Power poverty: 'We don't even have a heater'

Pensioners sit in cold houses wrapped in sleeping bags for fear of a big power bill, a budgeting services trust says, as a new report reveals energy hardship in New Zealand.

Nearly a third of all households struggle to pay their electricity bills with many incurring fines or having their power cut entirely.

A Government report released yesterday showed more than 100,000 households are experiencing "energy hardship" and paying more than 10 per cent of their income on electricity.

One person feeling the sting of high power prices is Mangere resident Anaru McCallum whose father is a chronic asthmatic yet often the heater is not turned on in their house in order to save on the power bill.

He and his father live in a Mangere state house and neither are working at the moment.

"We're on $20 a week and if we use the heater one day a week then it takes like $5, just for that one day. So that's a quarter usage of how much we use a week."

This is despite the importance of providing a warm environment for his father's condition.

"Our house is over 50 years old so it does add to his sickness as well," he said.

Most of the people RNZ spoke to at Mangere Town Centre use prepay power plans, meaning if they don't top up their account, the electricity goes off straight away.

"You just get topped up and cut off as they please," said Lewis Te Amo.

"We don't even have a heater."

Anamarie Havili pays the bills for all three people in her house with the money she earns as a customer service representative at a call centre.

She was living with her parents until she got married recently, and was shocked when she started paying for power.

Nearly one million Kiwis are about to get help heating their homes during winter. Source: 1 NEWS

"It's just like, what the heck? How is it so high? Even just using the appliances at home like cooking in the oven or the microwave, I see that using that on certain days it's higher. It's like, what the heck?"

James Tafatu lives in Mangere with his partner and five children and works while his wife studies. He estimates he's one of those paying at least 10-percent of the family's income for electricity.

"I need my kids to be warm ... if it's not too cold we try and turn off the heaters but when it's really cold I've got no choice."

Darryl Evans of the Mangere Budgeting Services Trust said power poverty had been increasing throughout New Zealand for many years.

Record numbers of people are coming to the Trust for help, not only for food and clothing, but increasingly to pay for power.

"If you look at the pressure put on low-income families, who are often considered vulnerable, then it tells you why kids are getting sick because the houses are cold and damp. There's a range of health issues which impact when you're living in cold houses," he said.

Mr Evans said pensioners were particularly affected by high power prices.

"Many pensioners are afraid of turning on the electricity simply because they're afraid of receiving a large bill that they can't pay for.

"And so they simply sit in cold units wrapped up in sleeping bags and hot water bottles. We hear it all the time.

Mr Evans said it was time for the government to step in.

Stefan Atkinson was left without a heating source when plaster fell out of his chimney flute, creating a fire hazard. Source: 1 NEWS

Consumer New Zealand head of research Jessica Wilson said low income households were more likely to miss out on prompt payment discounts.

People on prepay plans also incur extra fees each time they top up.

"We are seeing that the significant rise in residential power prices over the last couple of decades has had a major impact, particularly on low-income consumers.

"In our view, access to power at an affordable price is a basic consumer right and the current system we have in place isn't delivering that access," said Jessica Wilson.

Lucy Telfar-Barnard, of the University of Otago's Department of Public Health, said limiting the amount of electricity you use in order to save money can have very serious consequences.

"Every year we see more people in hospital in the winter than in the warmer months and a big part of that is the temperature that they're living in," she said.

By Matthew Theunissen

www.rnz.co.nz

The Government’s proposed standards include putting heating in bedrooms and installing extractor fans. Source: 1 NEWS



New Zealand's female MPs, including Jacinda Ardern with baby Neve, recreate 1905 Parliament photo

New Zealand's female MPs have today recreated a 1905 photo of former Premier Richard Seddon and his colleagues. 

It comes as the country celebrates 125 years since women won the right to vote. However, women were not allowed to stand in Parliament until 1919. Elizabeth McCombs was elected as the first female MP in 1933. 

Richard Seddon, the 15th Premier of New Zealand, sits with his colleagues in 1905.
Richard Seddon, the 15th Premier of New Zealand, sits with his colleagues in 1905. Source: Supplied

Jacinda Ardern cradles her baby Neve in the photograph. 

Mr Seddon was New Zealand Premier from 1893 to 1906, winning five consecutive elections. 

Richard Seddon, the 15th Premier of New Zealand, sits with his colleagues in 1905.
Richard Seddon, the 15th Premier of New Zealand, sits with his colleagues in 1905. Source: Supplied

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, baby Neve and New Zealand's female MPs.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, baby Neve and New Zealand's female MPs. Source: Supplied


Up to 200 Fonterra staff fly to California resort for meeting as co-op announces $196 million loss

Fonterra has responded to revelations members of its Europe-based staff travelled at least 9000 kilometres to attend a meeting at a California resort town by saying the location was chosen because of its proximity to Los Angeles Airport.

NBR has reported up to 200 staff from the co-op's New Zealand milk product division attended the sales and marketing meeting at the tourist and surf mecca Huntington Beach at the time Fonterra was announcing a historic annual loss of $196 million last week.

The NZ Herald reports Fonterra responded to questions about the meeting with a statement.

Los Angeles Airport sign.
Los Angeles Airport sign. Source: Getty

"NZMP is an international business, with the majority of staff and customers based offshore, including a significant number in Europe, the US and South America," it read. 

"Every two years, select members of this team come together for a sales and marketing meeting to review performance and develop strategic plans for the following 12 months.

"The location of the global meeting varies but is always organised near a major airport hub. The venue for this year's meeting was selected due to its proximity to LAX. Bookings for the event were made several months ago to ensure cost efficiencies."

NZMP is the dairy ingredients brand of Fonterra.

The Herald noted Huntington Beach is at least an hour's drive from LAX.

Its report said while it's not unusual for large international businesses like Fonterra to hold conferences overseas, the farmer-owned cooperative is in the public spotlight for its financial performance, number of managers and staff salaries. 

Fonterra's annual report last week had showed nearly 6000 staff were paid at least $100,000.

The dairy giant today revealed a near-$200 million annual loss, the first in its 17-year history. Source: 1 NEWS

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Rentable e-scooters could 'revolutionise' way Aucklanders get around with 2500 set to hit city's streets

A fleet of e-scooters is about to hit Auckland streets which the public can rent to get around town.

A media release today says an initial order of 500 Onzo e-scooters are en route to Auckland and set to hit the streets next month.

The company says a further 2000 will join them in coming months.

With a 250W motor, the e-scooters are capable of top speeds of around 30 kilometres per hour and can cover around 30 kilometres before requiring a recharge.

"E-scooters are great because they make travelling easy and fun," Onzo Chief Growth Officer, Min-Kyu Jung, says.

"Unlike bikes, e-scooters are allowed to be used on footpaths and don’t require helmets. They're perfect to pick up anywhere, anytime, for last-mile journeys such as between the bus stop and the office.

"I think this is totally going to revolutionise the way Aucklanders travel around this city. We're designing the system to make it super quick, easy, and cheap to pick up e-scooters for short journeys multiple times a day."

The scooters are said to feature regenerative braking to recharge the battery when the brakes are applied, or when a rider is going downhill.

They also have front and rear lights for added safety.

Just like Onzo's bikes, the system will be dockless and users will simply use the Onzo app to unlock the scooters from wherever they're left around the city by the previous rider.

Onzo will crowdsource the recharging of the scooters at night to the public.

Onzo e-scooter. Source: Supplied


Winston Peters explains party's support for raising refugee quota

Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters says NZ First shared the Labour Party's "aspiration" to increase the refugee quota, as Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced it will be raised to 1500 today.

The NZ First Party leader's position was in stark contrast to comments made at the start of the month at the Pacific Islands Forum in Nauru.

"We never made a commitment to double the refugee quota," Mr Peters told media at the time.

The Deputy PM went on to argue there were other priorities for the Government.

"We've got 50,000 people who are homeless back home, and I can show you parts of the Hokianga and elsewhere, parts of Northland, with people living in degradation.

"We have to fix their lives up as well before we start taking on new obligations of the level that some people would like."

However, while standing next to Ms Ardern during the announcement today he took a much softer line on the refugee issue.

"This is about people not about politics and controversy, the fact is it was put to me in Nauru that the 1500 figure was already there, which it wasn't.

"The Labour Party policy I knew was an aspiration towards that, so was New Zealand First's an aspiration towards that, and I knew the Greens had a higher target," Mr Peters said.

"All I did was put out the plain facts and to say that it was a work in progress and I'm not surprised with the speed at which the progress has taken place.

"This was always on the cards that we'd get it done when we had all the background work done on refugee centres and a host of other things," he continued.

PM Jacinda Ardern made the announcement today. Source: 1 NEWS

New Zealand's refugee quota was previously 1000, after being increased by the National-led Government from 750 in 2016.

The new quota will take effect from July 2020. 

Major points

- There will be six new settlement locations, on top of re-establishing Christchurch as a settlement location.

- Expanding the public housing supply for 150 extra refugee families is expected to cost $32.5 million over three years.

- Budget 2018 included money to build new accommodation blocks at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre  

The NZ First leader said the increase was “always on the cards”. Source: 1 NEWS