TrustPower asks for Deep Creek scheme rates cap

Electricity generator TrustPower is joining the queue for a change to its rates bill.

The company yesterday asked the Dunedin City Council to consider a rates cap for its Deep Creek hydro-electric power scheme, near Lake Mahinerangi.

The council had introduced a ''stepped rate'' for Strath Taieri in 2010-11, to gradually increase the area's non-residential rates and bring them into line with the rest of the city by 2017-18.

TrustPower's 6MW, $24 million hydro-electric scheme straddles the boundary between Dunedin and the Clutha district, with about half - worth $13 million - located on Dunedin's side of the border.

As a result, the company's rates bill in Dunedin had increased from $29,473.81 in 2010-11 to $72,267.20 this year.

It was proposed to increase it again to $85,778.95, an 18% hike, in 2015-16, the company's legal representative, Lara Burkhardt, told yesterday's long-term plan meeting.

TrustPower felt the bill was ''disproportionate'' to the few benefits the company received from the council's rates-funded activities, she said.

Instead, she suggested a cap on rates bills for high-value infrastructure and utility assets, as was already present elsewhere in the country.

The call came after Meridian Energy this week asked for a half million-dollar reduction in its Waitaki District Council rates bill, a more than 50% reduction.

The company was approaching councils across the country seeking similar changes.

Ms Burkhardt told yesterday's meeting TrustPower was happy to pay a general rate, but felt it was being asked for ''more than [its] fair share''.

''This is a relatively small scheme that seems to be paying a relatively high rates bill.

''We don't think it's an equitable outcome.''

Cr Hilary Calvert questioned the idea, saying other city ratepayers might not feel they were getting fair value for their rates bill, and might also like a decrease.

''Are you really suggesting we do that generally, or just for you?''Cr Mike Lord expressed sympathy with TrustPower's concerns, but Cr Richard Thomson said any change would shift more of the company's bill on to ordinary ratepayers.

''Well, I guess it's got to go somewhere,'' Ms Burkhardt replied.

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