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Better late than never was the sentiment expressed by Dunedin city councillors yesterday as they approved a modified scheme for ratepayers to borrow money from the council to retro-install insulation or heating.
The targeted rate scheme was meant to be operating by July and more than 100 people had contacted the council seeking further information about it. It was announced in September it had been delayed because of problems with the way it was to be run.
In a report considered by the council's finance, strategy and development committee yesterday, council energy manager Neville Auton said staff felt councillors needed to consider any necessary changes before going any further.
The problems mainly concerned risk and liability implications for the council that had been discovered. Staff proposed they could largely be addressed by the council directly contracting service providers to undertake the work and securing the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA) subsidy on behalf of the applicant ratepayer.
Under the modified scheme, based on the model used for several years by the Greater Wellington Regional Council, ratepayers who want insulation or heating fitted will get quotes from EECA-approved suppliers.
The suppliers work with the EECA to determine what subsidies apply under the Warm Up New Zealand programme, and the ratepayer applies to the council to borrow up to $5000 to cover costs over and above the subsidy.
The council then engages the supplier to do the installation.
Successful applicants will repay the council via a targeted rate over a 10-year period, or shorter if wished.
Mr Auton's report noted a contract between the council and the ratepayer would say the council was not liable for defective work or products but, in the case where an installation company closed during the period of the loan, liability could fall on the council, although the risk of that was low.
The changes meant insurance, interest, administration and set-up costs would rise, pushing the interest rate successful applicants would be charged up 1% to 8%, to ensure the scheme was cost-neutral to the council.
Councillors had earlier agreed to borrow up to $2.25 million for a trial of the scheme.
Councillors were also informed fewer EECA subsidies were left for community services card holders and clean heat installation, and that the programme was due to end in 2013, and there was no guarantee it would be extended in the next Budget.
They were presented the choice of continuing with the modified scheme or not proceeding at all.
Only Cr Lee Vandervis opposed the idea of going ahead.
He said it came too late, as the EECA programme was coming to an end, and people could easily get a cheaper loan elsewhere.
Cr Richard Thomson disputed that and said bank loans often cost more in the end and not everyone could easily get one anyway, especially probably the people the council wanted to target with the scheme, such as the elderly who may have already paid their mortgage, or low-income homeowners.
He and Crs Jinty MacTavish, Teresa Stevenson, Fliss Butcher, Chris Staynes, Kate Wilson and Mayor Dave Cull expressed their support for the scheme.
If the full council approved the scheme at its October 29 meeting, application forms for the scheme would be available as soon as possible afterwards, a council spokesman said.