Mayor exasperated by series of cabling woes

By Doug Laing

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New Zealand's most experienced communications cabling network faces a threat of being booted off the streets of Napier.

This comes as the City Council loses its patience over the damaging of pipes and mains during the laying of an underground fibre optic ultrafast broadband network throughout the city.

The company is Chorus, which emanates from the Government's Post and Telegraph Department established in 1881, and which became a separate entity listed on the Stock Exchange a year ago.

Chorus was directly fingered yesterday by Mayor Barbara Arnott as the primary offender, after two incidents in hillside Priestley Terrace, barely a kilometre from the Chorus headquarters and former Napier telephone exchange pictured on a company website page highlighting that in 1983 "we laid the first fibre cable in the ground".

Late on Wednesday a gas pipe was struck - "bringing out all our people," said Mrs Arnott - and yesterday morning, "ignoring what they should have learned from the night before," a water main was burst.

These are her first public concerns about a worsening problem of damage to underground infrastructure during excavating of thousands of sites around the city, part of a Government investment of over $1 billion to make UFB available to every home and business in the country. "This is totally unacceptable, and the people of Napier deserve much better," Mrs Arnott said.

There had already been about 250 events where facilities had been struck, including at least five in which water mains had been fractured, accelerating to the stage where the Council has now dedicated a staff member fulltime to supervising the remedial work and follow-up.

"We think this is unbelievable," said the exasperated Mayor. "We're writing [to the Chief Executive of Chorus] to say if this doesn't improve fairly smartly, you're outta here. This is just getting ridiculous."

The Council has stopped the company working in the inner city during the peak Christmas period, she said, but adding: "Now they're out ruining it in suburbs."

While facilities companies such as Chorus have the obligation to pay for reinstatement of damaged services, and restore surroundings to their former glory, Mrs Arnott there are still costs on the ratepayers.

While she expressed frustration with difficulty in getting to the key people in Chorus, company spokesperson Melanie Marshall said last night a pre-scheduled meeting is being held in the next week for the Council and the company to discuss ways of improving the situation.

"We absolutely apologise to the residents and the Council for the situation, and the inconvenience to the people of Napier," she said. "Strikes, unfortunately, do happen. We've got guys working around the clock.

"Whenever there is a strike, not another kilometre of cable is laid until it is fixed. We are doing everything we can to alleviate these issues," she said.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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