History of Buller Electricity Limited
Power to Provide
Celebrating 65 years service to the people of Buller
The Buller Electric Power Board was constituted and held its first meeting on December 11th 1947. A special commemoration was held on December 11th 1997 to mark the 50th anniversary of the first meeting of the Buller Electric Power Board. Since that time there have been significant achievements as the earlier development of the distribution system reveals the willingness of those community minded pioneers who strived through difficult financial times to press ahead with rural line extensions. The provision of a power supply ensured that remote areas had a chance to share the wealth of the country’s natural resources which electricity can provide at the same price as that paid by Westport’s urban consumers. Prior to the reforms of the early 1990s the Board strongly advocated that everyone was entitled to a supply of electricity no matter how isolated or remote they might be.
The Board’s busiest years were obviously in the 1950s with the arrival of the cement works in 1958 and the miracle of a flick of a switch happened at Karamea on July 6 1962 when a 70km line extension was livened. This was one of the major achievements of the company and in 1987 another significant project was a 24km line from Charleston to Meybille Bay which was built at a cost of $589,993 for eleven customers. Major events of catastrophe during the past 65 years were the 1968 Inangahua earthquake when power poles toppled and the Nikau slips in 1995 where the powerlines and poles came down in several places disrupting the power supply for long periods.
Milburn New Zealand Limited (now Holcim New Zealand) has been a major player of the company and the district taking more than half our load. From 1985 we worked closely together with demand side management whereby both parties were able to purchase their electricity at a far lower price due to a reduction in district peak demands where Holcim controlled the demand at Westport Substation by load shedding. This also worked to the benefit of power consumers who were able to receive a lower price.
The major change affecting the Board occurred as part of the Government initiated electricity reforms of the early 1990s. In 1993, the Buller Electric Power Board was corporatized and all assets were vested in Buller Electricity Limited (BEL). BEL was, and remains a company owned by a consumer trust (the Buller Electric Power Trust). All the shares of BEL are held on behalf of BEL’s consumers by elected trustees. The reforms of the nineties ushered in economic reform and the political philosophy of user pays. As a result in the same year the monopoly franchise areas were removed and the retail electricity industry was deregulated.
The pace of reform continued with light handed regulation introduced in August 1994 which changed the structure and operating principles of power companies. It was totally different from the earlier years where the major emphasis was on extending the reticulation to rural areas. There have been several quality regulation and information disclosure requirements that are administered by the Commerce Commission. Other aspects of BELs business, including low user charges, conveyance and use of system agreements and disconection policies are regulated. Today our direction is aimed at meeting customer priorities and needs by reliability and by providing a better service and quality supply of electricity.
On May 1st 1993 Buller Electricity became a limited liability company under the Energy Companies Act 1992.
Buller Electricity consumers chose the Trust ownership structure in which the shares are vested in a trust with trustees elected by consumers appointing directors with commercial skills to manage the company on behalf of the owners. During the corporatization process Buller Electricity employed 29 staff and in 2012 now employs 50 staff.
Buller Electricity is a line company and the Buller Electric Power Trust hold the shares on behalf of the consumers. While its core activity is distribution of more than 61GWh of power to its 4,680 domestic and industrial consumers it also designs and constructs a wide range of projects related to electricity supply and use.
In addition to its electricity lines (distribution) business, Buller Electricity currently operates a contracting business (Electro Services Limited) that performs maintenance and capital works for the electricity lines business and provides general electrical contracting services (including electricians and appliance servicing) to the local community and in the Nelson, Tasman and Marlborough regions.
The net assets of the company as at March 31 2011 was $20,775,000.
The area covered by Buller Electricity covers 4,345 sq km of the West Coast of the South Island and stretches from Karamea in the North to Meybille Bay near Punakaiki in the South. Much of the area covered is rural incorporating mainly dairy and beef farming with the largest population based in Westport. Only 8% of the land is controlled by private interest with the balance being owned by the Crown.
The supply area also includes two of the countrys major industries Holcim New Zealand Cement Works located at Cape Foulwind and Solid Energy’s Opencast Mine at Stockton situated on the Coal Plateau.
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