Battler gets her marching orders

LYN HUMPHREYS
Last updated 11:07 12/03/2014
tdn pwer stand
ANDY JACKSON
Student Kim Webby has been using a generator to power her home for the last three months.

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A New Plymouth battler who turned her back on power companies is now in a fight with neighbours and other authorities.

Student Kim Webby has been using a generator to power her home for the last three months, after becoming disillusioned during a dispute with her provider, Contact Energy.

The generator, which she bought on Trade Me, costs between $20 and $30 a week in fuel to run and powers her household. She also uses jumper leads to her car as a back-up.

But now she is being threatened with eviction because Housing NZ says the generator is unsafe. And the New Plymouth District Council is also unhappy, slapping her with a $500 infringement notice because the machine is considered too noisy.

"It's bureaucracy gone mad," says the Waimea St resident. "It's put everyone out of their comfort boxes and they don't like it."

Housing NZ, in a letter dated March 5, has ordered Webby to stop using the generator immediately because it is putting their "asset" at risk.

If it isn't removed by next Wednesday, when the corporation says it will next visit the house, it may seek to end her tenancy.

A letter from the NPDC, dated March 7, says Webby received two notices about excessive noise, on February 28 at 10.10pm and on March 1.

The battles with bureaucracy are just the latest skirmishes in a fight that began with Contact Energy, which threatened to cut off her power when it discovered a four-year-old outstanding power account she had unknowingly accrued for $400.

Webby, who supports herself on a student allowance and is in the first year of a Bachelor of Applied Social Science degree, offered to pay it off but says Contact refused.

She has since paid off the account but was incensed by the company's attitude.

"So I bought the generator off Trade Me for $400 and away I went. I thought I'll just have my own power, thank you very much."

She turns on the 2000-watt generator, which is about the size of a beer crate, once a day for 2-3 hours.

When neighbours started complaining about the noise she installed it in her outside shed, surrounded it with polystyrene insulation and built another box around it as a buffer.

She now believes the noise is no louder than the traffic outside her door on the busy street.

But it was still loud enough to attract Housing NZ. Area manager Raewyn Vooght said the corporation checked on the generator after complaints from neighbours.

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"We have also been informed by our contractors that the generator does not comply with current safety standards and is a serious fire risk.

"We have informed Webby that she would be able to keep a generator if it complied with required safety standards and did not disturb neighbours. However, this generator is unsafe, which is why we are taking this action," Vooght said.

Webby said neither party had told her why she was in breach or given her the guidelines.

"I still don't understand their reasoning. It's just bollocks as far as I'm concerned.

"I'm going to plug on. I have no intention of giving up and going back to an electricity company."

- Taranaki Daily News

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