Northland businesses will be hard hit by proposed changes to transmission line charges but whether that leads to job losses is not certain, the Employers and Manufacturers Association says.

The association was reacting to warning by a leading union that hundreds of jobs in Northland mills would be at risk if proposed changes went through.

E tu, a merger of the Engineering, Printing and Manufacturers Union and the Food and Service Workers' Union, has more than 1000 members in well-paid jobs at various workplaces in Northland.

The Electricity Authority's proposed "area of benefit" charge seeks to alter the way transmission charges are shared among power users so charges are linked to, among other things, costs involved.


The authority estimates residential customers in Whangarei could be charged up to an additional $64 a year and Far North residents an extra $87.

In its submission to the authority, the association said essential high-voltage connections such as schools or hospitals may pay an additional $22,000 per annum.

E tu industry co-ordinator engineering and infrastructure, Ron Angel, said the authority was risking high-value regional productive industries as well as local business in areas such as Northland that relied on the income of its workers.

He said large Northland-based businesses such as the Carter Holt Harvey LVL Plant in Marsden, Kaitaia's Juken NZ Triboard, Golden Bay Cement in Whangarei and Fonterra factories in Kauri and Maungaturoto would end up paying more for power.

E tu has 120 members at the Carter Holt Harvey LVL Plant, 56 at both Fonterra sites, 25 at Golden Bay Cement and 17 at Kaitaia's Juken NZ Triboard.

"All those businesses will be in jeopardy because they are larger power users and the reality is the amount they pay in power costs go up significantly, jobs could be affected."

Mr Angel said if skilled workers in regions such as Northland lost their jobs, there would not be any other work for them.

"To cut well-paid jobs in regions already struggling, house prices will start to fall, business will close and towns then become ghost towns," he said.

The association said it would be up to each business in Northland to decide how they would manage an increase in power charges.

"While we can't categorically say this will result in job losses, we can say that one of the reasons we've come out so strongly against the proposed changes, is that our members in Northland will be hit hard," spokeswoman Val Hayes said.

Some operators' costs would increase significantly.