Grey Power Auckland president Anne-Marie Coury said a lot of those choosing not to turn the heater on because of high costs were pensioners.
‘In Auckland, 51 per cent that are entitled to national Super … have no other income. So if their rates go up … what do they cut back on? Food and electricity’.
Ms Coury said Grey Power had members who employ all sorts of nifty tricks to help keep their homes warm and reduce the power bill.
‘My favourite is bubblewrap on the window.
If you apply a small amount of moisture to the bubblewrap you can stick it to your window and this will act as insulation.
It’s a very cheap form of double-glazing, really.
It depends on how fashion-conscious and cheap you are about things.
Some people take it off every morning and put it back on at night’.
Some elderly people are staying in bed for as long as three days to avoid the sting of winter power bills.
Age Concern Canterbury chief executive Simon Templeton said health workers had reported more older people were either going without heating to avoid high winter power bills or struggling to pay monthly bills as high as $500.
They instead hunkered down in bed – ‘the warmest place in the house’ – for two to three days at a time – making them more susceptible to mobility problems.
‘It’s actually quite upsetting for us to see people in that situation. It’s not a nice way to live when you are that cold’ Templeton said.
The Christchurch City Council Mayor’s Welfare Fund spent $109,892 in the last financial year to help 300 residents pay their power bills – almost a third of the total emergency assistance handed out.
Council data showed $8886 had already been paid towards power bills for 19 residents this financial year – which began July 1. In 2013 city councillors voted to put their directors fees towards the welfare fund.
Templeton said the latest example from an Age Concern health worker was a 75 year-old woman who spent her days in bed.
‘Her house is still earthquake damaged and when [the health worker] phoned her it was lunchtime and she was in bed. It is often where she spends her days because it keeps her warm’ he said.
Health workers had reported power bills were more of problem this winter than in previous years – Templeton said.
‘We see plenty up around the $500 mark – which is huge on a fixed income’ he said.