Dear Prime Minister,
This letter is on behalf of the student associations and environmental groups from Victoria University, Otago University and the University of Auckland, along with Sustainability Trust (a Wellington-based community energy efficiency trust) and NZ Property Investors’ Federation (NZPIF), the President of which has written the enclosed letter in support. This coalition of groups was formed to address the dire standard of insulation in student flats.
Firstly, we congratulate the government for its strengthened commitment to introduce sustainability measures nationwide. We believe that there remains much to be done. We wish to make an offer to the government that we believe would complement some of your existing initiatives.
We are aware of the insulation programme that EECA offers through the NZ Property Investors Federation (NZPIF) and Eco Insulation (where EECA subsidises 55% of the cost of a retrofit and the landlord contributes the other 45%). We have undertaken to encourage students to promote this with their landlords. We feel that this is a good measure to improve the insulation of student flats and as you will no doubt be aware have flow on effects such as reducing energy use, and improving health.
This programme however misses out a huge proportion of New Zealand students – simply because not all landlords are members of NZPIF and not all of them are going to pay the 45% required of them. NZPIF has approximately 4500 member landlords, whilst the 2001 Census1 showed that 355,890 people lived in rental properties. Clearly, many student flats are falling through the gaps. We believe that the most basic of insulation measures need to be implemented immediately and will cost very little to do so.
We propose that the government approves an extension of the May 31 2007 deadline for the current scheme and provides extra funding through EECA to specifically target student flats. We envisage that university groups will work in partnership with the NZPIF in the following ways:
Another measure that we see requiring urgent funding (ie before the onset of the 2007 winter) is the provision of basic insulation measures including door and window seals, hot water cylinder wraps, and eco-efficient light bulbs, Sustainability Trust has given us an estimate of $100 per flat for the material costs for these items. We propose that a fund, administered by the Students’ Association in each university, be made available for these items. Students could access this assistance by making application to their Students’ Associations, which would be responsible for ensuring the grants were used for the designated items.
Several non-profit energy efficiency organizations in New Zealand have established curtain-banks in their communities. We are keen to work with you to replicate these initiatives into student cities. Student flats are usually poorly curtained. Providing a service where eligible students could apply for free curtains would provide another significant source of energy savings.
We would like to get these initiatives underway by the on-set of Winter 2007. Students should not be living in flats that are below World Health Standards for housing simply because they are poorly insulated. A recent study2 found that “Insulating existing houses led to a significantly warmer, drier indoor environment and resulted in improved self rated health, self reported wheezing, days off school and work, and visits to general practitioners as well as a trend for fewer hospital admissions for respiratory conditions.” Every year, many students are hindered in their studies by lingering illnesses such as the common cold. We seek the support of the government to address and begin to mitigate this problem. Furthermore, we see that this proposal will complement other government strategies to mitigate climate change by reducing the demand for electricity. This is a very cost-effective solution that will have many co-benefits.
Obviously, the costs we outline are tentative at present, and we would like to work closely with you on this project.
“Household Composition for Households in Private Occupied Dwellings, 1991, 1996 and 2001”, 2001 Census: National Summary, Table 36, P299
Howden-Chapman et al. (2007) Effect of insulating existing houses on health inequality: cluster randomised study in the community, British Medical Journal, Vol. 334, pp460-464. http://www.bmj.com/