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Far North power outages – Update #5: 1615 hrs 9/7/14

Media Release

Kerikeri, 9 July 2014

Far North power outages – Update #5: 1615 hrs

About 11,000 Far North households will be without power tonight following extensive damage to the region’s electricity network by the severe storm experienced across the region for the past two days. This is likely to include the 9,000 customers who were without power last night.

The areas that continue to be most impacted by the outages are Pukenui, Awanui, Te Kao, Te Hapua, Mahiniapua, Peria, Towai, Russell and Opononi.

Some 6,690 customers face a further 24 hours from now without power. And for 4,470 of these households it may be another 48 hrs before Top Energy is able to bring them back online.

“We’re gutted: a significant chunk of the Far North will end up having been without power for two, possibly even three nights, before supplies are fully restored,” said Top Energy CEO Russell Shaw.

“We’ve lost 75 percent of supply to the Far North supplied from Kaitaia and 25 percent to the Mid North supplied from Kaikohe. That’s 7,500 of our 10,000 customers in the Far North and 5,000 of our 20,000 Mid North households.”

Top Energy repair crews have been battling high winds and driving rain all day to restore power to 33,000 volt (33kV) ‘main feeder lines’ that bring electricity to sub-stations before it is distributed to individual properties. The next step is to repair the 11,000 volt distribution lines and finally the smaller lines and individual ‘no power’ faults.

“This is why we’ve been unable to reduce substantially the number of people without power since 11am today,” said Russell Shaw, Top Energy CEO. “We’ve had to fix the higher voltage lines to re-energise the substations before we can turn to the lines feeding individual areas and properties.”

People with queries about the status of repairs to their lines should contact the Top Energy call centre on 0800 867363.

“It’s important that people know that if they’re currently without power it’s unlikely that they’ll get it restored before tomorrow morning, and it might be off for even longer than that,” Shaw said.

Repairs are being hampered by significant access issues as many trees have been downed across the region’s roads and there is extensive flooding.

“Our lines staff have had to chop trees off roads just so we can get to the lines,” Shaw said.

The two crews sent by Counties Power to help have not even been able to get into the region as they have been stuck, along with tonnes of their equipment, on State Highway 1 where the road has been blocked north of Whangarei.

The storm is the most severe event that Top Energy has experienced for at least a decade and the scale of the damage to the network, across the entire region, is immense. Significantly, this extends beyond wires to include poles and other structures. Sturdy concrete electricity poles have been blown down and even snapped and large 50-60 year-old trees have been blown down across lines and access roads. Winds gusting up to 160 km/hr have ripped lines out of the cross-arms on electricity poles.

Usually damage to structures is relatively minor and Top Energy can simply clear tree debris and pull wires back up. But in this case the structural damage will increase repair time significantly. Repairs may be further hampered by more heavy rain and winds of up to 130 km/hr forecast for this afternoon and this evening.

All of Top Energy’s 75 field staff have been involved in repair work today. The company has extended its call for additional repair crews and has been in contact with other networks to see what resources might be available. Two further crews with specialist vehicles and equipment are also travelling up from WEL Networks in the Waikato to assist.

“Our customers across the Far North have been terrific,” Shaw said. “They’ve been hugely patient and immensely understanding. They need to know that we’re working tirelessly, within the limits of safety, to restore their electricity supplies.”

Top Energy is reassuring those who continue to experience a power outage that the company is aware of all the main lines that still need to be repaired and will send crews to these sites as soon as possible.

If anyone is aware of any at-risk or seriously ill people who are suffering through the lack of power they should contact emergency services on 111 as soon as possible.

Top Energy is asking members of the public to remain clear of downed powerlines at all times, to keep other people clear and also to keep animals away. That fact that the school holidays are on makes this safety request even more significant – parents are being asked to treat all downed power lines as live and to ensure that children are warned about lines on the ground and kept clear.

END

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