Energy hardship expert panel and reference group

2 specialist groups were established in 2021 to support government in its work to alleviate energy hardship in New Zealand. The expert panel completed its work in July 2023 and the reference group’s term ended in December 2023.

The establishment of the 2 specialist groups – the Energy Hardship Expert Panel and the Energy Hardship Reference Group – was based on the Electricity Price Review recommendation to establish a cross-sector energy hardship group.

Electricity Price Review

Energy Hardship Expert Panel logo

Energy Hardship Expert Panel

The Energy Hardship Expert Panel brought together 5 leaders from a range of backgrounds who collectively hold key insights, connections and experience working directly with households living in or at risk of energy hardship.

The objective of the Panel was to recommend to government policy priorities and actions to alleviate energy hardship, and provide impartial, evidence-based expert advice.

The Panel’s work programme was, in part, drawn from the Electricity Price Review’s findings and the government’s response to its recommendations.

After extensive consultation and research, the Energy Hardship Expert Panel delivered its final recommendations to the Energy and Resources Minister in July 2023.

The findings and recommendations in the Energy Hardship Expert Panel’s report are informing MBIE’s work to support community energy schemes and energy education, as well as advice given to the Minster for Energy on household energy costs, affordability and energy hardship.

Te Kore, Te Pō, Te Ao Mārama | Energy Hardship: The challenges and the way forward - Report to the Energy and Resources Minister [PDF, 3.2 MB]

The findings and recommendations in the Panel’s report are the Panel’s own, and do not reflect government policy.



Keri Brown (Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāti Whātua, Ngāti Mahana) is a dedicated community leader and public servant, currently serving as a councillor at Hutt City Council. She is a strong advocate for social housing and has taken a leading role in developing strategies to address homelessness in her community. In her current role, she is also responsible for improving child outcomes, ensuring that all children in her area have the opportunity to thrive.

As a Director of Urban Plus Ltd, a council-controlled development company, Keri works closely with Community Housing Providers and mana whenua to build high-quality social housing that meets the needs of her community. With her extensive background in public service, including her previous role as a senior national adviser for the Family Start programme, Keri brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to her work.

Keri is deeply committed to improving the health and wellbeing of whānau and communities. As a former Hutt Valley DHB board member, she has first-hand experience of the challenges faced by many. Through her work at Hutt City Council and beyond, Keri is dedicated to making a positive difference in the lives of those she serves.

Other panel members

Dr Amanda-Lanuola Dunlop

Dr Amanda-Lanuola Dunlop (Samoan, Ngāti Maniapoto, Waikato-Tainui) is a Pacific health and wellbeing expert.  She has more than 25 years’ experience working in health policy development, relationship management, research and evaluation, and a not-for-profit organisation. Most recently she was chief executive at Vaka Tautua, a national Pacific health, disability and social services provider. Amanda-Lanuola holds a PhD in Community Health.

Helen Leahy

Helen Leahy is Pou Ārahi for Ngā Waihua o Paerangi which is the operational hub leading environmental, social, Whānau Ora, cultural and other kaupapa across the rohe of Ngāti Rangi. As the former chief executive of the Whānau Ora Commissioning Agency for the South Island, she has extensive experience working with Māori communities and whānau and has a long history of involvement in areas of supporting children, health, hardship, education, vulnerable communities and wellbeing. Helen was a senior ministerial and policy advisor in Parliament from 1999 to 2015.  Helen lives in Raetihi, a small rural locality that lies in a valley between Tongariro and Whanganui National Parks.

Kay Brereton

Kay Brereton is the manager for the Beneficiaries and Unwaged Workers Trust and co-convenor of the National Beneficiary Advocacy Consultative Group. Kay has been a beneficiary advocate for more than 16 years and has extensive experience on focus groups in areas such as welfare, housing and service alignment. She received a Queen’s Service Medal last year for services to welfare of beneficiaries.

Kevin Angland

Kevin Angland has several years’ governance experience as a director of the Electricity Retailers’ Association of New Zealand, where he oversaw strategic work with an emphasis on supporting vulnerable communities. He also has executive experience with electricity generator-retailer Mercury, which included working on programmes to reduce energy hardship. His leadership in the technology and digital sector was recognised in 2014 when he was named New Zealand CIO of the year.

Work programme

The Panel took an inclusive and collaborative approach throughout its work, with engagement feeding into every stage of its mahi.

The Panel engaged with a wide range of communities and key stakeholder groups to hear their experiences of energy and energy hardship, and supporting energy wellbeing.

These groups included individuals and whānau living in energy hardship, experts and representatives from across the energy sector, beneficiary advocacy groups, Māori and Pasifika community-level providers, health and social services and energy-related sectors.

The Panel also commissioned research and held collaborative workshops to develop its understanding of the root causes of energy hardship, and considered options on how these can be best be addressed.

The Outcomes framework and focus areas document describes the key areas of the Panel’s work.

The Panel also grouped the underlying causes of energy hardship into 7 kete:

  • Leadership and accountability
  • Health of the home
  • Energy access and choice
  • Energy affordability
  • Consumer protection
  • Community education and action
  • Data and information

Public engagement

In late March 2023, the Panel published a Discussion Paper, ‘Te Kore, Te Pō, Te Ao Mārama | Energy Hardship: the challenges and the way forward’, to seek feedback on its proposed strategies to better support households experiencing energy hardship.

The Panel also prepared a summary version of its discussion paper, outlining the key ideas the Panel sought feedback on during this engagement period.

The proposals in its Discussion Paper are the Panel’s own work and do not reflect government policy.

The Discussion Paper submission period closed on 28 April 2023. The Panel received over 50 submissions, which were considered when developing its final set of recommendations to the Government.

Submissions on the Energy Hardship Expert Panel’s Discussion Paper

The Panel submitted its final report to Government in July 2023. The Panel’s report to the Energy and Resources Minister is below.


Research reports jointly commissioned by the Panel and MBIE to support their respective work on reducing energy hardship:

Energy hardship research reports

Letters from the Chair:

The following documents were produced by the Energy Hardship Expert Panel:

Energy Hardship Reference Group


Government also established an Energy Hardship Reference Group to help shift the dial on energy hardship. The group ran for two years from December 2021 to December 2023.

The group provided a forum to share information and encourage coordination across industry, NGOs, and government agencies. Members of the group were able to share insights and updates on their work, and test their ideas.

The Reference Group interacted with and complemented the work of groups such as the Consumer Advocacy Council, and ERANZ’s Consumer Care Working Group. The Group also worked closely with the Energy Hardship Expert Panel.


20 members from academia, community groups, industry and iwi were part of the group, along with 6 representatives from government agencies and a regulator. Members were selected from a range of backgrounds and positions to ensure a diverse range of skills, connections and perspectives.

Non-governmental organisations and independent researchers

  • Cherie Tirikatene, Chief Executive Officer, Seed NZ, and founder of Whānau Power (Ngāi Tahu)
  • Chris Mardon, Managing Director, Ecobulb Limited
  • Gareth Cartwright, Executive Officer, Community Energy Network
  • Jake Lilley, Senior Policy Advisor, FinCap (Te Atiawa)
  • Dr Kim O’Sullivan, Senior Research Fellow, He Kāinga Oranga – Housing and Health Research Programme, University of Otago
  • Leana Hunt, Operations Manager, Habitat for Humanity Northern Region
  • Liz Kilduff, Power Assessment Coordinator, Anglican Care
  • Sandra Greenslade, Energy Consumer Advocate (Trustee, King Country Trust and Maru Trust; Advisory Board member, Utilities Disputes Ltd; Consumer Panel, Electricity Networks Association and The Lines Company)
  • Dr Sea Rotmann, Task Leader of the Hard-to-Reach Energy Users research collaboration under the Users Technology Collaboration Programme by the International Energy Agency
  • Sumaria Beaton, General Manager, Awarua Synergy

Electricity industry

  • Ezra Hirawani, Co-founder and Director, Nau Mai Rā (Te Āti Haunui-a-Paparangi/Ngāti Rangi/Ngāpuhi/Ngāti Hako/Waikato Tainui)
  • Hinerangi Pere, Head of Community Energy Services, Orion
  • Leapagatele Matuamaivanu Pei Helen Tua, Community Relationship Manager, Mercury NZ Ltd
  • Miranda Struthers, Accessible Energy Advocate, Electricity Retailers’ Association of New Zealand
  • Rachel Wansbone, Customer Experience Manager, Northpower.

Government agencies and regulators

  • Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet
  • Electricity Authority
  • Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority
  • Kāinga Ora
  • Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment
  • Te Whatu Ora
  • Ministry of Housing and Urban Development

Former Reference Group members

  • Paul Forster, National Financial Mentoring Coordinator, Salvation Army
  • Christina Taruke Karatea of Te Reureu (Ngāti Rangatahi, Ngāti Matakore, Ngāti Waewae, Ngāti Pikiahu)
  • Christine Arihia Brears (ONZM), Chief Executive, Taumarunui Community Kokiri Trust (Maniapoto)
  • Kristina Sofele, National Manager People & Capability, Vaka Tautua
  • Bryn Little, Investment and Strategy Manager, WEL Networks

More information

The energy hardship webpage has information on MBIE’s other related work programmes and details on how to subscribe to the Energy Hardship Update e-newsletter.

The Electricity Price Review webpage has information about MBIE’s key workstreams based on the Review’s recommendations.

Energy hardship webpage

Electricity Price Review webpage

Last updated: 31 May 2024