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The Rising Cost Of Electricity And Its Problems

Anti-Capitalist Alliance New Zealand


The rising cost of electricity and its problems.

With power prices expecting raise dramatically, in some areas up to 15% and more, it will put unnecessary pressure on the country's workers and beneficiaries to cut back on consumption. Domestic consumers use power out of necessity - not out of a frivolous desire to spend money. They use it for heating, cooking and washing, and by international standards New Zealanders do not consume much, says an Anti-Capitalist Alliance spokesperson Sam Kingi.

"When winter rolls around there are going to be more problems. We have a far higher rate of seasonal deaths than other First World countries. Deaths among the young and elderly rise in winter, and this is attributed to a lack of adequate heating in homes. The recommended healthy temperature for homes is no less than 18 degrees, yet many poor families are living in rooms around 12 degrees."

In 1999 Labour set up an inquiry to look into the electricity industry. They appointed one of their own, former MP David Caygill, and paid him $1500 a day to head the inquiry. The inquiry recommended market policies remain and that self-regulation rather than government control was the way to go. The report, which cost a whopping $7million, called for continued competition between power companies to generate power and supply it to customers. More of the same, in other words. So it is hardly surprising that we are faced with power crises frequently and a price increase of this magnitude.

"Previous governments, the free marketeers and fee-gorging consultants like Caygill; all played their part in turning the electricity industry into a mess. But none of them are held to account."

"There was a time when there were not power crises every 18 months. There were power boards that were elected local bodies - and although they were mostly run by businessmen and operated as part of the state capitalist system - they were not driven by the profit motive. But from the mid-80's, with New Right fundamentalists in charge, public ownership became a dirty word."

Sam Kingi also adds that the capitalist system is full of contradictions and absurdities. The very same people who lecture solo parents and beneficiaries to 'take responsibility'; can wash their hands of any responsibility for their colossal botch-ups. Then to top it off they get paid handsomely for the mess. While beneficiaries are struggling to get by on incomes that were slashed to a pittance in 1991 big business has grown fat from asset sales, government grants, state-funded bailouts, and tax cuts. Corporate welfare is flourishing at the expense of the country's workers and the present power debacle is just more evidence of that.


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