Grant Bradley

Aviation, tourism and energy writer for the Business Herald

Christchurch earthquake: Power suppliers go easy on bills

After the September 4 earthquake Meridian extended special credit terms and
After the September 4 earthquake Meridian extended special credit terms and

Power companies are setting aside millions of dollars to help customers facing hardship after the earthquake.

Contact Energy has put aside $2 million to help those among its 48,000 customers who have been hit by the quake and are having difficulty paying their bills. It is also offering $1 million in other measures including free bottled gas refills for anyone.

Contact managing director David Baldwin said the company wanted to help people get back on their feet.

"Contact can offer a range of support to affected customers including waiving of fees, deferral of payments and reduction of bills."

Meridian Energy had its office on Manchester St knocked out of action but was yesterday finalising its relief plans that were likely to involve setting aside $2 million to $3 million for "help in one form or another". The state-owned company - which has about 107,000 customers in Christchurch - yesterday donated $500,000 to the quake relief fund.

Meridian retail general manager Bill Highet said it was first focusing on the medically dependent customers who needed help and then would work on a longer term response.

"The thing we learned from the last earthquake is that there is no one-size-fits-all. We sent battery-powered radios to all of our customers nationally. Ninety-nine per cent of them thought it was great and they're using those radios at the moment but one or two came back and asked why we sent them," he said.

"Everyone has their own needs, some people may need some more time to pay their bill, others such as medically dependent people might need help in organising to get somewhere else."

After the September 4 earthquake the company extended special credit terms and "a lot" of temporary arrangements were made.

Highet also heads Meridian's crisis management team which was meeting at his Merivale home yesterday.

Another SOE Genesis Energy has donated $500,000 to the Red Cross Appeal and said it would take a "compassionate" approach to any of its customers struggling to pay bills.

After the first earthquake in September Genesis paid its customers' fixed line charges for two months and this was being repeated.

Mercury Energy has not finalised a relief package but said it would help those struggling with bills.

- NZ Herald

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