Police say power has been restored to thousands of Auckland homes left in the dark after a fire underneath power lines prompted mass power cuts from the Waikato to Northland and throughout Auckland this afternoon.

Armed police were forced to escort Transpower staff onto the Waikato farm of Steven Meier - where sagging power lines had set trees alight.

Mr Meier said he warned Transpower "five years ago" that the fire would happen, and they did not do anything about it.

Following the blaze Transpower declared a grid emergency
forcing large scale rolling power outages.

The company directed Vector to reduce pressure on the electricity network, causing power to be cut to to thousands of homes in Auckland.

Mr Meier spoke to nzherald.co.nz as police entered his property with Transpower workers this evening, saying he'd complained to Transpower since 2006 about the power lines that cross his 31-hectare property and, especially, the sagging power lines.

In October 2006, at the height of a controversy over a new power line to run to Auckland, Mr Meier told the Herald he would block Transpower from having access to his land.

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Today he revealed he and his wife had taken Transpower to court over the company illegally entering his property.

"It has cost me and my wife hundreds of thousands of dollars," he said.

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"All [Transpower] have done is persecuted and harassed and ruined my business."

He said his whole hedge had "been burnt to the ground" by this afternoon's fire.

Because of the delays in getting onto the farm, the power outage had been expected to continue until at least 8.30pm.

Mr Meier said Transpower wanted sections of his land to build transmission lines upon.

He said Transpower staff were now "illegally on his property" and were "slashing" the burnt scrub beneath the lines.

Vector chief executive Simon Mackenzie said areas around Auckland, the North Shore, Manukau and Waitakere had been affected.

Vector was unable to advise the exact time and place outages would occur but said would try to keep customers informed, he said.

Customers were advised to listen to radio for updates and prepare for power cuts.

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Auckland Mayor John Banks said the power cuts being experienced across Auckland were the result of "reckless management" by Transpower.

Among the Auckland suburbs affected were Remuera, Ponsonby, Epsom, East Tamaki, Freemans Bay, Manukau, Mt Wellington, Newmarket, Onehunga, Birkdale, Beachhaven, Northcote, Glenfield, Manly, Helensville, Hauraki, Forest Hill, East Coast Road, Albany and Belmont.

Earlier, on the social networking site Twitter Aleisha Moore wrote: "The power is out here where i live near Ramarama."

Treewheeler wrote at 6.25pm: "Can't believe that power isn't back on yet in botany! Very slack."

Another nzherald.co.nz reader wrote: "The power went out here around 4.30pm and is still off at 6.22pm."

Cameron Brewer from the Newmarket Buisness Association said: "Half of Newmarket businesses lost power around 4.45pm this evening. Fortunately it's at the end of the day, but it does nothing to inspire confidence about the security of electricity supply into Auckland."

nzherald.co.nz readers also reported traffic gridlock in the Auckland suburb of Ponsonby with traffic backed-up all the way down College Hill and along Ponsonby Road.

Mr Banks said it was "ridiculous" that power cuts of this magnitude could result from a fire on private land.

"How could that possibly close down so much of Auckland?" he asked.

Mr Banks said up to 10 per cent of the city had been "shut down" by the power cuts, and traffic was gridlocked.

"[The power cuts] are a result of under-investment, callous disregard by Government and reckless management by Transpower," Mr Banks said.

He said Transpower executives "on their huge salaries" would be "held to account" for today's power cuts.

Senior Sergeant Chris Money of Auckland police said large areas of Manukau and Auckland City were out of power.

Mr Money said many traffic lights were not working.

"We've got traffic cars all over Auckland trying to deal with the traffic lights," he said. "It's particularly busy for us because of it."

He said the police were fielding large numbers of calls from the public related to the power outage.

- NZ HERALD STAFF