It may be best known for being the first part of the country to be sighted by Captain Cook in 1769 and its claim to be the first city in the world to see the sunlight, but in green building and construction, the small rural town of Gisborne and surrounding areas in northeastern New Zealand is fast becoming known for being the quickest regional area to take advantage of a government program to provide insulation into homes.
New Zealand Minister for Energy and Resources Phil Heatley says more than 25 per cent of all homes within the Gisborne region, otherwise known as the East Cape, East Coast or Eastland region, have used subsidies to install ceiling or underfloor insulation under the government’s Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart program.
All up, Heatley says 3,962 houses within the region have been insulated, including 2,894 low income homes and 808 families living in rental accommodation.
In addition to having the highest portion of homes being insulated under the subsidy, the Gisborne region also has a take-up rate among low income households of around 73 per cent, compared with a national average of around half for the rest of the country.
Heatley says the benefits of insulation spread beyond environmental considerations and improve overall health and well-being, with flow on benefits including reduced absenteeism at work and school, higher productivity and greater levels of comfort for householders.
He also says research has demonstrated that $NZ5 worth of overall benefits are achieved for every one dollar invested in the program, primarily as a result of reduced health costs.
“Insulation makes a house warmer and more comfortable,” Heatley says. “It also makes it easier and cheaper to heat, and has a lot to do with preventing illness, particularly for the elderly, children, and people with respiratory problems.”
Having started on July 1, 2009, the $347 million program has retrofitted more than 150,000 homes throughout the country with insulation at no cost to home occupants, and the government aims to increase this number to 230,000 by the time the program comes to the conclusion of its four-year period in June next year.
At these numbers, however, the program will only cover just over one quarter of the 900,000 homes throughout the country which New Zealand’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority estimates had substandard insulation at the time of the program’s inception in 2009/10.
Because of this, policy makers on all sides readily acknowledge that much more will need to be done in this area beyond the conclusion of the current initiative.