Elderly man's repair bill comes as a bit of a shock

Neil Jenkin isn't impressed by the repair bill he's been sent by Network Waitaki after a fuse blew on a power pole outside his home. Photo / ODT
Neil Jenkin isn't impressed by the repair bill he's been sent by Network Waitaki after a fuse blew on a power pole outside his home. Photo / ODT

An 85-year-old Otago man wants to make homeowners aware of their responsibilities for repairing power poles outside their properties, as he faces an unexpected bill of more than $800.

Earlier this month, Hampden's Neil Jenkins lost power to his Lincoln St home after a fuse blew on the power pole outside.

The 85-year-old's home help, Christine Hill, found him in bed, in the dark, in a freezing home after spending more than eight hours without power.

She contacted Network Waitaki from a neighbouring property and the company responded within 30 minutes. Workers spent about an hour and a-half making a temporary repair on the pole.

On May 19, Mr Jenkins received a $275.23 bill for the temporary repair work and after questioning his responsibilities for maintenance, he was told more permanent work was needed at a cost, to him, of $580.

''It was always understood that from the power pole fuse to the house was the occupant's responsibility and anything out on the street was lines maintenance,'' he said.

A break-down of the bill for temporary repair allocated $81.25 for travel, $93 for maintenance time and $65.08 for materials and expenses, including a fuse link, line tap and shackle plates.

While Mr Jenkins can afford the bill, he said for others the financial implications could be devastating and he wanted to warn them.

''[I'm] not trying to get out of paying the bill, [I'm] just after an explanation,'' he said.

''It's not a fair go, really. People need to know what they're liable for.''

Most people Mr Jenkins had spoken to were under the impression that only if the pole was on their section would the homeowner have to pay.

At the time, Network Waitaki told Mr Jenkins the outage could have been because of a variety of factors including corrosion of the old line, due to the property's proximity to the sea, combined with the heavy rain at the time.

''I'm not responsible for the rain, surely?'' he said.

''And if it's your responsibility you should be able to fix it, but you can't.''

Network Waitaki chief executive Graham Clark said the company had to operate within the Electricity Act 1992, which defined the point of supply at which its network stopped and the electrical installation belonging to the customer began.

''Network Waitaki owns the lines and equipment up to the point of supply, which is typically the fuse at the top of the pole adjacent to the customer's property,'' Mr Clark said.

''The customer is legally responsible for the safety and maintenance of the electrical installation beyond the point of supply.''

When contacted by the Otago Daily Times, Network Waitaki said Mr Jenkins had elected not to proceed with permanent work.

However, Mr Jenkins said while he thought being charged more than $800 for repairs was ''ruthless'', the work needed to be done for safety reasons. Network Waitaki commercial manager Jan de Bruin said the matter would be followed up with Mr Jenkins.

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- Otago Daily Times

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