Prime Minister Chris Hipkins says energy saving campaign's 'tone a bit off'

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins says the Government's campaign suggesting Kiwis shorten their showers and limit their heating to save money didn't get its tone entirely right.

A campaign launched by Energy and Resources Minister Megan Woods on Wednesday included five tips for New Zealanders to save money, including shortening their showers, limiting their heating, and switching appliances off.

But it was overwhelmingly panned online and by other political parties quickly after it was launched. National called it a "lecture", ACT said it was "gaslighting", and the Greens said the Government should tax wealthy Kiwis rather than telling them how long to shower for.

Hipkins on Thursday acknowledged 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."

But he said an energy-saving campaign isn't something new.

"There are energy efficiency advertising campaigns every winter. That's not new. 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."

In September 2009, Brownlee launched a television campaign to "help New Zealanders increase the energy efficiency of their homes and businesses". It cost $4 million over 12 months.

Newshub has asked the minister's office for this campaign's cost.

Announcing the campaign on Wednesday, Woods said the ideas "aren't new", but described them as "meaningful to families". 

"There is an immediate need to support Kiwi families with information on energy saving… Small steps can add up to savings that make a real difference."

The five tips included in the campaign are:

  • Checking you're on the best power plan for you and your whānau 
  • Switching off appliances at the wall when you're not using them 
  • Setting your heat pump to a maximum of 21 degrees 
  • Changing your washing machine settings to cold wash 
  • Shortening showers to five minutes. 

After it was launched, National's campaign chair Chris Bishop said it was "arrogant and pathetic". 

"Kiwis need some leadership not a lecture," Bishop said. 

"On the same day the Reserve Bank hiked interest rates to fight Grant Robertson's wasteful spending, it's been revealed the Government will spend taxpayers' money lecturing Kiwis to turn their heat pump down and to have shorter showers.

"The Government has called its campaign 'Finding Money in Weird Places'. Clearly this campaign shows one weird place Labour could find some savings would be its own bloated bureaucracy."

ACT Party leader David Seymour asked whether the Government thought Kiwis "are stupid?"

"It's like a burglar coming back to a house they've robbed to tell their victim how to stay safe," Seymour said.

"The level of gaslighting is off the charts."

The new campaign will feature on television, social media, in print publications and on bus stops and malls throughout winter. A brochure with supporting tips will also be delivered to around 500,000 households that receive the Government's Winter Energy Payment. An additional 16-page booklet with more energy-saving information will be distributed in seven languages.

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.