Struggling Kiwis are using their ovens to heat their homes instead of cooking meals, according to a new survey.
One in 10 open the door and crank up the heat because they have no other way to heat their homes, and nearly half don't even bother to try.
It's a downward spiral but many have little choice, Salvation Army national practice manager Jono Bell told Newshub.
"People are going without warmth, which leads them to health issues and then they can't afford to go to the doctor."
The Salvation Army launches its Winter Appeal today, saying this year it appears families that don't normally require outside support to get by will be looking for help.
"We are seeing our most vulnerable people struggle this winter, and these new statistics show that the problem is even wider than what we see through our work. It is very alarming," says Mr Bell.
The survey, completed by Kiwi members of website Pureprofile, found in the last year:
- 45 percent skip heating due to cost
- 16 percent missed a rent or mortgage payment
- 39 percent bought food on a day-by-day basis when money is tight
- 44 percent skipped a doctor visit because they couldn't afford it
- 37 percent skipped a meal in the last year because they didn't have enough money
- 10 percent used the oven or stove to heat the home.
Almost a quarter are scared their EFTPOS card will be declined while shopping for groceries, and nearly a third forgo veges and fruit when funds are low.
Mr Bell says it's not just renters who are suffering.
"Heating costs pay a big part, but also the cost of housing is significant - it's just not keeping up with the income that people have. Whether people are renting or own their own home, they just cannot keep up with those payments."
He says recent changes by the Government - such as boosting Working For Families payments and benefits, and easing up on benefit sanctions - have helped, but it's still not enough.
The Government's winter energy payment for low-income earners and superannuitants kicked in on July 1.
"The largest proportion of people we're seeing this winter are seeking food relief," says Mr Bell. "No one should have to choose between warmth, food or shelter, but this is becoming more of a reality for a wider spread of New Zealanders."
- Anyone who wishes to donate can do so on the Salvation Army website.