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Government Pandering to Greens in Power Crisis?

Government Pandering to Greens in Electricity Crisis?

Tuesday, July 31 2001
Stephen Franks
Press Releases -- Commerce

Energy Minister Pete Hodgson is playing politics in a deal nobbling his attempts to deal with the energy crisis, ACT Commerce spokesman Stephen Franks said today.

"Mr Hodgson has rejected an opportunity to ensure there is legal power to use reserve capacity in the lakes. The National government gave itself this power in 1992. ACT yesterday informed Mr Hodgson it would support similar steps this time, if necessary to overcome likely Green knee-jerk resistance.

"The Electricity Industry Bill is being debated this evening. After putting the House in urgency last week for the committee stages of the Bill which gives the Minister draconian emergency powers, his office did not respond to the offer of assistance yesterday evening. Parliament will lose an opportunity to get a solution in place now, as it debates the third reading of this urgency measure today.

"Mr Hodgson has not yet had the Prime Minister publicly usurp his authority but it must be coming. He is trying to keep the focus on savings to control profiteering by state generating companies. It seems that politics may be getting the better of him. Though he keeps pointing out that high spot market prices are doing just what a market is designed to do - ration power in short supply because of a lack of storage - the political heat blames the market structure for the shortage of generating capacity.

"The Minister is negligent if he does not have legislation ready for emergency lowering of some lake levels. Perhaps he has it ready but can't get Cabinet agreement. It would be politically embarrassing to have a fight with the Greens when they are already smarting from their Royal Commission 'own goal'. Perhaps it is just that Labour, including Mr Hodgson, opposed the Lake Pukaki Water Level Empowering Bill in 1992.

"ACT is very aware that emergency diesel and other thermal generation is expensive and represents an environmental trade off. We do not think emergency use of lake water below normal minimum operating levels should be automatic. In some lakes, for example Manapouri and Te Anau, damage through slumping of beaches into deep water and other environmental costs would outweigh the benefits.

"The Minister has been unwilling to allow Parliament to debate these issues early with the Bill trumpeted as urgent for this crisis. He must explain to New Zealanders exactly what lies behind the refusal and when we will know what he plans with the lakes.

ENDS

For more information visit ACT online at http://www.act.org.nz or contact the ACT Parliamentary Office at act@parliament.govt.nz.

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