Elec­tric­ity fund changes on the cards

Otago Daily Times - - DUNEDIN - TIM MILLER tim.miller@odt.co.nz

POS­SI­BLE changes to Dunedin’s elec­tric­ity fund could ben­e­fit the city’s res­i­dents most in need.

Since 2013 more than $690,000 in grants from the Dunedin City Coun­cil’s elec­tric­ity fund have been made to res­i­dents strug­gling to pay their power bills.

The fund was set up in 1998 to help Dunedin res­i­dents pay their elec­tric­ity bill and is ad­min­is­tered by the Dunedin Bud­get­ing Ad­vice Ser­vice.

Res­i­dents are able to re­ceive only one grant in a five­year pe­riod, ex­cept in rare cir­cum­stances.

Coun­cil staff have rec­om­mended the rule be changed to twice within a five­year pe­riod in spe­cial cir­cum­stances.

In a re­port, coun­cil events and com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment man­ager Joy Gunn said the changes would help those res­i­dents most in need of fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance.

On av­er­age, the fund as­sisted 686 fam­i­lies and in­di­vid­u­als a year and about 75% of those were on a Work and In­come ben­e­fit.

The fund’s an­nual bud­get of $200,000 had not been fully spent since the 2013­14 fi­nan­cial year.

How­ever, bud­get agen­cies had re­ported a spike in the num­ber of re­quests this year be­cause of colder than usual weather ear­lier in the sea­son, she said.

A to­tal of 685 ap­pli­ca­tions were suc­cess­ful in the last year, the most since 2014­15.

It was un­clear what im­pact the Gov­ern­ment’s new win­ter en­ergy pay­ment would have on the de­mand for as­sis­tance for power costs, Mrs Gunn said.

If coun­cil­lors voted to adopt the rec­om­men­da­tion, res­i­dents could ac­cess the fund twice in a five­year pe­riod if their cir­cum­stances were spe­cial enough.

Coun­cil­lors will vote on the change at the com­mu­nity and cul­ture com­mit­tee meet­ing to­mor­row.

They will also vote to ap­prove the on­go­ing trans­fer of $20,000 from the fund to the Cosy Homes Trust Otago.

In the longer term, the trust’s goal fo­cus on home insulation might re­duce de­mand for as­sis­tance from the elec­tric­ity fund, Mrs Gunn said.

Joy Gunn

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