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Southland warm homes scheme under threat

Source: stuff.co.nz 

Southland-warm-homes-under-threatThe future of a scheme which has insulated more than 5000 Southland homes at reduced rates could be in jeopardy.

The Southland Warm Homes Trust receives about 60 per cent of its funding from government agency Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority [EECA], but its funding for its Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes programme comes to a close in June after three years.

Questions remain about whether the Government will introduce new funding.

Despite this, warm homes trust chairman Neil Boniface said he was optimistic about the government renewing some sort of funding which would allow the trust to carry on.

He was hopeful a pre-budget announcement later this month would indicate whether the government would be likely to provide future funding.

If the government pulls out of the Southland Warm Homes scheme, local community funders could be next to follow, Boniface said.

A spokesperson for the Minister of Energy, Simon Bridges, said an announcement about the future of the Warm Up New Zealand: Healthy Homes programme will be made in due course.

Boniface said the government had traditionally renewed its funding for such schemes every three years.

"If they don't do that then we'll have to look at contingency plans."

Without government funding, Boniface said the trust would be approaching community funders and places such as the Southland District Council to help out.

"I'm totally optimistic, it's such a good scheme," he said.

The scheme was also complementary to the Clean Air Loans Invercargill Scheme, an initiative to install cleaner home heating through low interest loans for homeowners within the Invercargill airshed who want to upgrade to approved burners or heat pumps and/or improve their insulation.

"It builds on work the warm homes trust has already done," he said.

Boniface and PowerNet chief financial officer Greg Buzzard presented an overview of annual community contributions to the trust during a district council meeting last week.

PowerNet provides administration and financial reporting services on behalf of the warm homes trust.

Boniface and Buzzard said they were not overly concerned about EECA backing out of funding, but if it happened it would have an effect on the other local funders, who entered into the scheme under the impression of the funding being a partnership.

"Unless the government is likely to keep funding, then they're [community funders] not," Buzzard said.

The trust was formed in 2008 by the Southland Power Trust and Electricity Invercargill Limited in association with EECA to provide heating assessments and insulation in Southland homes who met the funding criteria.

Under the warm homes scheme, home owners can apply for a subsidy to have their homes insulated, with Awarua Synergy as the service provider for Southland.

In October last year, the trust celebrated insulating their 5000th home, a number Boniface thought would now be closer to the original 10 year goal of 6000.