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Power disconnections increase as hardship grants are cut

Written By: - Date published: 8:47 am, March 25th, 2014 - 38 comments
Categories: benefits, class war, national, paula bennett, same old national - Tags:

paula bennett photo op

Radio New Zealand has reported this morning that since 2008 the number of power disconnections has soared at the same time that hardship grants by WINZ for electricity and gas are falling. Work & Income made nearly 7,000 fewer hardship grants last year than in 2011, but disconnections rose more than 10,000.

The Government sent Simon Bridges to be interviewed. This is a strange decision as you would think that the Minister in charge of WINZ who issue the hardship grants should have been interviewed instead.  The issue is clearly related to poverty and WINZ’s refusal to deal properly with clear cases of hardship.

It was reported that in 2008 there were 10,000 power disconnections although this figure had dropped after the death of Folole Mulianga and steps then taken to ensure that medically vulnerable people did not have their power cut.

Bridges told Radio New Zealand that he wanted fewer disconnections to occur.  The way he discussed the matter it seems that an inability to pay is somehow the power companies fault.  And good luck with that once they are all privatised and have obligations to private shareholders.

He said he had written to the power companies outlining his expectation that disconnections should come down and has threatened to use regulatory powers against them.  He has told his Ministry officials to work with WINZ officials to “work on some of the processes they have to just ensure that if there is any room for improvement there that we are improving and we are assisting beneficiaries …”

He thought that a solution would involve better communication to WINZ clients of their rights.  You get that, better communication will pay outstanding bills and there is no problem with hardship grant policies.

Brent Edwards noted that disconnections had increased from 10,000 in 2008 to four times that level today.

Instead of blaming the Electricity Companies Bridges Bennett and Co ought to have a look at the increasing incidence of poverty.  Maybe they should start by developing an official measurement of poverty.

38 comments on “Power disconnections increase as hardship grants are cut”

  1. Tangled up 1

    Brent Edwards noted that disconnections had increased from 10,000 in 2008 to four times that level today.

    The requirement for electricity companies to operate according to commercial criteria isn’t working.

    Surely electricity should be a service that everyone can access without breaking their budget.

    Why can’t electricity be delivered via the public sector (funded/subsidised through taxation) like education and health?

    • bad12 1.1

      Tangled up, agree with you entirely, along with the single desk wholesaler of electricity it is my view that a Labour/Green Government need build a Government owned nationwide retailer tasked with delivering electricity to household consumers at a rate that can be clearly seen as 1-2% above what the wholesaler is charging,

      Such a company should be modeled upon the ‘best’ of what is currently available including an ‘online provider’, and, if such a company sends all the other retailers to the wall, wouldn’t that be tough, but, that’s what REAL competition is all about…

    • Ergo Robertina 1.2

      It isn’t working as a commercial model, and this goes to a fundamental flaw in our market economy that neither side wants to acknowledge.
      Because politicians of both stripes are not sure how to set up an economy that does not depend on price gouging and ticket clipping on basic services in a small population base.
      NZ Power is not a game-changer.

      • bad12 1.2.1

        Ergo Robertina, i tend to agree with you in the vein of ”what would a single desk wholesaler do to hold down the profit gouging of the retail providers of electricity”,

        i somehow think that it is wishful thinking that just because prices at the wholesale level are kept in check the retailers will be somehow constrained in their attempts at profit maximization,

        However, a Government owned retailer charged with delivering electricity to households at cost plus 1 or 2% certainly would…

    • Draco T Bastard 1.3

      Why can’t electricity be delivered via the public sector (funded/subsidised through taxation) like education and health?

      It can be and, in fact, that’s how it used to be but we got those fools in Treasury demanding that everything needs to make a profit and preferably be privately owned including government services. The 4th Labour government started the implementation of theses delusional and psychopathic policies and they’ve been followed ever since by our political parties.

    • PapaMike 1.4

      Are there any figures as to whether the total disconnections are from the same families ?
      Are they all separate families ?

      • freedom 1.4.1

        There were reportedly 40,000 disconnections in the last year alone PapaMike.

        I am sincerely interested in your questions,
        mainly because I cannot decipher what you are trying to spin from this?

      • Tracey 1.4.2

        yes, there are four families in total, being regularly disconnected since 2008.

        by day they are cleaning windscreens at major intersections and not declaring tgeir earnings, so its not really about poverty.

  2. Colt45 2

    One miunte at The Standard you’re all talking about gambling being the plight of the poor in NZ.

    And the next minute you’re all talking about increased power disconnections amongst the poor in NZ.

    Just saying.

    • bad12 2.1

      Dolt45, do we really need to sit here and patiently explain to you the proliferation of gambling outlets and their relevance to an increased rate of power disconnections of an increasingly desperate demographic who are increasingly being denied additional financial help from WINZ,

      That question was entirely rhetorical in nature, intent and content,we all here at the Standard could spend the whole of our day explaining such relationships to you but in the final analysis it is doubtful your ‘wing-nut’ would with deliberation choose to comprehend such relationships,

      My view is that you are in fact an empty vessel, a mere spitoon, and far from waste my time giving elongated explanations to the likes of you i would propose that we all use you as the destination of our sputum as we en masse expectorate it in your direction…

    • Tracey 2.2

      so you agree that cutting funding to an effective provider of treatment and prevention of gambling problems will lead to even more power disconnections amongst the poir?

    • Weepu's Beard 2.3

      I think one “miunte” gambling (and spelling, heh) is a social problem foisted upon us by marketing types, like smoking and drinking. And the next minute electricity is, well, a survival tool. Can you not see the difference?

    • miravox 2.4

      “One miunte at The Standard you’re all talking about gambling being the plight of the poor in NZ.

      And the next minute you’re all talking about increased power disconnections amongst the poor in NZ.”

      Great that you’re seeing links between different factors of the economy and society and how these links might impact on the everyday lives of people. Mind you, in this case you’d need to show causation between the gamblers and the whole of the 40,000 disconnections to make your point, I assume, that poor people gamble therefore they have their power disconnected.

      If only we had a government that was as smart as you. Then we might have policies to reduce the links between (to start a random list)

      gambling and money taken out of communities
      gambling and unattended children
      low pay and empty cupboards
      high electricity prices and no fridges
      high house prices and high rents
      casualised workforce and delayed visits to doctors
      rugby and domestic violence
      alcohol availability and emergency department admissions
      domestic violence and kids missing school
      dairy farming in dry areas and polluted groundwater
      a market model for electricity, low pay and people choosing between food and light

      Just imagine if we could link 3 or more factors without doing our heads in? We might be on the way to a brighter future.

  3. Bastables 3

    Are you inferring a link between those in poverty being shafted from multiple vectors in a society that is increasingly predicated on inequality?

    Mate welcome to western thinking/discourse in the 19th century[and present day New Zealand]. Haere mai, Haere mai.

  4. vto 4

    Electricity has become a necessity for survival in Aotearoa. It is required for heat and cooking. Most of us are not allowed to burn wood for heating or cooking and so are forced by law to use electricity. This is a fact.

    So imagine if we were not allowed water because we could not afford it?


    Water and electricity are essential for survival in NZ. As such they cannot be left to the vagaries of private ownership and maximum charge. The fact that electricity is so left is disgusting and a sign of a poor society with little regard for its citizens. Poor us. Shameful.

    • bad12 4.1

      vto, yep, water, electricity,food, and a decent affordable ‘shelter’ as a home should be the basic rights of every New Zealander, no ifs nor buts, simple basic human rights,

      • Draco T Bastard 4.1.1


      • Olwyn 4.1.2

        +1000. If we had the collective will to fiercely defend these basic human rights, any economic system we followed would be forced to accommodate us, rather than the other way round.

    • Draco T Bastard 4.2

      Water and electricity are essential for survival in NZ. As such they cannot be left to the vagaries of private ownership and maximum charge.


      And it used to be considered, many years ago, as a public good which is why the government built the generators and the lines.

    • Tracey 4.3

      100% agreement with this.

      I also believe the unit price should be the same regardless of where you live in nz.

      • Draco T Bastard 4.3.1

        The unit price should be the same no matter if it’s a home using it or a business.

  5. FrizzleFry 5

    Interesting. It would appear that after a brief dip following the death of Folole Muliaga in 2007 disconnections for non-payment have returned to the 2006 level (~45,000), when the economy was doing reasonably well and unemployment was at a generational low.


    • Tracey 5.1

      if correct this shows that good economic news or bad economic news the poor struggle and the neo lib capitalist plan has notched up another loss.

    • mickysavage 5.2

      Looks like working for families kicked in and the power companies started behaving themselves no doubt in part because of Folole Muliaga’s death.

      So how does this excuse the cutting of emergency grants at the same time as disconnections have again soared?

  6. Tracey 6

    if this were a caption contest…

    “this is MY bowl of soup”

    is bennett overseas on hols, hence bridges roped in?

  7. Tracey 7

    gordon campbell nails my thoughts on paula bennett and labour *??

    “Unfortunately, the inability of politicians to look in the mirror is evident close to home as well. Social Development Minister Paula Bennett’s recent description of Kim Dotcom as a “fat German” is a crass and obvious example. Bennett would be better advised to address the culture of cruelty that she – and her Labour predecessors – have fostered within Work and Income offices. Routinely, WINZ abuses the people who seek the welfare support to which they are perfectly entitled, as taxpayers and citizens. The courageous, eloquent accounts of her experiences at WINZ by sickness beneficiary Sarah Wilson have gone viral in recent weeks for a reason. Clearly, this is not the way that New Zealanders want to treat each other when they’re in need. Bennett and her colleagues should be ashamed for enabling such a culture to exist, and for making political capital out of it. At the same time, if Labour MP Maryan Street really is going to take up the challenge and address the issues that Sarah Wilson has exposed, we need to know that a Labour government would act differently on welfare issues. Is Labour for instance, still fully committed to making Working For Families available to beneficiaries – or has that policy gone down the memory hole?”

  8. Richard@Down South 8

    Anyone able to find the breakdown of inflation measures?

    As i understand it, big ticket items such as cars, tv’s are taken into account (both of which have gotten cheaper over the years) while things such as power, rent and food have gone up at rates higher than inflation.

    My theory is if you’re spending your money on essentials (like even a lot of dual – middle income families who are struggling), and wages/benefit increases are set at inflation related rate, say 2%, which is fine, except if inflation minus the big ticket items, is say 8, 10 or even 15%, it would be easy to see why people aren’t getting ahead.

    (I read somewhere, perhaps NRT, last year, that rent is on average, 77% higher scaled to incomes, than it was 30 years ago)

    • Molly 8.1

      I read a while ago that sudden increases in some products and services can be designated as “volatile” and as such are excluded from inflation calculations – as the inflation figures are to measure long term trends.

      I took this to mean that, if petrol rises 45% over the year, this increase will be flattened out. If rates go up 20% – that too is considered volatile and adjusted to fit the trend.

      So the inflation rate does not seem to measure the difference in price for essentials – which would be useful. So although NZ’ers pay more for these things, the inflation figure does not reflect it. Another reason why linking wage increases to inflation is flawed.

      I’ve never had much time for inflation figures since. But if anyone can be bothered, the Reserve Bank has a couple of links: Inflation calculator and A pdf: Measures of New Zealand core inflation.

      “Note that in using the CPI to measure price changes, the calculator may not give a good estimate of the level of prices of assets (e.g. house prices) or the prices of individual goods/services whose price levels have on average changed by significantly more or less than the change in the CPI in the specified years.”

  9. Bill 9

    You’re missing something here ms.

    40 000 disconnections are for people who are paying for their electricity on a monthly basis. That figure does not include those on some kind of pay-card meter…those people don’t get disconnected; rather they just quietly and invisibly, go without electricity until they can top up their cards.

    I believe, as an aside, there was something about those costs being 60% higher than in ‘regular’ scenarios.

    Anyway. Go to WINZ a few times and you get sent (pointlessly) to a budget adviser or/and portions of your entitlement will get directly controlled by WINZ (rent payments, electricity payments etc)…meaning that there will be even more weeks when a person claiming entitlements is short, and worse, they will have lost the ability to juggle since so much of their payment is out of their budgetary control. Point is, once WINZ are making payments directly from your entitlements, you can’t then pop into WINZ and say there is an emergency because you had to pay every last penny on electric and need a food grant or whatever. And that means there are fewer hardship grants.

    Meanwhile, if you are on a pre-pay card meter, then hey…you’re screwed.

    • Ergo Robertina 9.1

      ‘I believe, as an aside, there was something about those costs being 60% higher than in ‘regular’ scenarios.’

      David Shearer highlighted the 60% differential this month (it was also highlighted in a 2012 Otago Uni study) between prepay and monthly bills. Truly a disgrace, when the customers present zero credit risk. A better example I do not know of what Gordon Campbell in a column in 2012 labelled New Zealand’s ‘predator society’ where both the arms of Government and the private sector basically do over a small isolated population where free market values reign supreme.

      • Tracey 9.1.1

        deserves a more expansive post of its own

      • rhinocrates 9.1.2

        Fuck Shearer. Captain Mumblefuck bashes beneficiaries when he finds it convenient. Don’t expect him to be any use if Labour gains the treasury benches – a fair-weather friend is a traitor in waiting. You can trust him as far as you can trust Bennett.

  10. Tanz 10

    she is just a Key puppet, doesn’t care, no empathy, she’s alright, so stuff everyone else.

    • Weepu's Beard 10.1

      Paula Bennett? Indeed. Not sure she had to pick herself up by the bootstraps with no power in the house.

      • Draco T Bastard 10.1.1

        No, she didn’t. She had full government support – support that she’s been taking away as fast as she can.

  11. tc 11

    Plenty of other grants and ancillary benefits seem to be getting chopped by letter leaving folk to approach those lovely people at winz.

    Ive had a few chats with elderly folks who winz have put through the blender just to maintain what they have been getting for years with limited sucess leaving them in trouble if family and friends werent helping.

  12. Richard@Down South 12

    Last time I was in my local branch, there was a newly taped line about 3 metres from the counter, maybe 4… chairs had been displaced, and people were standing because all the chairs were full

  13. A VOTER 13

    PULA BENIFIT a good aka for the subject
    Poverty credentials
    Over fifty and still labouring for a living
    Ill and paying 3 fifths of 5/8ths of FA of a benefit to live
    Taxed at 45 + % on every thing you buy or earn
    Cant see poverty on that what an AH

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