Electricity sector slammed

Winston Peters.
Winston Peters.
Winston Peters homed in on power prices and the evils of the ''market'' in a speech to mainly elderly people in South Dunedin yesterday.

The New Zealand First leader told a Grey Power public meeting at the South Dunedin Community Hall that staying warm was a necessity in Dunedin, but it was becoming increasingly unaffordable.

The electricity sector was a self-serving market imposing massive costs and giving few benefits to New Zealanders.

The situation was made worse by the sell-down of government holdings in electricity companies, as only a tiny percentage of people could afford to buy what was once owned by all.

Power prices continually increased, while the people were told this was the market at work.

More than 1000 power company managers received salaries of more than $100,000 a year, while electricity chief executives and board members were also well remunerated, he said.

Cheap power had once given New Zealand a great competitive advantage over the rest of the world, he said.

The audience responded positively to Mr Peters' speech, but a rare note of scepticism emerged when he labelled Forsyth Barr Stadium the best such venue in Australasia.

''Are you going to pay for it?'' an audience member interjected.

Mr Peters said the stadium should pay for itself, at which some audience members booed, prompting him to protest he was not the local council.

After the speech, the Otago Daily Times asked Mr Peters whether he regretted advocating the break-up of the state-owned generator ECNZ in the late 1990s when he was deputy prime minister.

At the time, 1998, Mr Peters claimed the move would see power prices ''dramatically reduced'' for householders and businesses.

Mr Peters told the ODT yesterday he had been ''misled'' by then energy minister Max Bradford about price regulation which was to have followed.


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