Extraordinary measures to get power restored

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

When toppled pines severed the power supply to Coromandel’s Wentworth Valley during Cyclone Gabrielle last month, poles and lines needed to be quickly moved to restore customers’ supply. 

The line of pines on rural Wentworth Valley Rd near Whangamatā took out power poles and lines at the height of the cyclone, cutting supply to 20 customers. 

Rather than resurrect the poles and restring lines in the same spot – it was deemed just too unsafe for crews to continue to work there because of subsidence and the threat of more trees coming down – Powerco and Downer field crews worked quickly to deviate the route.

The new 11kV route was actioned in days – rather than the usual weeks – benefiting customers and the local community. 

LiDAR 3D modelling of the area was used to plot a potential new route for the line and the local landower who’s property the line would deviate over was consulted. 

The landowner’s reception to the idea of the lines going over her land showed a “true sense of community”, Powerco General Manager Electricity Karen Frew says. 

“The owner lives off-grid so she doesn’t benefit from network electricity, but she saw the benefit for her community. It ended up with one pole being on the roadside and then one on her property,” Karen Frew says. 

“It all hapened really quick and basically felt like we had the diggers behind us as we were drawing up the plans and getting the land owner’s approval.” 

Downer crews were prepping the new site as Powerco electricity design engineers were finalising drawings and plans. 

There’s usually a process to go through, involving meetings, checks, balances and negotiations before poles and lines are moved – all of which takes time. There was no time for that this time round. 

Customers had already been without power for several days and a solution had to be enacted promptly. 

“We needed to get those customers restored as quickly as possible. In the area where the lines were orginally, the land was very unstable. There wasn’t an area where we could just reconnect the line. All the pines were at risk of coming down, so the decision was made to cross the stream and go down the other side of it,” Karen Frew says. 

“I’m really proud of our team and our crews who worked tirelessly in challenging conditions to get the power restored to our customers. And thank you to our customers, whose patience, understanding and encouragement helped sustain us as we worked as quickly and safely as we could to get the power back on.”

A rural road strewn with tree debris, with orange cones up the centre and a electricity truck in the distance.

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