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Methodists kick start home insulation project

Hundreds of old, cold homes in the Nelson-Tasman region are now warmer and healthier thanks to a grant from the Methodist Church.

The Nelson Healthy Homes project is a home insulation programme that provides ceiling and under-floor insulation, hot water cylinder wraps, draught proofing, and energy efficient light bulbs to households who qualify for assistance.

Launched in June 2006, the Healthy Homes project has fully insulated 170 homes, and is targeting a total of 240 by July. So far it has insulated homes in Nelson, Motueka, Tapawera, Golden Bay, and Murchison.

The Healthy Homes project is now supported by the Nelson Marlborough District Health Board, Contact Energy, the government’s Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), and the private company EnergySmart. But it was a grant from Methodist Social Action that got the project off the ground.

Chair of the Nelson Tasman Housing Trust Kindra Douglas coordinates the Healthy Homes project. Kindra says the project initially aimed at improving the housing conditions in the Nelson neighbourhood of Victory.

“We knew the Victory suburb had higher levels of deprivation than other parts of the Nelson region. It is a low lying area, and the houses there are older and colder. Because of this, the rents in Victory are lower and it attracts a lot of older people and people on benefits. Our aim was to improve people’s health by making their homes warmer,” Kindra says.

“Initially we thought we would do 15 or 20 houses a year. It costs $2000 to insulate a house so we wanted to raise $40,000-$50,000. At the most we thought we could get $60,000.

“When we first put out our appeal nothing happened. We waited but only received $1000. Then we heard from Methodist Social Action. Jean Moore, who chairs Methodist Social Action, contacted us and asked us to put together a proposal. We met with her and Rev Gary Clover and talked to the synod. We were so excited when they agreed to give us $60,000, which met our whole budget.”

With this strong show of community support other agencies became interested in Healthy Homes. The District Health Board (DHB) expressed support and wanted to expand the scope of the project with a grant of $150,000 over two years. With the DHB’s support EECA was brought in and then Contact Energy chipped in another $20,000.

The larger agencies also contributed management expertise to handle the larger scale of the project. The bigger scale of the project also meant it was possible to use more efficient and longer lasting polyester fibre insulation.

Another spinoff of the project is that it has taken on three unemployed people to do the insulation work.

Homeowners and tenants with a Community Services Card contribute a minimal amount towards the cost of the ceiling and under floor insulation, with the other energy efficiency measures installed at no cost.

Jean Moore says Methodist Social Action is supported by all the churches with Methodist connections in the Nelson region. These are St Johns in the City, St Luke’s Union, Richmond Methodist, Stoke Methodist, and Waimea Methodist.

Methodist Social Action first got to know Kindra through ‘Community & Whanau’, a network of community groups that used to meet in the hall of St Johns Methodist Church. Kindra was later employed to help implement some of the recommendations that came out of a social wellbeing research project Methodist Social Action sponsored.

The Healthy Homes project is aligned with the Methodist Mission’s aim of helping people break the cycles of poverty and dependence, Jean says.

She is pleased the initial Methodist grant led to a larger initiative. “From small seeds, large trees grow,” she says.