A couple has hit back at Vector for attempting to charge nearly $50,000 upfront to hook up their new home in Auckland's Mangere Bridge to the nearest power pole.
“I laughed. I was like there must be a typo, you need to take off one of those zeroes,” says Michelle Hohepa.
Her husband thinks it is part of the reason that building in Auckland is so costly.
“That dream is slipping further and further away as we see more of this,” says Dylan Hohepa.
A standard $2100 new connection charge applies to connections, but Vector imposes a limit of 20m of cabling. The Hohepa’s new house needed more, so Vector says their job is non-standard. That means they were quoted the full amount, as calculated by Vector’s preferred contractor, Northpower – a whopping $48,985.
The couple is convinced Vector’s costs are inflated. Chorus is about to trench and install a broadband fibre duct and line to their new home for a fraction of the cost. Fibre is less hazardous than power and the cables aren’t buried as deep, but Chorus is quoting a standard charge of $1,380, compared to Vector’s quote.
A spokesman for the electrical industry says it’s a common problem, describing Vector as a holding a monopoly in Auckland.
“Nothing starts until the money's paid up front; I'd love to be able to run my own business that way,“ says Dave Burt of Master Electricians, the industry body for electricians.
Energy Minister Megan Woods says the costs do seem high and suggests the couple complain to Utilities Disputes, a free service.
Officials at MBIE are watching also. A spokesperson acknowledges companies can secure a contribution from new customers, but told Fair Go: “It is in the best interests of electricity distributors to price the cost of new connections in a way that doesn’t discourage consumers from connecting to the supply.”
Vector is defending its approach and says the standard charge applies where up to 20m of cable is required and from experience longer runs involve higher costs, which it says should fall on the person wanting the new connection.
“Our connections policy ensures electricity consumers are not subsidising network extensions that benefit property developers, and it is not uncommon for utilities to structure pricing in this way,” says Vector executive Andre Botha.
The couple says Vector’s policy is not fair and may help explain why Auckland has a housing shortage.
The Hohepas were determined to get the bill reduced. After several weeks of asking, Michelle managed to get Vector to share a breakdown of the cost. It turned out that much of the allocated cost was for roadworks, and that Vector had allowed a week to carry out the work.
“They said it would take seven days but the guy doing the Chorus job said he’d be in and out in a day – a day and a half at the absolute worst”, says Michelle.
The good news is that after two and a half months of sheer persistence by Michelle and Dylan, and by working with Chorus and its contractor to dig up the road just once for both services – and with Fair Go’s involvement – the cost is now estimated at just over $15,000.
It just goes to show – if you haggle you can fight the power.