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Labour's power plan supported by 40% of Kiwis - poll

Published: 12:09PM Wednesday May 15, 2013 Source: Fairfax

Almost 40% of New Zealanders support the Opposition's controversial power policy, a new poll suggests.

However, the results were close, with 34% of respondents opposed to plans to create NZ Power, a centralised government agency to retail electricity.

The UMR Research survey, commissioned by the Green Party, asked 750 people for their views on the policy, announced last month.

Greens co-leader Russel Norman said: "More people support it than oppose it despite a barrage of pretty inaccurate criticism [from the Government]. It's a good start."

He said the debate got confused after National "threw the kitchen sink at it".

"In spite of that we got a good outcome," Norman said.

"As we get a chance to explain it over the next year and half, I think support will increase."

The Labour-Greens plan involves establishing a state-owned company, NZ Power, to buy electricity from generators at what it deems to be a fair price and pass on the savings to consumers through retailers.

They have promised to knock off between $230 and $330 a year from household power bills.

Norman said people liked the idea of changing the regulatory framework to lower prices. "We've all experienced a dramatic increase in electricity prices," he said.

But Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce said it showed a "fair bit of scepticism that people have to the idea that Labour and Greens will drop power prices".

He said the results were more even than he expected.

"If somebody rolled up asking 'we think we can give you cheaper power would you like some?' you'd probably expect a higher number in favour fairly soon after the policy was launched, Joyce said.

"What we are picking up is two things.

"Firstly that the public are quite cynical that it would actually occur - and they are right to be cynical. And the second thing is they are already concerned about the knock-on effects - what does that mean (for) investment, my KiwiSaver?"

The poll field work took place between May 5 and 7, before last week's share float of Mighty River Power.

Joyce said: "Now that the float is away I suspect that it's a little bit less salient for [the public]."

Norman didn't agree.

"The Government said it affected the share price," he said.

"If they are right, they are admitting our proposal will lower power prices."

* The poll had a margin of error of plus or minus 3.6%.