Fed up with high power bills, Taumarunui residents take action to challenge TLC

Pensioner Graham Deadman lives his life around keeping his Lines bill down.
FRANCES FERGUSON / FAIRFAX NZ

Pensioner Graham Deadman lives his life around keeping his Lines bill down.

Facebook keyboard warriors protesting against The Lines Company have come out from behind the computer to form a committee.

The "TLC Set Us Free Taumarunui" is made up of Taumarunui locals fed-up with high power bills.

Chairman of the group Jacques Windell said there is nothing locals can do unless people come together and unite. 

Ruapehu mayor Don Cameron says the region's  biggest obstacle for future growth is The Lines Company.
STUFF

Ruapehu mayor Don Cameron says the region's biggest obstacle for future growth is The Lines Company.

"If we go up against TLC as a region, as King Country, that's where we're going to get somewhere."

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The Lines Company charges for the delivery of electricity - essentially customers' access to the grid. 

Members of he new action group preparing evidence to fight back against the King Country Power Network giant.
FRANCES FERGUSON / FAIRFAX NZ

Members of he new action group preparing evidence to fight back against the King Country Power Network giant.

It uses peak demand charging - monthly bills are calculated based on an average found from the six highest two-hour windows of power usage during load control periods in a financial year.

This results in some consumers' lines charges being higher than their peak electricity usage account throughout the year.

The group plan is to have a sub-committee in all of the different groups currently working independently around the district.

"If it's just Taumarunui I don't think it's enough to get everyone behind it. We all know what they (TLC) are doing is wrong."

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He said with national elections next year now was the best opportunity to get the Government to intervene.

"The only way we can do that is put pressure on them."

Pensioner's enduring battle

Taumarunui pensioner Graham Deadman lives his life by the 'Switch It' monitoring device to keep his power consumption down.

As soon as the light turns red everything is turned off, except one light and the television.

Deadman and his wife Heather have been living like this for years.

His round-the-clock vigilance, seven-days-a-week has kept his bill down to around $35.

"The whole lot is crap. It's got to the point we shouldn't live like this."

Most of his daily routine is consumed around trying to keep the kilowatt reading at 0.59 or less.

This includes energy lights in every room, the mobile TLC app', the Owl monitoring device from Grey Power and a live stream of the region's load data and network.

Sellotape has been put on the light switches to stop his wife from turning them on.

"This is how we live. The whole thing stinks. They're not consumer focused at all. All they want is money for their shareholders."

It's even worse when visitors come to stay.

"I had my son come here for one night - luckily they didn't load. If they had it would have gone up."

Deadman has been leading protests against the company since 2010.

Despite being bogged down with a few health issues, he said the fight continues.

"I know of elderly people going to bed at four in the afternoon, some of them without eating. It's absolutely criminal."

Company responds

Louisa Last, senior communications adviser for TLC, wouldn't talk about the Deadmans' situation but said they actively engaged with all their customers and would take advantage of appropriate opportunities to talk at community group events.

"We encourage all customers to come to us directly with concerns relating to their account and to receive advice about load management that is most appropriate for their individual situation."

At a recent Sustainability Land Management Group meeting, mayor Don Cameron said Ruapehu's biggest obstacle for future growth under Accelerate25, was TLC.

"We have a fulltime economic development officer with skills of attracting and retaining business but the one thing killing it at the moment is one company, TLC."

Jo Wickham and her husband moved to Taumarunui from West Auckland two years ago to retire but said in retrospect if they had known about The Lines Company they would have gone elsewhere.

"I understand why businesses aren't coming here because you're over a barrel. You've got no choice and it's doubled up our power bill.

"We never got this in West Auckland. It's wrong. I've never stuck anything like The Lines Company until I moved here.

Toherangi Holloway, who had lived in Otorohanga, bought a house in the Taumarunui area 12 months ago and when he got his first power bill he was "absolutely horrified."

"For me it's not just about the The Lines Company but it's about seeing some change in town and there's a lot of opportunity for it."

Windell said they have a bit of work to do getting evidence ready for their Wellington-based lawyer who has agreed to work pro bono.

 - Stuff

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