Telco network company Chorus says it's hunting for 250 new technicians and support staff as it struggles to cope with long delays in fixing customer faults.
An announcement released this morning says that Chorus wants the staff by the end of the year - and has apologised to customers "who have been waiting too long for faults on its copper network to be repaired".
Improvement in this area is "an immediate priority", said Chorus, which has added nearly 2000 people to its workforce since 2011.
"During winter, when volumes of faults increase due to the weather, Chorus aims to keep average restoration times under 48 hours. A number of factors mean the average time to fix a fault has now increased to more than 60 hours, with some customers waiting considerably longer."
"We have had an unfortunate set of circumstances, including very wet weather and several major cable cuts by third parties, which has meant we've been playing catch up for the last couple of weeks," said Ed Beattie, general manager Infrastructure.
The plea for staff comes after residents in the Auckland suburb of Whenuapai last week complained of having no - or limited - phone and internet access for six weeks.
Telco provider Spark also issued an apology to customers who have been affted saying they have been inundated with more bad weather faults than normal.
Chorus' Beattie said taking more than a day or two to fix faults was "clearly unacceptable, both to ourselves and our customers. It's not good enough and I apologise to customers who are frustrated waiting for a fix."
"When you're short of people for all the work you need to do, it's a constant balancing act, and we should have responded to longer fault timeframes sooner. We know we need to find enough technicians to handle these sorts of unusual events, and we are continually looking to add more skilled techs to the workforce."
Beattie said that over the past week it had "reprioritised" some of its technicians from other work and locations, to fixing copper faults in Auckland, where most of the long waiting times were.
Before the recent wet weather and major cable cuts, the volume of faults on the copper network had been falling steadily, he said.
"The most fundamental challenge remains hiring enough people throughout the country to meet the demands of running an existing copper network, building a new fibre network and installing thousands of new fibre connections every month," said Beattie.
"The wider context is that across Chorus and our service company partners, we had about 1800 technicians working on the network in 2011, and today we have about 3700.
"We have scoured New Zealand for potential technicians, and also brought in technicians from around the world to help meet the demand, but it's still not enough. It's not a matter of budgets or willingness, we simply need more people and the "help wanted" sign is well and truly out.
Fault restoration performance month to date at 19 July 2016
- Total Chorus lines: 1,747,000 (as reported 15 April 2016)
- Faults currently logged with Chorus: 22,851
- Faults restored month to date: 22,437
- Average time to restore: 60.1 hours
- Currently open faults: 3,261
- Faults open for more than three days: 1,074