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Parker gambling on lights staying on

Gerry Brownlee MP National Party Energy Spokesman

2 June 2008

Parker gambling on lights staying on

"Energy Minister David Parker must say why he's leaving announcements on electricity conservation campaigns so late in the year, when previous Ministers acted earlier," says National's Energy spokesman Gerry Brownlee.

"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.

"By bluntly refusing to accept there's the potential for power shortages this winter, the Minister is increasing the risk of more serious problems down the track.

"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."

Mr Brownlee says 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.

"This response in 2003 needs to be measured against David Parker's denials in 2008.

"Lake levels are down to 53% of average in early June but the only thing the Minister has done is make some timid noises about government departments starting savings plans and that people should be prudent.

"Meanwhile, NIWA says the outlook for winter is not good. We are reduced to using a so-called 'last cab off the rank' generator running as a base-load plant, and workers are donning full-length safety suits to fire up an asbestos-ridden gas plant.

"In 2003 the Government was even talking about the unusual step of allowing lake levels to drop below their minimums. What is David Parker doing, and when is he going to start doing it?"


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