The soaring cost of freight and power in the Chatham Islands will be at the top of the agenda when islanders meet Prime Minister John Key today.

Mr Key is taking a two-day tour of the 11 islands, 800km east of the mainland, for the first time since being elected.

He is travelling with Cabinet ministers David Carter and Chris Finlayson and Maori Party co-leader Tariana Turia.

The Chathams' key industries of fishing, farming and tourism are seeking greater investment from the Government.


Mr Carter said the brief visit gave ministers an opportunity to properly understand the challenges faced by the population of around 600 people.

"The big challenge for them is connection with the mainland, it is transportation, it is the state of the wharf, it is the availability of shipping, because that all impacts on the cost of living over there."

One of the Chathams' central problems is its limited power supply, which councillor and hardware store owner Monique Croon described as "the most expensive electricity in the world".

Islanders paid $1.02 per kw/hour for power, compared with around 25c in the rest of New Zealand. Mrs Croon said her home power bill was $450 a month, and $900 a month for her store. One processing company had a monthly power bill of $8000.

The isolated islanders are heavily dependent on diesel fuel for electricity. Two wind turbines were installed in 2010, but have not reduced costs as much as residents had hoped. The council is also considering new hydro and tidal projects.

Mrs Croon said that despite their isolation, islanders felt they should be on even terms with mainland New Zealanders, and this could only happen with more Government support.

"We've always tried to argue that we should have a similar service as New Zealanders, because we're part of New Zealand. Why should be we paying so much?"

She said supply to the islands was intermittent because the lack of a breakwater at Waitangi Bay meant ships lost about 70 days a year to rough weather.


Island prices
* Electricity: $1.02 per kw/hour (mainland: 25c)
* Petrol: $2.83/litre (mainland: $2.18)
* Diesel: $1.83/litre (mainland: $1.57)
* Milk: $8.50/2 litres (mainland: $4.40)
* Loaf of bread: $5-6 (mainland: $2-4)