Mercury Energy has stood its ground, saying it did not put a foot wrong when it cut power to a South Auckland home shortly before a sick woman died.
Today the company said the contractor cut power to the South Auckland home of Folole Muliaga, 44, because of an outstanding power account of $168.40.
Mrs Muliaga was using an oxygen machine connected to the mains power supply and died less than three hours after the power was cut to her home.
The family said it pleaded with the contractor not to cut the power because it was needed to operate her machine and keep her alive.
Mercury Energy said it had no knowledge power was needed to keep the machine going.
Today Doug Heffernan, the chief executive of Might River Power, the state-owned enterprise which owns Mercury Energy, said they deeply regretted the death of Mrs Muliaga but they had done nothing wrong.
He said the bill was overdue and the family's attempts to pay it off were not keeping up.
The family had made two fortnightly payments and the bill which arrived less than a week before Mrs Muliaga died, gave the outstanding balance as $168.40 and a June 13 date by which it should be paid.
"The level of payments was less than the amount accruing. The family was getting further in debt despite the payments being made."
He acknowledged there were different versions of the event but said that did not mean they were backing their own contractor.
"We have never said we are backing one story versus the other.
"It is not our job to make a judgement on what are the actual facts. That will come through the investigation."
Mr Heffernan said the contractor saw Mrs Muliaga wearing a tube.
"However, can one expect someone who is from an electrician-type background to make a medical decision?"
He said he believed the company had done nothing wrong.
Mercury Energy general manager James Moulder, said the household had had formal letters, in addition to the bills, warning them the power would be cut off if the overdue bill was not paid.
The family had made two fortnightly payments before the bill with an outstanding balance of $168.40 was sent last week.
"Just by making small payments on larger bills does not mean you get out of the disconnection process unless you come and talk to us about it," Mr Moulder said.
He said the company tried to reconnect the power when they heard late on Tuesday night of the death of Mrs Muliaga.
A call was made from someone who was not connected with the house who said there was a funeral to organise.
"At that point we hadn't made the connection between the fact that there was a funeral to happen which is not a life-threatening situation for reconnection -- bearing in mind it was eight o'clock at night -- and the particularly tragic circumstances.
"We hadn't connected those two until about 11 o'clock at night."
When that happened, the power was reconnected as soon as it could be, and that would have happened with or without the bill being paid.
Mr Heffernan said the company was wanting to work with medical and other authorities to look at better processes to avoid putting lives at risk when electricity could be cut.
That could mean better communications by health authorities to power companies where there was a health risk, something which could not be done presently because of the Privacy Act.
Energy Minister Trevor Mallard released this afternoon a letter from Mercury Energy about their initial understanding of events in the run-up to the Mangere house being disconnected.
The letter was withheld yesterday because Mr Mallard was concerned about interfering with the police investigation.
National called for report to be released and Mr Mallard said now the information was in the public arena he had decided to release the material to those who asked for it.
Mercury Energy said the letter was written yesterday morning and that it represented the best information they had available to them at that time.
The letter reads:
"With reference to written and verbal requests for information today, from you and your office, with regard to the disconnection and subsequent death of Mrs Muliaga yesterday the following detail is provided.
As we have expressed to the family directly, we are naturally distressed by yesterday's events.
It should be noted that the information contained within this letter is provided in your capacity as a shareholding Minister of Mighty River Power Limited as it contains information that is subject to provisions of the Privacy Act.
As we continue to gather information from our service partners our view of the facts will no doubt become clearer.
The events, as we understand them, of 29 May 2007 are provided in chronological order:
* The electrical supply to Mrs Muliaga's property was disconnected as per our instruction to electrical contractors at, or around, 11am.
* The electrical contractor spoke to a youth at the property (understood to be Mrs Muliaga's son) and advised him that the power was due for disconnection due to non-payment. Mrs Muliaga's son accepted that power was to be disconnected at the property and made no mention of Mrs Muliaga's medical condition. Following the disconnection but prior to leaving the property the electrical contractor was asked by the son to speak to Mrs Muliaga about the disconnection.
* It was explained to Mrs Muliaga, by the electrical contractor, that disconnection had occurred due to non-payment of her account. Mrs Muliaga enquired about the time it would take to have the account reconnected -- it was explained that staff were on stand-by to reconnect properties once payment had been arranged. A card detailing the telephone numbers to call to make arrangements for payment was provided to Mrs Muliaga. At no time was the issue of Mrs Muliaga's medical condition or her reliance on medical equipment made known to the electrical contractor. He did note that she had a medical tube in her nose but this was not connected to any equipment.
* The first direct contact with representatives of the family to Mercury Energy, through a Victim Support person at the Otahuhu Police Station, occurred just prior to 8pm. A request to reconnect power to assist a family preparing for a funeral was made.
* Attempts were made after being alerted to the tragic circumstance surrounding Mrs Muliaga's death to have power reconnected as late as midnight. But we were unable to reach the family at the phone number we had on file, power was reconnected prior to 8am the following morning.
With respect to disconnection, our processes require considerable communications to ensure that customers have every opportunity to make or arrange payment.
The following procedures were followed in Mrs Muliaga's case and are embedded into out business processes.
* The bill is due 21 days after it is mailed;
* 10-14 days after this they will receive an automated phone call;
* 7-10 days after this they will receive their next bill with a message for payment and a disconnection notice will be sent.
* 7 days after this, a final disconnection notice is sent and a telegram is delivered by courier. The telegram states that they have 48 hours to make payment.
* Disconnection will then take place if no payment or arrangements to make payment are received.
Notwithstanding these processes, we provide limited opportunities to make other arrangements (in the event of extreme hardship and or where medical conditions make it appropriate) to exercise managerial discretion. This discretion is exercised in a small number of the ISO disconnections we arrange each day, indeed we note that the same electrical contractor that attended to the disconnection of Mrs Muliaga, together with our staff exercised this discretion in regard to an (deleted) property the day prior, on the spot, prior to actual disconnection.
Our disconnections are scheduled to occur during week mornings to enable the reconnection, if required, of properties. We have, along with other parties, attempted to get information from hospitals and other health providers as to persons that are reliant on medical equipment. But have been rebuffed on the basis of Privacy Act concerns.
I hope this meets you immediate information requirements. Please do not hesitate to contact me directly.
The Government has asked for advice on whether guidelines about disconnecting power supplies should be enforced through regulations.
Acting Energy Minister Trevor Mallard's spokeswoman said officials from the Economic Development Ministry had been asked to look into the guidelines in place now and the issue of whether they should be strengthened.
Mr Mallard said the Social Development Ministry and the Electricity Commission had worked with the industry on how it dealt with vulnerable consumers.
This had resulted in the 'Guidelines on Arrangements to Assist Low Income Domestic Consumers' being published in July 2006 for electricity suppliers to use.
Mr Mallard also asked officials for an update on any further work they were involved in, to protect vulnerable electricity consumers.