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16 February 2023

Your electricity rights on power outages after a natural disaster

We tell you your electricity rights if you were impacted by cyclone Gabrielle.

Electricity rights

My power is out, what do I do?

It’s likely that your retailer and your lines company know about any outage and are already working to restore your power, but it may take some time.

If your power goes out and you haven’t heard anything about the outage, or it’s just you affected, contact your retailer or your lines company as soon as possible. If you’re unsure who’s responsible for your local lines, click here for a map.

It’s up to you to keep yourself safe in a power outage. Keep a torch on hand and make sure you’ve got warm clothes available. Eat the food from your fridge first, then freezer, then your pantry.

Stay away from fallen power lines and treat them as live at all times.

I’m medically dependent on electricity, what should I do if my power goes out?

If you’re a medically dependent consumer (MDC), in the event of an unexpected outage you should activate and follow the emergency plan set up by you and your doctor, if you’ve got one.

If you haven’t registered as an MDC with your retailer or you’re an unverified MDC, let your retailer know you’re medically dependent and that the power is out.

If it’s an emergency, call 111 immediately.

What should I do about my appliances? Should I turn them off and what happens if they’re damaged?

Turn off appliances and electrical equipment as they may be damaged or become a hazard when the power comes back on, especially if you’ve got flooding or you have to evacuate. You can leave a light switched on, so you know when power is on again.

If your appliances are damaged when the power comes back on and you’ve got contents insurance, you may be able to claim under your policy. Exclusions may apply for any fuses, protective devices, lights or heating elements damaged by electricity.

You may also have cover for any loss that occurred as a result of the intial damage, including for the food in your fridge or freezer. Check your policy document.

You may be entitled to compensation under the Consumer Guarantees Act. You have the right to electricity of an acceptable quality. This means it must be as safe and as reliable as a reasonable consumer would expect it to be. Even though the supply has been affected by an emergency, reasonable care must still be taken when restoring the supply.

If you think the supply was unsafe in the circumstances, you can direct any claim for damages to your retailer. Even if the unsafe surge was the lines company’s fault, your retailer is responsible for remedying the damage.

It’s possible the electricity supply may continue to be affected by controlled black outs. Check in with your lines company to see if this may apply to you.

The private power lines on my property are damaged, who can fix them and will I have to pay?

The line owner is responsible for repairing and maintaining their power lines.

At your property, there is a point of connection where your cable or overhead line joins the lines company’s, usually at the boundary of your property. You own the cable or overhead line from the point of connection to your meter box and are responsible for keeping this line properly maintained and safe. You can also be responsible if the lines are on your private land, like farmland or a private accessway.

You can ask your lines company to fix your damaged lines, but it may charge you. It may also refer you to one of its approved contractors.

Can I use my outdoor gas heater or BBQ inside?

No, never use outdoor gas appliances inside. As the gas burns, appliances can produce poisonous carbon monoxide, which is harmful to your health and can be lethal. Only use outdoor gas appliances in a well-ventilated outdoor area.

Where can I go if I’m not safe at home?

Civil Defence Centres are open across the motu for those who need to evacuate, check here for your nearest centre. There are community shelters open in affected areas too, though these aren’t equipped for extended stays.

For more information on your rights when it comes to electricity, including how to complain about a problem, see our rights page.

Consumer advice line.

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