Kiwis left in the cold by asset sales

Kevin Campbell, Alliance Party co-leader

More New Zealanders will go cold if the National Government is allowed to sell shares in our power companies.

Providing New Zealanders with affordable and reliable electricity would be secondary to providing shareholders with the maximum return on their investment.  The asset sales plans have understandably met with massive opposition from New Zealanders.

Now these plans have been delayed, and are looking even more shaky and shonky.

This is the time to make sure that asset sales, including our power companies, are stopped for good.

Electricity is an essential product.

We depend on it for lighting, to heat our homes, provide hot water, and to power the many appliances we need for cooking and cleaning.

Everyone must be able to afford electricity for their home to ensure their health and safety.

Domestic electricity prices have been rising faster than the rate of inflation since 1991 when the then National Government first applied its free market policies.

The National Government says domestic power prices will not rise steeply if shares are sold in the three publicly owned power companies.

But the Government also promised to reduce unemployment and catch up with Australia.We’re still waiting for them to deliver on those promises.

In fact, unemployment has gone up and more of us are leaving across the Tasman every day. There’s a lesson in that.

If the power companies are sold, even partially, that’s just the beginning. Power prices will continue to rise as profits come first and people come last.

Electricity is too expensive already.

We frequently hear reports of elderly people sitting wrapped up in blankets, and going to bed early because they can’t afford to heat their houses.

Young children are suffering from illnesses directly linked to cold, damp houses.

The consequences for the elderly and young children if electricity prices rise even higher would be deadly.

Our electricity industry was built up by the people and has been publicly owned for close to 100 years.

Previous generations understood access to electricity is vital for everyone. That system worked most of the time.

New Zealand is still a democracy. Any asset sales can be reversed after the next election, should voters demand it.

The Alliance record in Government is to buy back into state assets like Air New Zealand and Rail, and even create a successful new one – Kiwibank.

Essential utilities like power companies could be bought back for the cost of shares at the time of sale.

They could even have to be taken back into public ownership with no return to shareholders if the country can’t afford to do it any other way.

If power prices rise as predicted and New Zealanders are left unable to afford electricity, then this would be the only way to ensure all our people can have warm and healthy homes, just like Government MPs do.