From off te grid to off te radar

Editors note: “te” is Maori for “the”. Te Radar is a famous NZ comedian.

After living off the grid with solar electricity for 8 years on a 38 acre farm surrounded by thousands of acres of forestland, I thought moving to the ‘burbs’ would be simply cosmopolitan: mains power; postal delivery; bus service around the corner; fish and chips around the next corner; and fish and chips around the next corner and the corner after that.

While the bus and fish and chips are working out well, we have had significant trouble with the post and a minor disagreement with Meridian Energy over our first bill. One might think that putting up a post box on a certain street with a certain number would qualify one for mail delivery to that particular number on that particular street.

But one might be wrong. As we discovered, despite a neon-clad NZ Post pedal pusher passing our lonely #10 five days each week, we failed to receive anything in our newly painted post box except circulars which we specifically requested not to receive. Ah, I get it. Everything is reversed in New Zealand: different hemisphere, different lane for driving; fork on the right; toilet bowl flushes opposite. We should have written ‘No Letters’ and ‘Circulars Please!’ on the box. Of course!

Alas, after half a dozen phone calls, a visit to city council, the local post office and NZ Post Central Processing Wanganui, we…think we have it sorted, although we will not know for sure until the national database of postal addresses is updated next month. In the mean time, 10 Arawa Place in Whangarei is enjoying an abundance of wandering mail looking for a home, and our dispute with Meridian awaits resolution.

Our first paperless (that’s why we got it!) electricity bill came in at $144.56 for 510 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity. The good news is although the NZ household average electricity consumption is around 25 kilowatt hours per day, this bill represented our use as 16.5 kWh. The better news is that we actually used 0.39 kWh per day for a total of 12 kWh on the month. In other words, we were over-billed by 498 kWh or 98%. There appear to be only 3 possible explanations for this: the meter-reader is blind; the meter reader was intimidated by our high-tech meter box…

…or he/she – like NZ Post – simply could not find 10 Arawa Place, Castlecliff, and so Meridian simply billed us on estimated use.

Turns out the latter was, indeed, the case, and they have promised to send a human being to take an actual reading next month. Better work on the meter box before then.

-M.C. Estwing

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