Celebrating World Environment Day with Government confirming thousands more healthy homes

05 June 2020

Photo by Malcolm Lightbody on Unsplash

Today’s World Environment Day, and I’m stoked to share some great news with you all.

Just a few moments ago, Megan Woods, the Minister for Housing, announced that all Kāinga Ora homes will be built to at least 6 Homestar.

Speaking at a 6 Homestar house in Christchurch, the Minister said: “I am proud to say that Kāinga Ora is actively stepping into a global green building movement. They can see the long term benefits that this investment will achieve for New Zealanders as well as the environment.”

Thousands more homes will be added to the growing number being built to Homestar. And this Ministerial announcement will send a clear signal to the industry: Homestar is the independent standard for warm, healthy homes.

This morning’s very welcome commitment is exactly the kind of leadership Aotearoa needs from our Government.

Everyone in our beautiful country deserves to thrive and build great memories in their home. And today’s announcement that all Kāinga Ora homes will be built to at least 6 Homestar is good news for everyone who believes homes should be healthy, happy places.

Homes built to Homestar standards won’t just be warmer, healthier places. They can also mean lower household bills, less construction waste going to landfill, lower carbon emissions, and much more efficient water use – all great things to celebrate on World Environment Day.

And a great example of choosing the right path, which has never been more important. That’s because the world is at an ‘irreversible T junction’.

Down one road is a return to normal, to how the old world worked, or didn’t work, just a few months ago. This is the road to rising climate pollution, rising sea levels, rising destructive storms, and a slumping economic hit.

The other road is a carbon-busting path to decreasing climate emissions, and an increase in our quality of life.

This warning came a few days ago from one of the leading global voices on climate change, Christiana Figueres, who led the UN team involved in the Paris Agreement. And, she warned, we don’t have years to choose which road to take. We’ve only got 18 months at most, as the trillions being spent on economic packages will lock us into one path or the other.

We’ve been doing our best to make sure we take the right road. Besides working alongside Kāinga Ora, and our advocacy work in Wellington’s corridors of power I’ve mentioned recently, we released some new research just days ahead of the Government’s Budget, calling for a green recovery to kickstart a just transition to a brighter, better Aotearoa.

This paper showed that improving the health of 120,000 New Zealand homes could give the country a benefit of over $3billion, lower carbon emissions, and create over 1,000 new jobs, drawing an immediate public response from the Minister for Housing.

One of the key measures we called for in the paper was a significant expansion of the Warmer Kiwi Homes programme – both in terms of the number of homes targeted but also in terms of the measures it currently includes.

So we were pretty encouraged to see Warmer Kiwi Homes receive a funding boost in the Budget, announced three days after our paper. Pretty encouraged, but certainly not celebrating. As we said in reply to the Budget, it’s a welcome expansion but still leaves thousands of Kiwis in the cold.

In meetings with Megan Woods, her officials and other Ministers recently we have set out it is now essential that some of the $20 billion that the Government is keeping up its sleeve is allocated to significantly expanding this scheme. Until then, far too many New Zealand homes still remain hovel-ready.

Today’s announcement is great news. But there is still much to do to make all our buildings and homes healthy, green places in which New Zealanders, our families and our businesses all thrive. Together, we’re doing it, and making sure we take the right road at the irreversible T junction. (It’s the one with the cycle path.)

Noho ora mai rā