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Older people hidden victims of power price rises

Age Concern New Zealand Media Release

27 August 2009

Older people hidden victims of power price rises – Age Concern

Age Concern isn't surprised that electricity companies' domestic consumers are getting deeper into debt but says the hidden victims are senior customers who struggle to pay their bills.

"Older people are the hidden victims of power price rises," Age Concern New Zealand's national President Liz Baxendine says. "they're the generation that believe in paying their bills, even if they have to starve to do it."

"Most older people live on New Zealand Superannuation and a small extra income from their savings. When you're living on a fixed income and electricity prices rise so much faster than benefits, something has to give.

"I know of older power consumers who have reduced their consumption so many times to adjust for price rises that they're now left in cold and dark houses. They can't cut back any further."

Age Concern has daily contact with older people throughout the country. Too many are frightened to use heating but need warmth to maintain their health. Often the costs are passed on to the health system as older people need hospital treatment for respiratory and other winter-related illnesses.

Residential power prices have risen by two-thirds since 2000, or 5 percent a year in real terms. Age Concern wants Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee to undo some of the harm that has been done. This should be achieved by:

• Requiring that electricity SOEs make annual contributions from their surpluses to the home insulation subsidies.

• Urgently putting in place a programme of emergency payments and rebates to relieve energy poverty for low income and vulnerable people.

"Age Concern says it's time for action on power affordability," Liz Baxendine says.

Ends

Note: Age Concern New Zealand is a member of The Domestic Energy Users' Network, and fully supports its analysis and calls for action.

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