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A project to help homeowners insulate and install "clean" heating systems was included in Dunedin's annual plan yesterday, and described as "a great initiative" by Mayor Dave Cull, after an almost unanimous vote.
A problem in the city of a significant proportion of homes being poorly insulated has been discussed for years, as it leads to cold and damp conditions, high energy costs and health problems.
A report on the issue from former council sustainability adviser Michelle Hayward said it was estimated 20,000 Dunedin homes were poorly insulated.
Last year, the council called for detailed plans for options to introduce programmes using a targeted rating scheme to encourage homeowners to install insulation and clean heating.
Voluntary targeted rates schemes work by providing finance to ratepayers to install insulation and clean heating, such as wood burners, pellet burners or heat pumps, with the costs of the retrofit paid off through rates over a specified period.
The schemes can be almost cost neutral, and can attract Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority funding.
The options suggested in the report included an insulation and clean heating project, a "whole of house" sustainability plan and a solar hot water scheme.
The annual plan meeting chose the insulation and clean heating project.
Mr Cull asked Ms Hayward, who attended the meeting, whether rental properties were likely to benefit from the scheme, as 40% of homes in South Dunedin, for instance, were rented.
Ms Hayward responded the scheme would be open to all homeowners, although she conceded "it's a sticky problem, that one".
Cr Jinty MacTavish said the scheme was an "enabling mechanism; that's what's so exciting about it", and would act as a one-year trial to see if it could be improved.
But Cr Fliss Butcher said now was not the time for the scheme.
Cr Butcher said she suggested such schemes seven years ago, but "got nowhere" at a more suitable time.
"There are cheaper ways to do this. I can't support it."
Cr Richard Thompson said the debt stayed with the house as part of the rates, so there was no risk.
There was a discussion about the cost of administering the scheme, which Mr Cull said "can be addressed, and will be".
The scheme began to address Dunedin's housing problems, and would be done in partnership with the University of Otago and the Otago Polytechnic, he said.
"It is a great initiative at no cost, or very little cost to ratepayers."
All but Cr Butcher voted to support the scheme.