Good health and environmental well-being go hand in hand. Energy efficiency through good design and extra insulation means lower power bills, better health and reduced emissions of greenhouse gases.
Poorly designed homes are forcing people to spend more to keep their homes dry, warm and comfortable. People with less money are using cheap but harmful heating options such as unflued gas heaters, or living in cold damp houses.
These findings are contained in Healthy, wealthy and wise, a PCE report prepared in association with public health specialists Quigley and Watts. The report is a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) that looks at how energy decisions might impact on the health and well-being of people and communities.
Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Dr Morgan Williams says cold, damp, often poorly insulated homes are leading to more doctor and hospital visits to treat colds and other respiratory illnesses, especially for children and the elderly.
"This places unnecessary pressure on the health system. Rather than waiting until people get sick, it would be more prudent - and more sustainable - to keep people healthy, wealthy and wise by focusing more on prevention through energy-efficient homes."
The PCE report recommends that:
Healthy wealthy and wise flows out of another report, Future Currents, which the PCE released last year. That report explored two energy scenarios for New Zealand. One was based on a business-as-usual pathway, and the other on greater investment in renewables and energy efficiency.
This latest report shows that choosing a more renewable and energy efficient path would have not only enduring economic benefits, but also a strong positive impact on the health and well-being of people and communities.
"Energy is clearly vital to the economy and to the smooth running of society, but it can be produced, delivered and used in ways that promote rather than damage health," says Dr Williams.