Powerless: Is the Government doing enough to end energy hardship?

This week the Government announced a new $17 million package aimed at addressing energy hardship. 

It comes as more and more whānau say they're being left out in the cold. More than 100,000 New Zealand households experience energy hardship, which is defined as energy costs exceeding more than 10 percent of income.

Energy Minister Dr Megan Woods says she sees that hardship first-hand.

"I understand very well when you struggle to pay the power bill - a huge part of the work in my electorate office over winter is dealing with constituents who struggle to pay their power bills."

And nowhere is energy hardship felt more than in the central North Island, where many residents pay not one but two power bills - one for the energy and one for the lines that carry it into their homes.

Many whānau in that region had hoped the Electricity Authority's energy price review would provide relief, but under its recommendations users in the central North Island could see the bill increase by $40 a year.

However its recommended prudent discount policy could see millions slashed from the bills of big business, including the Tiwai Point Aluminium Smelter, which would've qualified for a $25 million discount.

When asked if the $17 million was a drop in the bucket compared to the $34 million in support Rio Tinto received, Woods said: "That's not the job done… there's another programme of work running alongside that and that's about addressing some of the longer-run issues around how we price energy and generation."

She cited a new $24 million pilot programme to install solar power on state houses and Māori housing. 

But asked if that meant that whānau in the King Country could now attach solar panels to state housing, Woods wouldn't commit to a yes or no, instead answering "that's certainly an area we can look at". 

When asked how many of the Government's 452 KiwiBuild homes had been bought by Māori, Dr Woods wasn't able to answer - but a follow-up email from her office to The Hui shows that just 5 percent are now in Māori ownership, although answering the ethnicity field is not mandatory.

The Hui