Maui gas leak: major users will have to wait

By Abby Gillies

Erosion of the earth under the pipeline is thought to have caused a 13cm rupture and the best case scenario is for repairs to be complete within three days. Photo / SNPA
Erosion of the earth under the pipeline is thought to have caused a 13cm rupture and the best case scenario is for repairs to be complete within three days. Photo / SNPA

Many shops, cafes and restaurants will be allowed to use gas again from today, but some larger businesses will have to wait, with repairs on the Maui pipeline leak due to continue over the weekend.

Overnight repairs went "really well'' but it could be another 2-3 days before work on the pipe carrying gas to the central and upper North Island would be concluded - and that was if no unexpected problems cropped up, said Simon McKenzie, chief executive of Vector, which manages the pipeline.

All gas has been removed from the pipe and a 60cm-long section with the failed weld has been removed.

Testing is being carried out to check all welds in the pipe, but so far no further problems had been found, said Mr McKenzie.

"The pipe is in good condition and there is no evidence of any corrosion,'' he said.

Gas retailers have been contacted and will let customers know if they can switch their supply back on.

Business owners are advised to contact their power company before using gas again if they are unsure.

They join residential gas users and essential services, such as hospitals, who were the first to supplies restored.

Thousands of businesses have been affected by gas shortages and some are considering seeking compensation for loss of profits, but the pipeline owner says it's not clear who is liable.

Rob Jager, chairman of Maui Development Ltd, which represents the owners of the pipeline, said it wasn't clear if company was liable for any compensation.

"The issues of compensation will first and foremost be between the buyers of the gas and the sellers of the gas and they are many and varied,'' he told Radio New Zealand.

"In the first instance, any contractual arrangements between buyers and sellers are where discussions need to start,'' he said.

It was "too early'' to say whether Maui Development would offer compensation to businesses who have lost money because of the leak, said Mr Jager.

He said their focus was dealing with the leak in the open access pipeline.

McKenzie agreed when asked about compensation at a press conference this morning.

"Any form of compensation should occur between the retailer and the customer,'' he said.

Auckland Council's three crematoria, Manukau Memorial Gardens, North Shore Memorial Park and Waikumete Cemetery, which were closed yesterday due to the leak, have switched to alternative fuel supplies, with Manukau opening today and others from tomorrow.

Most of the main council swimming pools have stayed open but water temperatures are cooler than usual and there is no hot water for showers.

Mr McKenzie said it appeared sub-surface ground movement may have caused the 13cm crack.

"Anyone who has flown from Taranaki up to Auckland will know that terrain all along the coastline from Taranaki right up through the Waikato is extremely steep and rugged.

"[Ground movement] may have caused some stress on the pipeline that has then led to a crack.''

Acting Energy Minister Hekia Parata said the Government's focus was first on ensuring the leak did not pose and safety hazards, second on making sure there was no environmental damage, and third dealing with its economic impact.

The Minister said it was too early to say what this impact would be.

"I just want to reiterate that those users who are able to take gas should moderate their use as much as possible, just practical steps at home of using electricity if that is available for cooking or for heating because we really need to keep as much spare capacity ... as possible.''


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