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Power savings campaign needed now

Don Brash MP National Party Leader 12 April 2006

Power savings campaign needed now

National Party Leader Don Brash today called on the Labour Government to immediately launch a comprehensive public electricity savings campaign.

Dr Brash is visiting Lake Tekapo, one of the South Island hydro storage lakes today.

"The lakes are dangerously low and there's a real danger of blackouts this winter, so it would be prudent to start a savings campaign now," he says.

"I am worried that Labour is so embarrassed by having a third power crisis in five years that it would rather gamble on it not happening than face the cold, hard facts. Labour should have learnt from previous crises.

"A well designed conservation campaign seeking modest savings now would cost little compared with the economic damage blackouts would cause. The 1992 power crisis was estimated to have cost the economy half a billion dollars.

"We believe Labour can initiate a campaign now, and National would support any fast-tracking of public money through Parliament for it.

"The reality is that this is not about rain; it is about planning properly for new generation and Labour has clearly failed to do so.

"Labour's failure to address the roadblocks in the way of building new generation, such as the Resource Management Act, has got us to this point. And the Electricity Commission - which Labour set up to ensure security of electricity supplies - has acknowledged making a bit mistake in recent weeks.

"First, it has failed to plan adequately. Its adjustment of the 'minzone' and 'emergency zone' earlier this month - which has made it more likely we will face a power crisis this winter - should never have happened in the first place if it had been listening to the power companies.

"Secondly, the commission has simply ignored the calls from major power users and the generating companies for a power savings campaign now.

"The fundamental problem is a lack of investment in electricity infrastructure caused by Labour's rejection of new generation like Dobson and Project Aqua, its failure to achieve its own energy efficiency targets, its refusal to reform the RMA, and the policy mess over Kyoto.

"National sees the savings campaign as a short term fix to get New Zealand through this winter, but long term we want much-needed infrastructure built so we do not have these repeated crises."


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