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Fuel Poverty in New Zealand  

Fuel Poverty in New Zealand - towards a multi-dimensional impact based measure

PhD Candidate

Fatima McKague


  • Rob Lawson (Marketing)
  • Ben Wooliscroft (Marketing)
  • Michelle Scott (Centre for Sustainability)

Project Dates



The key questions which will be explored through Fatima's research are:

  • What are the challenges unique to the New Zealand context that impact on fuel poverty?
  • What increases a household's propensity to experience fuel poverty?
  • Have the recent government policies aimed at improving energy efficiency of the housing sector impacted on/reduced fuel poverty in New Zealand?
  • Does the current income based measure of fuel poverty showcase the reality of fuel poverty in New Zealand?
  • What would be a more composite New Zealand specific measure of fuel poverty?

New Zealand does not have an official definition of fuel poverty, despite increasing concerns about its prevalence, with recent estimates suggesting that one in four New Zealand households may be experiencing fuel poverty (Howden-Chapman, 2012). A country specific robust measure of fuel poverty is necessary for New Zealand for many reasons. First, very little representative empirical research exists in New Zealand because of the lack of suitable data and a uniform measure. Second, New Zealand, particularly the South Island, is well-known for its cold, older housing with low energy-efficient dwellings. Third, New Zealand has high levels of seasonable variation in mortality, leading many researchers to believe that the relatively poor thermal efficiency of the housing stock is a major cause of these high rates or mortality. Fourth, the economic recession has driven the inequality gap even wider, resulting in many more households estimated to be in fuel poverty. The implications of a composite measure of fuel poverty are enormous. It will provide concrete data that may be used to focus political and public attention on underprivileged groups and the importance for policies to address their needs. It may also be a useful tool in informing affordable warmth policies and local targeting of fuel poverty programs in New Zealand.

Fatima's PhD research has been funding by a Todd Scholarship in energy research and a University of Otago Doctoral scholarship.