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Far North power outages – Update #8: 1600hrs 10/7

Media Release

Kerikeri, 10 July 2014

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Far North power outages – Update #8: 1600hrs


Top Energy line repair crews continue to face difficult conditions as they work on restoring the 33,000 volt (33kV) ‘main feeder lines’ that bring electricity to sub-stations before it is distributed to individual properties. The company expects to have restored electricity supplies to 1,000 customers in the Broadwood, Kaitaia, Rawhiti, Taheke and Towai areas by 4pm today, bringing the total without power across the Far North to around 6,400 households.

It hopes to be able to improve on that number “significantly” by the time it has to pull crews back in this evening.

Crews have been focussing today on repairing the “backbone” of the Far North electricity network and, and, as part of this, expect to have the 33kv line feeding the Pukenui substation repaired tonight.

Areas that continue to be impacted by the outages are Pukenui, Awanui, Te Kao, Te Hapua, Mahinepua and Peria and North Hokianga.

Once crews have restored the 33kV lines they will start repairing the 11,000 volt distribution lines and finally the smaller lines and individual ‘no power’ faults.

Top Energy CEO Russell Shaw warns that the continued atrocious conditions are hampering the repair process and extending it. It is now possible that the backbone of the network will not be back up and running until Friday night, meaning that those currently without power face a fourth, a fifth or even a sixth night without power.

“I’m sorry to say that, at this stage, it looks like some customers may not get power restored until Sunday morning.

“We continue to work flat out but the weather front causing all this is not moving off as previously forecast so we have had to revise our own repair timetable,” Shaw said.

“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.

“Any request for welfare, such as shelter, fresh water or food should be directed to the Far North District Council where it will be passed to Civil Defence.”

Shaw said the company had received “dozens” of supportive messages and emails from customers across the region, many of whom were still without power.

“This level of feedback during a weather event is unprecedented and has given us all a tremendous boost,” he said. “We are seeing the people of the Far North at their best in the face of this adversity. Our customers have been terrific; hugely patient and understanding. They know we’re working tirelessly, within the limits of safety, to restore electricity supplies.”

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

All of Top Energy’s 75 field staff are hard at work and have been joined in the northern part of the region by crews from Northpower, Counties Power and WEL Networks. Shaw said the company is “hugely grateful” for this additional support.

Repairs are being hampered by significant access issues as many trees have been downed across the region’s roads and there is extensive flooding. More than 60 roads across the region, including State Highways 1, 11 and 12, are closed or impassable in areas.

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

The company is working closely with the Far North District Council and Fulton Hogan to clear access into sites and this was working well, he said.

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

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 has increased repair time significantly.

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. It 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

CUSTOMERS: For all questions about your power supply and the status of repairs please contact the Top Energy call centre on 0800-TOPENERGY / 0800-867363


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