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Far North power outages – Update #6: 0600 hrs 10/7/14

Media Release

Kerikeri, 10 July 2014

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Far North power outages – Update #6: 0600 hrs


Top Energy line repair crews working in shifts in difficult conditions brought 3,500 Far North households back online late yesterday afternoon and into the evening, with the result that at 0600hrs this morning approximately 7,500 Far North households are without power, down from the 11,000 at 1615hrs yesterday.

Two thirds of those off supply are in the northern part of the region, where the damage has been more extensive.

Today crews will continue to focus on restoring the 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.

Crews will be back out at daylight but continue to experience very heavy rain and high winds across the region.

A small window of clear weather yesterday in which Top Energy was able to get a helicopter in the air to survey the damage and locate the main feeder faults has proved critical to its success in being able to ‘sectionalise’ damaged feeder lines and prioritise the areas requiring work.

Crews from Counties Power and WEL, will be working with Top Energy teams today in the northern part of the region.

The company is reinforcing the point that its priority today remains the repair of main 33kV and 11kV feeder lines and that means that while customers might see crews working near them they are not necessarily working on their particular servicelines, but we will come back to these as soon as possible.

The company is also warning that some customers who don’t yet have power may face a third night without it.

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

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

“We lost 75 percent of supply to the Far North supplied from Kaitaia and 25 percent to the Mid North supplied from Kaikohe.”

“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.

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 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.

“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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