The new law I passed in 2016 requiring all rental properties to be insulated takes effect this week. It is estimated that it will make 180,000 homes nationwide and 3,000 in Nelson and Tasman warmer and drier. There is a cost, but the benefits of healthier families, savings in energy and lower power bills is worth it.
New Zealand’s problem with damp, cold homes is due to our national building laws not requiring insulation until 1978. There was a mistaken belief that New Zealand’s climate was so mild that it was not needed. A few Councils required insulation prior to 1978 and some wise builders installed it, but the legacy was 700,000 older homes without insulation.
Retrofitting insulation into these homes is a massive undertaking. It needs a pragmatic approach because for some homes it is impractical. The biggest gains are in ceiling and underfloor insulation.
National set out on this task when elected in 2008. I took the view that before the Government told others what to do we needed to get our own house in order. My first priority as Housing Minister was insulating the 30,000 state houses that were not insulated, which we completed in 2015.
The second phase was a subsidy scheme called Warm-Up New Zealand. We invested $440 million in the programme and got over 300,000 homes insulated, including 6,000 in Nelson and Tasman. It was great working locally with people like Councillor Bill Dahlberg who led the local Warmer, Healthier Homes Trust and Paul Brockie from Absolute Energy.
Most of the uptake of the subsidy was by home owners. The problem with tenanted properties is that neither the landlord nor the tenant has the right incentives to get the insulation installed.
The third phase was my regulations requiring rental homes to be insulated. It included some pragmatic exemptions. It gave landlords three years to get the insulation installed. There has been a mad rush this month to meet the 1 July 2019 deadline.
There is still a job to do in ensuring compliance with the new insulation law. I set up a new Ministry Compliance unit to help enforce the law. I also encourage any tenants to get in touch with my office if their home has not been insulated.
There is still a last group of about 100,000 older owner-occupied homes nationally and 2,000 locally that need insulating. Grants of up to 67% of the cost are still available for homeowners that can be accessed through EECA or by contacting my office.
This work over the last ten years has got over 500,000 homes nationally and 10,000 locally insulated. One million New Zealanders and 20,000 Nelsonians are warmer and drier. The benefits are less people getting sick and fewer work or school days lost. Researchers have estimated it is saving over 100 lives a year. It is also saving millions of kilowatt hours of electricity. People sometimes ask why I am in politics. It is getting to do good practical stuff like this.