Waikato farmer Steve Meier has fought a five-year battle with Transpower. He has never made a secret of the fact he doesn't want its workers or pylons on his land.

Yesterday, those pylons sparked a fire in a shelterbelt of trees, leading to major power disruption in Auckland and beyond.

Traffic lights went out - forcing police to control intersections - and more than 50,000 homes were left powerless and some businesses were forced to close.

Last night, Mr Meier blamed Transpower for the cuts, saying he warned it five years ago that a fire on his 13ha property at Matangi near Hamilton would happen.

However, company chief executive Patrick Strange said Mr Meier was the most difficult person in the country to deal with.

Transpower finally got access to the farm last night with an armed police escort - but not before five chaotic hours. Power was down as firefighters tackled the blaze.

"We have had major difficulties with this guy," said Dr Strange. "We do have a right to enter the property but we can't just walk on. We have to deal with him in a legal sense.

"We have been trying to get on the land for some months. We've been sending him notices saying we needed to do tree-trimming...".

For the past five years, Mr Meier has tried to get trespass orders against the grid operator, staged protests and attended Federated Farmer meetings with about 50 other landowners in the area upset at the company's refusal to pay for easement rights for hosting its structures.

Transpower has a right under legislation to enter properties to undertake maintenance work and has no legal obligation to compensate landowners as long as no "injurious effect" results.

Mr Meier's farm has about six sets of lines running through it, including the Whakamaru-to-Auckland line, which had to be turned off so firefighters could put out the blaze yesterday.

He was inconsolable as the flames engulfed his pines and caused at least four explosions as the lines short-circuited.

Transpower had to ask electricity retailer Vector to reduce pressure on the network by implementing rolling outages.

Electricity retailer Vector said it had not yet decided whether it would compensate customers or seek compensation from Transpower over the outage.

"In these kind of circumstances there is not usually compensation made," said chief executive Simon Mackenzie.

The matter would, however, be canvassed as part of the investigation into what happened.

Auckland City Mayor John Banks said the disruption was the result of "under-investment, callous disregard by Government and reckless management by Transpower". He said it was a "Third World power supply" and Transpower executives "on their huge salaries" would be "held to account. I'll be talking to the Prime Minister and other relevant ministers about this".

Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee said Mr Banks' reaction was "a little bit over the top", given the problems the company had getting on to the farm.

Yesterday's incident couldn't be seen as a system failure, he said. "There was no failure as far as I can see of equipment. There was a fire. Whenever there is a fire, there is going to be potential for damage."

Transpower is this year due to start an upgrade, worth at least $20 million, to increase the amount of electricity transported on the existing grid line. But it needs access to Mr Meier's property and is liaising with his lawyer.

Last year, electricity supplies to Auckland were disrupted twice, including after one major incident in which the Marsden Pt oil refinery was forced to close.