Teuila Fuatai is a reporter for the NZ Herald

Power price lift stings Far North

Far North residents were slammed with the country's highest average power bill increases this year - jumping more than $300.

Figures from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment show average power costs in the area increased by $306 in the 12 months to November 15. In the Whangarei and Kaipara districts, average bills jumped by $98.

The increases come amid spiralling petrol and food costs and record unemployment.

Since last year, Far North lines provider Top Energy has increased charges by $257 - a significant factor in higher power prices.

Chief executive Russell Shaw said: "Prices went up last year when we purchased the Transpower assets - the substations at Kaikohe and Kaitaia and the 110,000 voltline that connects them.

"We now charge for those assets rather than Transpower."

The Northpower lines company, which supplies the Whangarei and Kaipara districts, increased its charges by $63 during the period.

Overall, Just Energy customers in the Far North experienced the biggest hike in prices for the year ($406).

The company's national sales manager, Jason Davis, said increases in lines charges and national infrastructure upgrades had contributed to the price rise.

Contact Energy - the largest power provider in the Far North - increased prices by $310 for the period, affecting 61 per cent of power consumers.

Meridian Energy, which supplies 34 per cent of customers in the Whangarei and Kaitaia districts, hiked prices by $59 for the year. Nationally, power bills jumped by an average of $117.

Powershop chief executive Ari Sargent said where energy companies' prices had increased, this was mainly due to higher transmission prices and more expensive retail costs.

He expected power prices to edge higher next year as costs associated with the national power grid update filtered through to consumers.

"On average, I think most people would expect to see relatively flat prices, maybe a slight increase," Mr Sargent said.

"You expect from an end user customer point of view that most households should pay similar to what they're paying this year.

"They shouldn't be expecting a large increase in most cases."

- Northern Advocate

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