Fix our sick house

A million of our 1.6 million homes are inefficient, cold and uncomfortable. Let's fix them

 A million of our 1.6 million homes are inefficient, cold and uncomfortable. Let's fix them

Peter Neilson

Opportunity //

A million of our 1.6 million homes are inefficient, cold and uncomfortable.

Fixing this $22 billion infrastructure deficit within ten years is not something which can be achieved by the current policy mix. A new public-private partnership is needed.

The amount may sound big, but it represents less than four percent of the $580 billion current value of the country’s private housing stock.

There is a compelling economic, health, social and environmental case for developing a new national housing improvement initiative. We could plan this by September—and implement it over the next decade.


  • For every $1 invested in retrofitting older, poorly-performing homes, the net benefit is worth $2. 
  • Some 50 fewer people a day will go to hospital with respiratory illnesses (saving $540 million over the decade), and helping cut an excess winter mortality rate of 1,600—a number not seen in other OECD countries.
  • Cut sick days by 180,000 a year (lifting production by at least $17 million a year).
  • Cut household power bills by $475 million a year by using a combination of insulation and double glazing.
  • Provide vital stimulus and support to the building sector during the economic downturn, reducing unemployment and the loss of skilled workers.
  • Stop households wasting 23 million cubic metres of water a year. One estimate is that it will result in direct household water savings of 81 litres per person per day, or 130 million cubic metres per year.
  • Reduce the CO2 emissions by 3,600 kilotonnes per year ($54 million in tradable emissions units at $15 per tonne, or greater if assessed at the €12.50 per tonne used to assess the Crown’s Kyoto Treaty obligations).

The New Zealand Business Council for Sustainable Development would like to see the government working with business to evaluate the range of existing programmes which, on their own, cannot deliver change on the scale required, undertake a cost-benefit analysis, produce the business case and strategic plan for a major infrastructure upgrade—and put it before a pan-sector group by September. This should include public and private funding options.

Then we can get on with seizing that $2 billion in business opportunities—and a payback worth billions in energy savings, health, social and environmental improvements. And create jobs.

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