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Franks: Electricity leadership for Wellington

Emergency Electricity conservation leadership for Wellington

Whether or not the Cabinet decides to start a power saving campaign tomorrow, the Wellington City Council should take a lead in Wellington’s own interests. I will pursue this with the Council tomorrow.

If the Council acts on this, it could encourage other Councils, and the campaign could start to work without central government.


[email to Wellington City Council]

I write to ask whether the Council has considered mounting its own electricity conservation campaign, given that central government is paralysed by its electoral ambitions, and given our city’s extreme dependence on reliable electricity. Has the Council considered stepping in with leadership where central government will not act? Waiting then complaining would not be leadership.

The Electricity Commission recently said that the risk of supply disruption from low South Island lake levels is now one in five. The costs of major disruption will be huge for our city, in lost production, bet even more in loss of reputation. One of our few advantages over lower cost competitors has been reliability.

It is therefore extraordinary that there is still no campaign to fend off a ticket in a raffle with a 20% chance of drawing the disastrous prize.

Wellington is enormously exposed to loss from blackouts. We’ll suffer millions in losses from brown-outs and black-outs. We depend on our computers and broadband links. This is where the Peter Jackson industry sits, it holds the most creative of New Zealand’s IT and ICT clusters, and modern government can not function when the power is off.

National’s Energy spokesman Gerry Brownlee has summarised the parallels with the last crisis in 2003.

“The only reason David Parker appears to be holding off on announcing a conservation campaign is because it is election year, and Labour is entirely responsible for the $230 million Electricity Commission which was supposed to guard against these 1-in-60 dry year conservation campaigns.”

In mid-April 2003 lake levels were around 65% of average for the time of year. The winter taskforce called for a savings target of 10% led by a $2.6 million advertising blitz. By the end of May the lake levels were up to 78% of normal, but the campaign for savings continued.

By 6 June the lakes were up to 84% of average and Patrick Strange dropped the arm on the electricity risk meter from ‘extreme’ to ‘high’ and praised Kiwis for saving 10% over the previous couple of months.”

Labour’s election strategy might now be down to ‘double or quits’, but our Council need not passively tolerate that risk to our economy. We could best demand an immediate conservation strategy if we show leadership ourselves.

As Gerry Brownlee points out - “Hydro lake levels are now lower than they were leading up to the winter crisis of 2003, but by this time of the year in 2003, advertising and a full-blown conservation campaign were already underway”.

This city need not passively wait for disaster. Please step in now that Helen Clark is putting her re-election prospects above the interest of this city


Stephen Franks
National Candidate, Wellington Central 2008


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