package and main benefit changes to date mean that around 111,000 families with children are now on average $118 a week better off – and that figure rises to $150 per week with the Winter Energy Payment.
To help with the cost of living, the Government is boosting the supply of housing. We're on track to deliver more than 18,000 extra public and transitional housing places by 2024, with the goal of making housing more affordable.
We've eased the financial pressure on families by funding the removal of school donations and NCEA fees, making doctors' visits cheaper for nearly 600,000 New Zealanders, and putting fuel and power companies under the microscope.
Plus we're expanding our healthy school lunches programme. By the year's end, nearly 1000 primary and secondary schools, and more than 215,000 (or a quarter of all) students, will receive free lunches.
This not only helps ensure our kids have the energy to learn, but is creating thousands of jobs in communities across the country.
New Zealanders have shown extraordinary resilience and compassion over the past year, and the Government is doing all it can to support Kiwi families through these uncertain times.
The Winter Energy Payment is now back in place and will provide some relief for families over the colder months. But we know there is more to do to lift the incomes of hard-working New Zealanders.
I'm proud to be part of a government that's stepping up to tackle long-term challenges like this one.
Napier MP Stuart Nash is Minister for Economic and Regional Development, Small Business, Forestry and Tourism.