HIGH rents and soaring utility bills are causing serious financial strain for 45% of Bundaberg residents.
A special APN investigation found 45,000 households in the Bundaberg council area could not raise $2000 cash in a week to cover a crisis.
Of the region's 100,000 residents, 32,792 people relied on government incomes over the past two years.
University of Adelaide figures reveal 18,530 locals haCd cash flow problems in the past 12 months.
St Vincent de Paul Society National Council chief Dr John Falzon said some residents were taking drastic measures to cut costs.
"We've recently seen huge increases in the costs of gas so many of the homes our members visit have people huddled together freezing in the dead winter, unable to afford heating, and we find people going to bed early so as to conserve electricity," Dr Falzon said.
"People are even reducing the number of times they'll use the stove top because they're worried about the cost."
Low income support specialist Maree O'Halloran said people in areas like Bundaberg went without fresh food and medications just to pay the rent.
"What we see is a lot of debt," the National Welfare Rights Network president said.
"It certainly needs all levels of government to be looking at their policies."
The figures come on the back of national consumer advocate Choice's latest Pulse Report, which says nine out of 10 householders have higher bills compared to last year.
Choice chief Alan Kirkland said pressure was building as government actions including the repeal of the carbon tax failed to deliver.
"So far, the impact of the carbon tax repeal has failed to meet the expectations of many Australian households, despite evidence that savings are being passed on, particularly on electricity and gas bills," Mr Kirkland said.