Muliaga family hopes for answers at inquest

01:43, Jan 31 2009

The contractor who disconnected the power at the house of Auckland woman Folole Muliaga will be a key witness at her inquest which begins tomorrow.

Muliaga died almost a year ago when the oxygen machine she relied on could not be used - prompting government and public condemnation of Mercury Energy's treatment of customers in financial trouble.

The inquest will bring relief to Folole's husband Lopaavea and her four children Ietitaia, Ruatesi, Morwenna and Eden who want to know how the tragedy happened.

Family spokesman Brenden Sheehan says they are not looking for a scapegoat, just for answers. "What they really want is just an answer as to why."

The Muliaga family owed Mercury $168.40 when their power was cut.

The hearing should end debate over whether the contractor was told Muliaga needed electricity to run her oxygen machine or that she was dependent on it. Police chose not to lay charges.


Sheehan says the family is relieved they are going to get some kind of closure, but it is it also a difficult time.

"There's some emotion about having to got through it all again."

Muliaga's death was a catalyst for a major review into how power companies deal with vulnerable customers and in the aftermath, disconnection numbers have plummeted.

Mercury Energy cut power to 0.35 per cent of consumers between January and March (compared with 2.3 per cent before the Muliaga case), Contact 0.02 per cent (down from 0.75 per cent), Genesis 0.27 per cent (1.16 per cent), King Country Energy 0.34 per cent (1.39 per cent), Meridian 0.01 per cent (1.55 per cent), The Lines Company 0.19 per cent (1.69 per cent) and Trustpower 0 per cent  (0.37 per cent).

Sunday Star Times