Wānaka Sun       

Mayor slams Aurora in damning submission

Posted at 6:00am Thursday 27 Aug, 2020 | By Pat Deavoll editor@thewanakasun.co.nz

Mayor Jim Boult has drafted a damning submission on Aurora Energy's $383 million electricity lines upgrade plans for Otago.

Aurora has applied to the Commerce Commission to make upgrades to its network over the next three years, the costs of which would be footed by the community's power bills.

These would increase by about $300 per year by the end of the three-year investment programme - about $25 a month. Aurora then plans to spend a further $226M over the following two years, increasing bills again by about $60 per year.

The QLDC's submission, signed by the Mayor and Council Chief Executive Mike Theelan, said Aurora's proposals were unacceptable.

Much has changed in the months following the original feedback (on Aurora's plan) however QLDC's position has not, the submission said,

"Underinvestment over the last 25-30 years has led to a situation where unaffordable and inequitable solutions are being tabled to a community that has subsequently been disproportionately hit by the financial implications of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

QLDC's own 2019 Quality of Life survey showed 15 per cent of the community was unable to heat its homes all the time, with 70 per cent of those citing affordability.

Queenstown Lakes District has historically been an area of high growth, with resident numbers increasing at a higher rate when compared to other regions of New Zealand. It has also been a district that has consistently seen lower than average wages than the rest of the country, and higher than average land and house prices.

"Having taken the likely impact of COVID 19 into account in its projections, this situation remains unchanged beyond the next three years," the submission said.

"Queenstown Lakes District requires an investment plan from Aurora that will take into account high living costs, low wages and higher than average growth and visitor numbers.”

Ski fields are one of the most significant users of electricity during winter months, and the QLDC called for more detail on expected outages and the implications for the industry.

No community would put up with underinvestment leading to an unsafe network, unacceptable outages and resulting in a massive and untenable financial burden for future generations, the submission said.

 "Aurora should not be incentivised to invest in ways that leave the district forever on the brink of losing resilience; nor should it be allowed to create scenarios where future power-poverty hamstrings continued economic investment."

 QLDC also wants the price increases to be spread over five years, rather than three. It calls for the company to find a viable way to reduce the financial impact on the district, "as the current plan is not affordable.”

 "As such, QLDC urges the Commission to make decisions that hold the company accountable not only for the quality of what it provides but also for the cost impost placed on consumers, who have no choice but to bear this burden."

 The submission will go to the Commerce Commission, which is conducting consultation as part of its regulatory oversight of Aurora and the plans.  

View edition 989 of the Wānaka Sun here.



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