As temperatures dip all around New Zealand, I’ve been thinking about the many thousands of Kiwis who can’t afford to keep warm.
I applaud the New Zealand government for introducing the winter energy payment to superannuitants – $450 for a single person or $700 for a couple – due to land in bank accounts this month.
The importance of keeping our older New Zealanders warm and healthy can’t be underestimated. Sadly, 1,600 deaths in New Zealand are attributed to damp, cold houses and the elderly and children are most vulnerable.
The government, I’m sure, is targeting the winter energy payment as well as it can. But for me, it seems that the money isn’t always going where it’s needed most.
Many Kiwis on Super can afford to turn on a heater, buy firewood and dress for the conditions; many escape to warmer climes to avoid the harshest our winter’s got to throw at them.
While not always the case, many in the over 65-age bracket can’t and shouldn’t be described as elderly – good health and vitality putting them well outside the vulnerable category.
Meanwhile, more New Zealand children are killed by diseases linked to cold, damp, and overcrowded housing than in car crashes or drownings each year. Wouldn’t it be great if this winter energy payment could target the increasing hospitalisations caused by poverty-related conditions like pneumonia, asthma, rheumatic fever?
That’s why I’m asking Kiwis over 65 who can afford to stay warm, to donate their winter energy payment it to families who can’t. Community foundations – of which there are 16 in New Zealand – are perfectly positioned to facilitate this type of generosity and will get it to those who need it most.
The Auckland Foundation has set up a Super Warm Fund and will be working with the Salvation Army to distribute the warmth of generous Kiwis to families all over New Zealand who need it.
We’re off to a great start. If you’re warm, healthy and not in need of your winter energy payment yourself, we’d love you to join us. Please visit us at aucklandfoundation.org.nz/superwarm when your winter windfall lands!
PS: Your generous gesture may improve your health and wellbeing too. Being generous, compassionate and kind triggers a flow of healthy hormones that impact health and disease. We’re just beginning to understand how a reduction in stress hormones such as cortisol and an increase in production of oxytocin and dopamine, the ‘happy hormones’, leads to better health outcomes and even a longer life!