Poly Palace shunned by scheme...

POLY DREAMS SHATTERED: Poly Palace manager Richie Moore and his only remaining employee Iakopo Onosai are wondering what might have been, with the business in dire straits after not receiving EECA accreditation.

No EECA accreditation means job losses for local firm.

"This has always been about the people and the vision I have, and EECA have just squashed it."

Richie Moore, the manager of Poly Palace, which is based in a shed opposite Trash Palace at Porirua's landfill, conveys a mixture of anger, frustration and disappointment when describing the decision by the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority to not select his business for the Warm Up New Zealand: Heat Smart scheme.

The authority - a government organisation set up to encourage and promote energy efficiency - launched the initiative in July and aims to retrofit more than 180,000 New Zealand homes over the next four years.

All homes built before 2000 are eligible and householders can get discounts on the ceiling and underfloor insulation, along with an "efficient heating device" (often a heat pump), depending on their income.

Poly Palace has been in business since 2004, making and fitting underfloor polystyrene insulation. A quick tour of the premises shows Mr Moore is using his entrepreneurial and engineering skills to a high degree, creating thicker but more cost-effective material than is available elsewhere on the market.

In 2007 his business won an award in Porirua and was a finalist in the "green"section of the Wellington Gold Awards.

At its peak, he had nine employees on the books, some from "disadvantaged" parts of the community. He says he has been 75 per cent successful when giving measures and quotes and was averaging 200 homes a year.

As part of the Warm Up NZ scheme, businesses had to effectively tender for work and despite a 130-page proposal, Mr Moore was denied accreditation. He says he has been "left out in the cold" by EECA's selection process and has had to lay off most of his staff as a result.

In the first week after the Budget when the Warm Up NZ scheme was announced Mr Moore lost $12,000 from his waiting list as the bulk of households wanting insulation signed up for the programme. He's had to lay his installing team off, along with administration staff.

"I'm using a superior product that we manufacture locally, diverting waste and hiding it under people's houses.

"I've never been asked to uninstall a house and never been asked to honour our money-back guarantee - that's performance EECA can't match. It's a simple thing, it's Kiwi and it's done here in Porirua. We're filling a gap and I want to give people jobs.

"Poly Palace directly reflects the supposed government objectives of waste minimisation and warmer, drier, healthier homes [but] EECA like to see a turnover - they know I've got the right product but my financial structure is not good enough for them. They've squashed me."

EECA chief executive Mike Underhill says they received 249 applications for the scheme. Less than 30 per cent passed the "competitive" selection process.

"There could be no guarantee that any particular organisation would automatically be contracted.
"Our criteria gave extra weighting to providers with existing contracts and a demonstrable track record [and] there were many other factors we took into consideration including price, regional coverage and capability to deliver the programme."

Mr Underhill says Poly Palace's insulation is accepted under the scheme, "so there is nothing to stop [them] partnering up with other organisations".

While funding has now been allocated for the next four years, they would be welcome to submit a tender in any future funding rounds.

Mr Moore says he has always enjoyed excellent support from Porirua City Council and Porirua Mayor Jenny Brash will be going into bat for him.

She says she will be trying to speak to the Minister for the Environment.

"I'm actually quite angry, Poly Palace uses polystyrene that would normally take up a lot of space in our landfill," she said.

"The product is accredited but the business is not, it seems absolutely silly. He could go under and I'm going to do what I can to reverse the situation."