Strong opposition to Aurora plan expressed at meeting

Storm clouds are gathering over fair electricity transmission pricing. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Photo: ODT files.
It was tagged as a drop-in session to seek feedback on Aurora Energy’s pending application to the Commerce Commission, but turned into a heated meeting.

It culminated in the assembled public voting for the commission to take one key message away with it: give the network back to the community.

More than 80 people packed into the Alexandra Community Centre yesterday to meet representatives of the Commerce Commission and the Electricity Authority.

Commerce Commission assistant commissioner John Crawford said the drop-in session was to discuss Aurora’s application to spend $383 million over the next three years to address safety and reliability issues on its network.

Historic under-investment had led to more safety incidents and unplanned power cuts.

"We are not here to talk about the past failures of Aurora — that has been well traversed," Mr Crawford said.

The commission had also noted the differential in proposed increases for different parts of the network — $20 per month more in Dunedin, $30 in Central Otago and Wanaka, and $24 in Queenstown.

"That’s a massive increase on what they expect from their consumer base."

The commission’s role in Aurora’s plan was to set network reliability standards and determine how much money it should be allowed to recover from its customers and over what period.

"There is a high level of distrust in Aurora in this region."

That appeared to be an understatement as members of the public made their views heard.

One man labelled the application as another "bailout".

"We are going into an appalling mess where the consumer is asked to pick up the tab."

Another said millions of dollars had gone out of Aurora coffers to "pay for stadiums".

Mr Crawford said the commission’s role was bound by statute and it was working to fix what it could.

Others argued they had already paid for the network with increases in lines charges since it was privatised in 1999.

Drop-in sessions are scheduled in Cromwell today, Wanaka tomorrow and Queenstown on Thursday.


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