Aurora lines charges irk mayor, customers

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Central Otago residents will bear the brunt of Aurora Energy’s proposed price rises and that does not sit comfortably with the mayor.

Some face power price increases of up to $876 a year despite the Commerce Commission proposing to shave tens of millions off what Aurora Energy can spend on its dilapidated network.

Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan said after decades of under-investment by Aurora, Central Otago consumers were on a ‘‘hiding to nothing’’ and he would continue to advocate price increases be equally distributed between all users instead of Central Otago being ‘‘grossly penalised’’.

In its draft decision on the Aurora pricing released last week, the Commerce Commission said it was clear Aurora had lost the trust and confidence of its customers after the regulator consulted people in Dunedin, Queenstown, Central Otago and Wanaka.

The commission estimated customers in Central Otago and Wanaka were facing the biggest increase, households defined as medium users set to pay $612 more a year in 2026.

For large users that figure rises to an increase of $876.

Mr Cadogan said the draft decision on how much Aurora could increase power bills still had Central Otago customers paying more than those in Queenstown and Dunedin, which he pointed out was where Aurora was owned.

The pricing mechanism was ‘‘arbitrary’’ and he hoped the Electricity Authority (EA) could act in conjunction with advocacy with Aurora, Dunedin City Holdings and the Dunedin City Council.

Mr Cadogan’s counterpart, Queenstown Lakes District Mayor Jim Boult said he was also looking to the EA to possibly address inequitable lines charges and that for some of his constituents the proposed price hikes were ‘‘inconceivable’’.

EA director of transmission pricing methodology Rob Bernaus said the organisation was aware of concerns about Aurora’s regional pricing.

The authority was taking a closer look at whether Aurora’s approach appropriately reflected the costs of its network, he said.

Meanwhile, the commission called on Aurora to be more transparent in how it worked out prices for the three different areas it supplied.

The commission will visit Otago again between November 23 and December 1 as it takes submissions on its draft decision.

A final decision is due by March 31 and new prices are expected to start on April 1.