Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | News Video | Crime | Employers | Housing | Immigration | Legal | Local Govt. | Maori | Welfare | Unions | Youth | Search

 


‘Fuel poverty’ issue missed in Muliaga case

Friday 1 June 2012

Death by disconnection: ‘Fuel poverty’ issue missed in Muliaga case

An analysis of hundreds of print media stories on the death of Auckland resident, Mrs Folole Muliaga, after her power was cut off by Mercury Energy in 2007 has found that the wider issue of ‘fuel poverty’ was largely ignored.

The University of Otago, Wellington study by Kimberley O’Sullivan, Professor Philippa Howden-Chapman and Dr Geoff Fougere looked at how the print media reported this case, and the themes of 368 stories from metropolitan papers.

“This is an interesting study as it shows how the print media covered a controversial and tragic case over a long period, and the key angles followed by journalists and editors,” says Kimberley O’Sullivan.

The study concludes that while newspapers concentrated on four key themes, they largely ignored the economic and social factors which may cause power to be cut off to low income families when they can’t pay their bills.

These structural issues result in an inability to afford enough power for domestic use, and households slipping into ‘fuel poverty’. This has been defined internationally as where a family or individual needs to spend more than 10% of their income on energy to have a warm home.

“Newspaper stories focused on the health of Mrs Muliaga and the personal tragedy for her family, conflicting evidence about why power was cut, institutionalised racism, and who was ultimately responsible for the power being disconnected; the Muliaga family or Mercury Energy,” Mrs O’Sullivan says.

However, the study says fuel poverty is a developing health issue resulting in cold damp houses which can make people chronically sick. It has been previously highlighted by University of Otago, Wellington research published in the prestigious UK British Medical Journal in 2007 and 2008.

The study concludes that public health advocates and energy NGOs missed the link between Mrs Muliaga’s death and the wider social and health issues relating to poor housing, low income and fuel poverty.

Regulation changes following this case now require electricity companies to only focus on maintaining supply to people with medical problems, rather than addressing the issue of security of supply to people on very low incomes.

This contrasts with countries like the UK where there have long been subsidies and assistance to avoid people falling into the ‘fuel poverty trap’.

“The 40% increase in real power prices (or an 80% increase in the nominal price) since 2002 by government-owned utilities and private companies is now a health issue, causing some low income households to ration power usage and live in cold, damp and unhealthy homes,” says Professor Howden-Chapman.

The study appears in Kotuitui: New Zealand Journal of Social Sciences Online and was funded by the Health Research Council of New Zealand.

ends

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
 
 
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines

Gordon Campbell: On The Wage Hike For MPs (and Paul Robeson)

Hard to tell what is more infuriating. Is it the 5.3% increase on the already bloated salaries of MPs, or their pantomime of outrage at being gifted with such a wonderful back-dated bonanza?

As usual, Prime Minister John Key has busily tried to distance himself from the political fallout, even though he happens to be the main beneficiary of the Remuneration Authority’s generosity. Finance Minister Bill English says with a straight face that it would actually be very hard to give the money back...

Even if it were true, it would actually be very easy for English and any other guilty colleagues, to give the extra money away. There are any number of food banks or homeless shelters who would be able to put the money to good use. More>>

 

PARLIAMENT TODAY:

No Designers Or Visual Artists: Flag Panel Members Announced

The Government has appointed 12 New Zealanders as members of the Flag Consideration Panel which will engage with the public about a possible new New Zealand flag, Deputy Prime Minister Bill English says. More>>

ALSO:

Labour MP Stands Down From Portfolio: Comment From Carmel Sepuloni

The first I knew of my mother’s charges was when I was called by a reporter yesterday. I spoke to Andrew and we agreed there is a conflict of interest at the present time which means I will temporarily stand aside from the Social Development portfolio. It’s the right thing to do… . More>>

ALSO:

Gordon Campbell: On Whether NZ Troops Are The Least Of Islamic State’s Problems

Given that it has been politically packaged and sold as a training mission, the Iraq deployment announced yesterday by Prime Minister John Key seemed to be mysteriously short of actual trainers... The other wing of the argument is whether a troop deployment is (a) the only effective way and (b) the appropriate time to combat Islamic State. More>>

ALSO:

143 Troops, Possible SAS Deployment, Legalities Unsorted: PM’s Statement On ISIL

Mr Speaker, today I am announcing to the House the Government’s decisions about our contribution to the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL... More>>

ALSO:

Liu Saga: PM's Dinner With Controversial Donor

John Key must front up to New Zealand and say what he discussed with Donghua Liu when the disgraced businessman paid $25,000 for the Prime Minister to come to dinner at his Remuera home, the Green Party said today. More>>

ALSO:

Roads: National MP 'Concerned' At Overseas Driver Crashes

Waitaki MP and Parliamentary Private Secretary for Tourism Jacqui Dean said she was concerned at the number of fatal crashes involving overseas licence holders and she really felt that the time had come for more to be done. More>>

ALSO:

Parliament Today: Parole Bill Passes

A bill reducing parole hearings deemed to be unnecessary has passed. The third reading of the Parole Amendment Bill was completed by 104 to 16 with the Greens and Maori Party opposed. More>>

ALSO:

Get More From Scoop

 

LATEST HEADLINES

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Politics
Search Scoop  
 
 
Powered by Vodafone
NZ independent news