We are now well into 2019 and the Government is working hard on our priorities for the year. While we have not seen the last of the warm weather, the recent cold snap has reminded me that autumn is on the way.
As well as making us fold up the beach towels and cover the barbecue, cooling temperatures can mean real insecurity for some of the most vulnerable in our communities.
You or your neighbours might be worrying about how to keep warm this winter.
Access to minimum comfort
As a government, we don’t believe anybody should face that worry. All New Zealanders should have access to warm, dry housing. That’s a bottom line for us.
That is why the government recently announced new rules to make sure all rental homes are warm and dry. These will ensure all rentals are fully insulated up to the current Building Code standards and have a fixed heating source, like a heat pump or wood burner. Everyone needs the ability to heat their living area to a safe, healthy temperature of 18 degrees.
Homes will also be drier under these changes, because kitchens will need to have rangehoods and bathrooms will need to have extractor fans.
Warmer homes and drier homes are healthier homes.
Property owners’ responsibilities
Most landlords actually comply with these rules already, but those who don’t will need to upgrade their properties. This investment benefits both landlords and tenants and there is a phase in period to help landlords make the transition.
The Healthy Homes Standards are not the only one way the coalition government is making sure every New Zealander lives in a home that is warm and dry.
We have also made funding available to help people who own their own homes but can’t afford to insulate. Check out the Energywise website at https://www.energywise.govt.nz/tools/warmer-kiwi-homes-tool/ to see if you are eligible.
Winter Energy Payment
Nearly one in three New Zealand households rent, and for too long many have struggled to heat their homes affordably and efficiently. About 200,000 families live in rentals that don’t have ceiling or underfloor insulation.
Scientific evidence from the World Health Organisation tells us that cold, damp housing can severely impact people’s physical and mental wellbeing.
But I don’t need the WHO to tell me that. People in Mount Roskill tell me themselves.
I hear stories about children being admitted to hospital because of poor quality housing. In fact across New Zealand, 6000 children are admitted to hospital each year because of diseases caused by inadequate housing, like rheumatic fever and asthma.
That level of preventable disease is not acceptable in a wealthy country like New Zealand.
Many of us take the ability to keep our homes warm and dry in winter for granted.
But it is not that way for everyone in our community.
All New Zealanders have a right to live in a home that doesn’t make them sick.
These changes mean New Zealanders young and old will be warm and dry in the winters to come.
For now though, enjoy the rest of the warm weather!
Michael Wood is elected Member of Parliament from Mt Roskill Constituency and is Parliamentary Under-Secretary to the Minister for Ethnic Communities.