Aurora must give value, MPs say

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Central Otago’s MPs have weighed in as lines company Aurora Energy announces finalised price increases.

From next month the portion of a power bill Aurora is responsible for will increase 7.6% to 8.5% for users across the region this year.

A spokeswoman for the Dunedin City Council-owned company said the increase in Central Otago and Wanaka regions would be higher than Dunedin, but lower than forecast.

Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean and Southland MP Joseph Mooney agree residents across Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes need assurance from Aurora its increase in line charges would mean a secure network, sooner rather than later.

If power retailers passed on 100% of the increases to their customers this year, for a standard residential household using on average 9000 kilowatt hours a year, the lines component of yearly power costs would rise by $59.28 for Dunedin customers (up by 7.6% on 2020), by $110.28 for Central Otago and Wanaka customers (up by 8.5%), and by $74.40 for Queenstown customers (up by 7.6%) from April 1, the Aurora spokeswoman said.

The final price for any customer would be determined by their chosen power retailer.

Mrs Dean said it was pleasing Aurora had listened to public feedback and, ultimately, increases in Central Otago and Wanaka were less than originally forecast.

However, she said it would still be “incredibly tough” for some households.

“Dunedin is still paying less than those in Central Otago and the Queenstown Lakes, yet its community has reaped the benefits of dividends from Aurora for years to date.

“The Dunedin City Council, which owns Aurora through Dunedin City Holdings Ltd, needs to take note of this and consider how much it is willing to take in dividends from Aurora in the future.”

Mr Mooney said constituents in Central Otago, Wanaka and Queenstown deserved a secure network, and with the price increases announced, should see it sooner rather than later.

“While infrastructure upgrades are proposed in our areas, residents need to see value for money now.”

Aurora Energy chief executive Richard Fletcher said the lines company understood affordability was a real issue and value for money was expected.

“This is essential investment to ensure safe and reliable electricity supply throughout our network, including the growing regions of Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes.

“We know we can improve our communications and customer service, and a dedicated team at Aurora is working very hard to do this.”

The overall revenue Aurora can bring in is decided by the Commerce Commission.

The commission’s final decision is expected March 31, new prices to be in place the following day.