Spokesperson for the Green Party
Please, let’s keep the horse in front of the cart. Yes, we want to support disadvantaged people in our community. But to do so through an on-going subsidy on resource use is a dangerous step backwards.
We tried ‘farming for the subsidy’ under the Muldoon Government. Twenty five years ago, we painfully weaned our farmers off those subsidies. It took some time for them to say thank you, but they wouldn’t go back to it now.
Elderly folk already receive a range of subsidies through the Super Gold Card. Those benefits, such as riding free on buses that are mostly empty anyway, are not a significant cost on the community and are welcomed by most of us.
Subsidising power costs would come at a huge cost. And where is the benefit? Such a subsidy would likely promote power use, and it would simply redirect tax income into the hands of the Power Co’s.
They are currently owned by the government, but soon their shareholders will likely include big business, superannuation programmes, and overseas investors. No doubt they would be very happy to have taxpayers throw more money into their collective pot through a subsidy.
Of course we should support the elderly, and we already do. But in this case there is a better way.
Barry Hodder (65) and Phil Edwards (88) of the Vale St retirement village tell us (BoP Times, 25 April) that their average power bill is about $160 every two weeks. These are huge bills, and I cannot imagine the power use that creates them.
I live in a large old two-story house, difficult to insulate and heat, but we have done what we can to retrofit it for energy conservation. There are four of us, including two small children.
Our power bill for April was $86. That is $42 for two weeks, one quarter of what Barry and Phil are paying. Our monthly bill is never over $100, including in winter (when we use wood for heating).
Barry and Phil surely live in much more modern houses than I do, smaller and more efficient, and I assume they don’t have children living there.
The best way to reduce their power costs would be to retrofit their houses for energy efficiency. A retrofit is not about compromising comfort (such as heating). Nor is it about energy conservation (although that is achieved). It is about optimising energy use in order to reduce waste.
A retrofit is not just about installing energy efficient light bulbs. It is about reviewing and fine tuning every aspect of energy use in a house. Sometimes it involves a bit of investment, such as to replace inefficient (usually old) appliances, and of course to install or upgrade insulation if necessary. EECA offers one-off subsidies to support such a retrofit, and is especially generous to gold card holders.
A significant aspect is behavioural change, which can be achieved at no cost whatsoever.
The returns are immediate, and they last forever. No on-going subsidy is required.
I have done energy retrofits on many houses, and offer here to work for free with Barry and Phil on a retrofit of their houses. I guarantee to save them more money than the 10% subsidy proposed by NZ First.
That is the kind of support that NZ First should be promoting. Except, of course, the Greens already have, and are.