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Extensive damage to power poles as result of Emerald Bay fire - Aurora Energy

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

People who had a power cut due to the fire at Emerald Bay near Wanaka will remain on a temporary supply until later next week, when Aurora Energy can restore their usual power supply following complex repair work.

Challenging terrain to get to power poles damaged in the fire, combined with difficult ground conditions, mean repairs have taken longer than expected to complete.

Seven power poles had to be replaced, including a complex three-pole structure on the top of the hill above Emerald Bay, before permanent power can be restored. Around 30 customers are currently being supplied with electricity from a generator, with other properties on a temporary electricity supply.

Aurora Energy General Manager Operations and Network Performance Matt Settle said the work would usually take two days under normal conditions.

"Site access is difficult due to where the poles are located and this adds to the time it is taking to replace them, especially for the three-pole structure that is at the top of the bluff and supports a long span of power lines," he said. "It also took longer than expected to break through the solid rock at the top of the hill and we had to bring in a second ground-breaker machine to help. We’re progressing well but there is still a lot of work to do."

Mr Settle thanked customers who had an outage during the fire for their patience while Aurora Energy organised for a generator to be set up or alternative supply coordinated. Setting up a generator takes time due to ensuring the set-up is safe; in this case it involved laying earth matting to protect people from electric shocks, before switching people on progressively to make sure the generator was not overloaded.

"Customers on the Mount Aspiring side of the fire area who are currently on a generator were asked to use essential electricity only while we confirmed we had a sufficient amount of generation available to cover the demand, and we were pleased to contact them during the week to let them know they could return to their normal electricity use as we had capacity for this," he said.

Customers in the area are getting regular updates by Aurora Energy staff. When a date is confirmed for when the repairs will be complete, customers will be contacted again and told to expect a power outage for up to two hours while they are switched back to their usual power.

"This will impact on all 78 households who had a power outage during the fire, plus some additional customers who were not initially impacted but will be when the power is restored. This is due to the setup of the electricity network in the area. Our customer experience team will be in touch next week to let them know when to expect their power to be out for a short time," Mr Settle said.

Aurora Energy thanks the Department of Conservation for giving access to DOC land where four of the replacement poles sites are located, and the cooperation of land owners who have also granted access for inspections, repairs and generator setup.

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