by Gareth Hughes
Many of you will remember the shocking story of Folole Muliaga, who died in 2007 when her automated oxygen stopped after her power was disconnected. Industry guidelines were subsequently put in place that require power companies to give special consideration to vulnerable families and people reliant on electricity for medical reasons. The idea was to avoid a similar tragedy.
Five years on, the guidelines aren’t doing the job. The Electricity Authority admitted last week that last time it checked, eight retailers were not complying with the code. The Authority is conducting a second round survey and hoping the companies have since fallen into line.
Couple that with the fact 42,600 families were disconnected for failing to pay their power bills in the year to September 2013 – four times the level in the year following Mrs Muliaga’s death – and the situation starts to look increasingly dangerous for New Zealand’s most vulnerable.
Power prices have risen 22% since National came to power – many households are struggling to pay their bills.
We need game-changing policies within the electricity sector that protect people from soaring prices. That’s why the Green Party recently introduced our NZ Power plan, which will save households $300 a year, and our Solar Homes scheme, to help homes to install solar and break free from the big power companies. And the sooner people achieve this energy freedom the better, because these companies clearly don’t have Kiwis’ best interests at heart.