Electricity privatisation in Wellington

Issue 

Electricity privatisation in Wellington

By Max Anderson

WELLINGTON — With less than a month to go before the Wellington City Council makes a decision on the issue, the Save Capital Power group is rallying public support for its campaign to prevent the privatisation of Capital Power.

The local electricity supply authority, which has contributed dividends of NZ$38.3 million over the last three years, has been targeted by the council for sale, supposedly to pay off its debt of over $100 million. But there is good reason to link the privatisation to the new right's attempt to extend its program to local government. Already cuts in services and user charges have been imposed by a council led by Mayor Fran Wilde.

Wilde is a former Labour MP. She became mayor in 1992 and since embarked on a program of cost cutting. She appears to want to be able to boast of having achieved a "debt-free Wellington" at the next local body elections.

What she has omitted to mention is the probability that the debt would merely be transferred to the citizens of Wellington in the form of higher power charges from a privatised company, which would also have no requirement to practise energy conservation.

Wilde's advocacy of the sale has embarrassed local Labour Party MPs and councillors, who are anxious to forget the role their party played in the sale of much of New Zealand's family silver in the 1980s.

It may also have contributed to the Alliance's first electoral success in Wellington, Celia Wade-Brown's victory in a council by-election. This was achieved in a traditional Labour ward and will have suggested to Labour that the Alliance could make substantial inroads into the support it has previously taken for granted.

On June 29, a week before the full council votes on the sale, a rally will take place in Wellington's Civic Square. Speakers will include Alliance leader Jim Anderton, currently New Zealand's preferred prime minister in opinion polls, and possibly senior members of Labour and New Zealand First parties.

On May 30, 200 people attended a rally opposing the sale which coincided with oral submissions to the council. The crowd included members of the Seamen's Union, who are currently in receipt of lockout notices from the US company that now owns New Zealand Rail.