Aurora called ‘reprehensible’ over outages

A Roxburgh pharmacist says Aurora Energy’s scheduled power cuts on weekdays put customers at risk and strain on his business, and that the impact goes beyond the Teviot Valley.

Highland Pharmacy Central owner Alastair Forbes said a cut scheduled for February 2 to allow Aurora Energy to work on lines came only six months after the last.

The last scheduled outage set him back $1400, which was the cost of renting a generator. He expected the February outage would cost the same. Closing was not an option, he said.

"Aside from the moral and ethical issues, I have have a contractual obligation with the DHB [Southern District Health Board] to stay open.

"Look, if there were four pharmacies in town people could just go another one — but I am the only only one."

Compounding the situation were drugs that needed to be kept cool.

"On any given day I could have $5000 to $10,000 worth that needs to be kept within the right temperature."

The ramifications went wider.

Highland Pharmacy Central was not just the only pharmacy in Roxburgh — it was also the supply point for the Highland Pharmacy Depot in Lawrence in the Clutha district, Mr Forbes said.

After the July outage, he had asked Aurora about compensation, but had no success.

"Aurora accept no responsibility whatsoever and are not willing to offer compensation. They just say ‘no’.

"Even if they came to the party halfway it would be something, but it’s still ‘no’."

Labelling the lines company as a "morally reprehensible and illogical organisation", he said he believed it operated a "points system" where anyone affected below a certain threshold was considered acceptable collateral damage.

Aurora Energy customer and engagement general manager Sian Sutton said when planning work on the network that required electricity supply to be interrupted, Aurora’s planning and customer teams reviewed the work and customer impact.

"The outage in Roxburgh on February 2 is required so our contractor can replace three poles in Ferry Rd."

In total, 92 customers would be affected and more than 75% of the customer base was residential — for that reason the outage had been scheduled on a week day to minimise impact, she said.

"We have spoken directly or left messages with 22 other local businesses including the local hairdresser, police station, fire station and garage, and they are happy to proceed with the outage.

"Our customer experience team advised Alastair [Forbes] that Aurora Energy’s generation policy is to only provide generators to schools and childcare centres."

jared.morgan@odt.co.nz

Comments

"Our customer experience team advised Alastair [Forbes] that Aurora Energy’s generation policy is to only provide generators to schools and childcare centres." What about people who need power for medical reasons? I thought they were given priority.

Corporate bullying. Hardly a day goes by that there isn't a negative story about Aurora in the media. Clearly, something is terribly wrong at this company. At what point does someone with authority to do so step in and say "Enough!"?

Back in the "old days" the electricity companies were clearly identifiable as departments of local and central government. We had the NZ Electricity Dept (NZED) nationally and, locally, the DCC Electricity Dept. Politicians, central and local, had far more control of these entities. Therefore, if these operators failed, it could have a direct impact on votes. Therefore, the MPs and the councillors didn't let them fail or behave reprehensibly for fear of losing their seats. Then the departments were corporatised, given flash names (like Transpower and Aurora) that provided some separation from the politicians, and so-called "professional directors" were appointed, on massive directors' fees, to run them. Now there is no accountability at the ballot box every three years, locally and nationally, for the conduct and performance of these electricity suppliers. Most NZers no longer realise that these companies are ultimately public-owned. Interesting that the massive problems with local authority controlled "three waters" are being addressed by central government effectively taking control. Perhaps the same thing needs to happen with these power suppliers? Nationalisation?

So who owns Aurora Robbie?

Well, Henry, ultimately Aurora is owned by the Dunedin City Council. But the DCC has limited day-to-day control over its activities. Which is the point I was making - if it did have greater control, then elected councillors may take greater interest in Aurora's attitude towards its customers for fear that poor behaviour by Aurora would reflect negatively on the councillors. Guilt by association if you like. But there are complex management structures in place that isolate the councillors from the company. The "professional directors" put in to run Aurora (via holding companies etc) are not accountable at a ballot box every three years. So, effectively, the people of Dunedin own Aurora but have no say in its operation or management. I don't know about you, but I feel there's something fundamentally wrong with that.

 

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