Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters says he will not opt out of his taxpayer-funded winter energy payment on principle because he has built his political career on universality.

Peters, who earns around $330,000 a year in his usual parliamentary role of Deputy Prime Minister, is eligible as a pensioner for the winter energy payment for superannuitants and some beneficiaries.

The payment, of $450 a year for singles and $700 a year for couples or those with dependent children, began on Sunday as part of the Government's Families Package.

Everyone eligible is automatically enrolled and people can opt out if they don't want to receive the payment.


Asked today whether he would opt out of the payment, Peters said: "Take a wild guess. The answer's no because I don't believe in means testing.

"I have always believed in universality. I have left a political party on that basis. I have started a new party on that basis. I kind of think I've proven my bona fides to argue for that matter."

Last week, Peters said he could not recall if he had applied for the payment.

"I'm flat out trying to do a whole lot of things and no I don't recall doing it but I may have."

About a million people are eligible for the payment, which will be paid in regular instalments over the winter months.

Act leader David Seymour said Peters' decision showed what was wrong with universal welfare.

ACT calculated that around $73 million would be spent on winter energy payments for wealthy pensioners like Peters.

"So instead of targeting handouts at disadvantaged New Zealanders, it is using universal welfare schemes to give millions of dollars to those that don't need it.

"This approach to spending makes it increasingly likely that the Government will need to raise new taxes out of the Tax Working Group," Seymour said in a statement.