Government's campaign suggesting shorter showers to save money costing $2.8 million

The Government's campaign suggesting Kiwis shorten their showers and limit their heating temperatures to save money is costing $2.8 million.

The 'Find Money in Weird Places' campaign, which provides tips on how New Zealanders can keep their power bills down, will feature on television, on social media, in print publications and at bus stops and malls over the winter months. 

Around 500,000 households receiving the Winter Energy Payment will also get brochures with the tips, while a 16-page booklet with additional information will be produced and distributed in seven languages.

It was launched by Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods on Wednesday. Her office has now told Newshub the entire campaign - from ads to brochures - will amount to $2.8 million.

"There is an immediate need to support Kiwi families with information on energy saving," said Woods on Wednesday. "These ideas aren't new – but they are meaningful to families. Small steps can add up to savings that make a real difference."

These types of campaigns aren't new. They've been done before, including by the prior National Government.

For example, former Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee in 2009 announced a television campaign to help Kiwis increase energy efficiency. It cost $4 million, but was run over 12 months. 

"There are energy efficiency advertising campaigns every winter," Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said earlier on Thursday.

"I recall as a brand new Member of Parliament going along to the launch of a similar advertising campaign in 2009 which was being launched by Gerry Brownlee, the then-Energy Minister, so this happens every winter."

But the launch of this year's campaign was quickly slammed online and by other political parties.

National's finance spokesperson Nicola Willis told Newshub on Thursday it was an "insult" on the day the Reserve Bank hiked the official cash rate.

"I think it's ludicrous and what adds insult to injury is that the Government is using taxpayer money to send that patronising advice out to hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders at considerable expense," Willis said.

So does she believe it is different between what National did when it was in government and what Woods announced on Wednesday?

"Timing is everything," Willis said. "We are in the heart of a really severe cost of living crisis. Those tips published yesterday are already being applied by large numbers of New Zealanders."

The ACT Party has labelled the campaign "showerganda" and said it will scrap the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) which is partly responsible for delivering it.

It's taken issue with other spending by the EECA, including $600,000 on a 30-second video about using less energy.

"Labour's nationwide campaign to lecture people to have shorter showers should be the final straw. New Zealanders don't need to be told to turn their appliances off. We're in a cost of living crisis and they know every cent counts," said ACT climate change spokesperson Simon Court.

"The only upside to this nationwide campaign is that every New Zealander is going to get a chance to see how condescending and out of touch Wellington bureaucrats are."

The Green party said that instead of telling Kiwis to have shorter showers, the Government should tax the wealthy more. 

Following outrage online, Hipkins on Thursday said the messages could have been communicated better.

"I think they have got their tone a bit off in terms of the campaign that they launched yesterday, just in terms of how they convey those messages," Hipkins said.

"There is no question, households can save money by switching power companies and doing a bunch of things that will ultimately save them money. But they have got to get their tone right in conveying that, particularly at the moment when households are under a lot of financial pressure. I think they need to take a bit of care around that."

In Budget 2023, the Government announced it was expanding the EECA's Warmer Kiwi Homes programme, to deliver 26,500 insulation and heating retrofits per year over the next four years as well as energy-efficient hot water heaters and LED lights. 

The Budget provided other cost of living measures, such as ditching the $5 prescription co-payment, making public transport fares free for under 13-year-olds, and extending the early childhood education subsidy to more families.