INDEPENDENT NEWS

Opening of Community Energy Action Premises

Published: Thu 2 Nov 2000 01:45 PM
Hon Jim Anderton
2 November 2000 Speech Notes
Address to Community Energy Action
Official opening of Community Energy Action Premises
218 Manchester Street, Christchurch
12:30PM Thursday, 2 November 2000
A few years ago the Business Roundtable memorably coined a new name for our city. They called it ‘the People’s Republic of Christchurch.’ That name followed a survey of quality of life and satisfaction among residents. Christchurch has the highest quality of life and the highest satisfaction levels of any city in New Zealand.
Christchurch’s success is not an accident. It has resulted from a city-wide commitment to some fundamental values: Investing in economic development. Taking an active role in reducing poverty. Making the city a better place to live for all its citizens. Making it an environmentally responsible city.
Community Energy Action is an example of the way Christchurch solves problems. It is co-operative. It brings together solutions to environmental problems, poverty, and housing need.
It is unique. There is no other organisation like it anywhere else in New Zealand. Community Energy action recognises that low income homes are likely to need more energy and are less able to afford it.
Poor families can least afford to pay for energy, and least afford to pay for energy efficiency measures like insulation.
Rented accommodation is more commonly draughty, lacking insulation and damp.
Lower quality housing leads to poorer quality health. For example, children living in damp houses have higher rates or respiratory problems, asthma and infection.
One example CEA has given is the family sleeping in one room to keep warm, which increases the risk of communicable diseases such as meningitis. A cold baby doesn’t feed properly, which can in turn produce a grizzly baby, aggravating an already stressful domestic situation and making abuse more likely.
Better quality housing has health benefits for families and children and reduces the pressure on public health. It has economic benefits in reduced energy costs, releasing more of limited incomes to spend on life’s other necessities like food. It has environmental benefits in reducing energy waste and the use of smog-producing fuels.
I would like to pay tribute to the valuable work that CEA does in addressing these issues. I am enormously impressed and inspired by its work.
It focuses on low income households to improve access to energy efficiency measures.
Some of these are startlingly simple measures, such as collecting lined curtains from people redecorating their houses, and helping to distribute them to households with no curtains or inadequate alternatives like bedsheets.
To date more than five thousand energy efficiency measures have been installed in low income homes, including insulation under floors and in ceilings, draught stopping, pipe lagging, and hot water cylinder wraps as well as lined curtains.
The work of this group poses a challenge to central government. Housing New Zealand is the dominant provider of housing for low income New Zealanders.
The Labour-Alliance Coalition has put in place an income related rents scheme for state houses. It will help to bring down the cost of housing for many of the most vulnerable members of the community.
I accept that the Government also has a responsibility to upgrade the quality of state housing generally. It is not only a matter of building more state houses. It is also a matter of improving the quality of existing homes.
The social, economic and environmental case for making houses energy efficient is overwhelming.
The state housing stock has been run-down for many years. It cannot be fixed overnight.
But I would like to confirm that it is a problem the Labour-Alliance Coalition takes seriously. It is one we are committed to addressing.
We also need to tackle energy issues from the other direction.
After a decade of privatisation and deregulation, the energy sector has been left in a mess.
My colleague the Minister of Energy Pete Hodgson recently announced a major package of measures to try to bring some stability to the sector.
The eighteen months or so since Max Bradford’s power policies took effect have seen power prices climb steeply for many ordinary households. Frustration has soared.
The Labour-Alliance Coalition is turning up the heat on the industry. We have put in place a package that will result in much more fairness. Consumers will have more confidence they are getting value for money.
It will produce long-term environmental and energy efficiency gains.
Small users, such as superannuitants, will have much more ability to reduce their power bills because we have introduced a requirement for all retail companies to offer a low fixed charge.
All retailers who supply domestic customers will be required to offer at least one tariff package with a fixed charge of no more than 10 per cent of the bill of the average domestic consumer.
Power companies will be subject to price control if they break thresholds set by the Commerce Commission for reasonable price levels.
An electricity Ombudsman will be funded by the industry to work on the resolution of customer complaints.
There will be fines for breaches of rules relating to key consumer issues such as billing and disconnection, as well as the fines for switching delays.
The overall effect should be to help keep the price of energy within reach of low income households. Of course, there is still much more to do in helping to make households more energy efficient.
The work of Community Energy Action is a role model for the rest of New Zealand – and for the government – in addressing some of those issues.
I would like to close by offering my commitment to helping to expand this programme – not only around Christchurch, but around New Zealand. I welcome your suggestions on how the government can play its part in getting schemes like this going.
The rest of New Zealand has a lot to learn from the constructive and co-operative way Christchurch solves community problems.
Wellington has already learned how to play rugby just as well as us. Perhaps now Wellington can also learn something about how to improve the quality of life for all our people.
http://www.executive.govt.nz/minister/anderton/index.html or http://www.alliance.org.nz

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