With winter comes the cold but do we necessarily turn up the heating?

Many in our city don’t. The rising cost of electricity has made heating a luxury and something families often forgo.

The social services team at the Christchurch Methodist Mission sees the effect of high power prices on low income families a lot at this time of year. It is a significant problem for many families, poor families disproportionately so.

“Families with limited incomes might have to rely on food parcels to pay the electricity bill. Some live in private rentals that have not had earthquake repairs, which makes them hard to heat or which don’t have cheap forms of heating,” Eve Lafferty, team manager says.

“You can’t control the rent you pay and budgets are really tight. People accrue debt through electricity costs, as well,” Eve says.

A government report late last year said more than 100,000 New Zealand households spent more than 10 per cent of their income on their electricity bills in 2016. Residential power prices rose 79 per cent since 1990 (figures adjusted for inflation).

The Government’s Winter Energy Payment is made to beneficiaries and pensioners to help offset the cost of power in winter but excludes working people on low incomes. If you receive the Winter Energy Payment and have the means to pay your power bill comfortably without it, we encourage you to donate your payment to families in financial hardship.

Eve’s team alone works with over 500 Christchurch families. One lives in a privately rented house in which earthquake work has still not been done. Even with holes in the wall, it was not deemed bad enough to be condemned. The family is now heading into winter with a young child who has a disability.

The Ministry of Health says warm rooms and sleeping spaces means germs such as strep throat are less likely to spread. Some New Zealanders are eligible for subsided insulation or for help from Work and Income to keep homes warm and healthy.

CMM advises families on sources of financial support, organisations that offer energy-saving and heating advice, and help with budgeting.

If your winter heating bill is manageable and you’d like to donate your Winter Energy Payment, please consider offering it to a family supported by CMM. To do so, contact Fundraising Manager Dave Marsh at davem@mmsi.org.nz or 027 241 8825

heater with money sitting on top

The cost of electricity is too much for some families who will forfeit heating this winter