Huge blackout task nearly over

By Doug Laing

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GANGING UP: Electricity supply gangs at work in the Lochinver Station area off State Highway 5, during the replacement of more than 200 poles and restoration of supply to almost 200 homes and farms hit by the snow storm four weeks ago. PHOTO/SUPPLIED
GANGING UP: Electricity supply gangs at work in the Lochinver Station area off State Highway 5, during the replacement of more than 200 poles and restoration of supply to almost 200 homes and farms hit by the snow storm four weeks ago. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

Power supply company Unison Networks is hopeful today will see the end of a huge task of restoring permanent electricity connections to the hundreds of people who were blacked out in a snow storm between Napier and Taupo four weeks ago.

Dozens of generators were brought in to provide what was, in many cases, limited supply after the August 5-6 storm which brought down hundreds of poles and cut electricity to almost 200 homes and farms in the Taupo plains area towards the western end of the 130km stretch of State Highway 5.

Unison relationship manager Danny Gough says it has been the company's biggest damage repair job in more than a decade, many staff were away from home for several weeks, during which Unison also had help from crews provided by Electrix NZ, Central Hawke's Bay company Centralines, Waikato company WEL Networks and infrastructure company Broadspectrum.

Mr Gough said that, by Wednesday, when Unison had the last of its weekly meetings it has had with the people of the Rangitaiki Plains and surrounding areas since the storm, more than 150 customers were back on Unison supply and over 200 poles had been replaced.

"It's taken a tremendous amount of commitment and the guys are going all out to have them all back by the weekend," he told Hawke's Bay Today.

"We haven't seen damage like this on our network for well over a decade," he said in a separate statement. "The sheer weight of the snow pushed poles to the ground, broke and twisted them, as well as snapped lines. The restoration effort has certainly been significant."

Earlier this week the repairs were focused on reconnecting those in Lochinver Station and around the Rangitaiki Tavern area, and the target was to get customers on Matea Rd on to normal supply by the end of the week."

Mr Gough said: "The support of the community has been incredible and we are hugely thankful. We know that power was just one of the issues the locals had to deal with following the snow storm, and we have really appreciated their ongoing tolerance, support and assistance.

The situation also affected mobile phone coverage in the area, with some towers requiring battery power until the electricity supply was restored. Unison had to erect its own repeater station so that it could communicate with crews working in the area.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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