• Max Bradford

Energy Minister Max Bradford said today he was disappointed that the United Electricity-Southpower-Enerco retailing deal had fallen through.

"Newco retail was going to bring great benefits to consumers as the companies prepare for the new age of competition and choice in the electricity sector," Mr Bradford said.

"But it's clear that 'Newco Retail' couldn't proceed because of the way the Dunedin City Council is reacting to unrealistic promises by the Opposition Labour Party."

Mr Bradford said Labour is creating confusion and uncertainty for power companies with its energy spokesman 'guaranteeing' it will change the recently passed Electricity Industry Reform Act if it ever comes to power.

"You have to question the 'guarantee' of anyone who can say one minute that they will 'fully separate line and energy companies' - as Labour's energy spokesman is on record as saying - and the next minute appear to weasel out of the very clear meaning of this and instead promise a complete u-turn."

Mr Bradford said feedback from the electricity industry showed it was getting on with the reforms, with energy companies are taking a forward-looking approach to the options available to them.

"Feedback confirms the industry is focused on meeting the deadlines, in line with the legislation, to split their line and retail/generation businesses," he said.

"Feedback also tells me there is complete and utter confusion in the Labour ranks over what their policies are.

"It is dangerous political game playing by Labour to encourage power companies to gamble with their future viability by indicating they would repeal aspects of the Coalition Government's electricity reforms when one thing is for sure - they won't live up to this latest promise which is 180 degrees different from their 1996 policy."

Mr Bradford said the Government's recent electricity reforms are all about bring competition and choice into the market, and through this lower prices for consumers - particularly householders and small businesses.

"Aucklanders are very soon going to see the benefits of competition and choice thanks to the announcement yesterday that Contact Energy is entering the retail market there.

"I hope the Dunedin City Council will take a good look at the irreversible change happening in the electricity industry, and that they don't end up making decisions that will mean a bad deal for their ratepayers and electricity consumers."