Waitara substation upgrade spurred by neighbourly aroha

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

A group of elderly people standing in front of a fence with a sign on it.

For an example of a great group of neighbours, look no further than Mahia Mai A Whai Tara community centre for seniors in Waitara, North Taranaki.

With a smile, a hug and a friendly chat, the kaumātua at Mahia Mai have paved the way for the successful completion of an almost $3 million redevelopment of Powerco’s Waitara West substation.

During the past year, the substation has been upgraded with the introduction of two new, higher capacity outdoor transformers, along with new foundations, bunding and firewalls.

“It’s been a big undertaking and will support our Waitara customers’ electricity supply through many years of future growth,” Powerco General Manager Electricity Karen Frew says.

“This work was much more than replacing infrastructure though. Our neighbours, Mahia Mai a Whai Tara, made this work such a pleasure for all involved – it’s been bittersweet for some of the team who’ve now needed to move on to other projects.”

The Waitara West substation is a compact site with limited access. To enable access to the rear of the site so that all the heavy equipment – including the transformers weighing more than 40 tonnes each – could be delivered, Powerco leased part of Mahia Mai’s carpark that borders the substation yard.

“We've been so fortunate to work with them. They've been incredibly flexible with our requirements and have worked with us every step of the way, allowing us to close the whole carpark when we needed to, so that we could get cranes in for the transformers. They put up with the dust and the noise and the inconvenience for just on a year, and we really couldn’t have done it without them,” Karen Frew says.

“When we asked for a year-long extension to our lease agreement, it was met with an immediate response of, ‘Yes, of course’.  When we asked them if we could get in early to start prepping for the re-sealing works, the response was, ‘Sweet as. If they want to go down any time to get set up or whatever, just help themselves.’ Nothing was too much trouble.”

Powerco’s contractors for the work, Omexom and Connell Contractors also came in for special mention in feedback from Mahia Mai – “The guys working here are so lovely and well-mannered”.

The project team’s main point of contact was Kaiwhakahaere, Facility, Engagement and Experience Manager, Mahia Mai A Whai Tara, Che Tamati.

“Our kaumātua are really community focused, so when they learned that the power substation was being upgraded for the next generation, they were super keen to be part of it,” Che Tamati says.

“Engagement is important to the older generation. They just loved talking with those working on site and they’re quite sad now that it’s finished. The crew working there were just lovely to our people. Very respectful.”

The money for leasing half of Mahia Mai’s carpark during the upgrade has been put to good use. It’s enabled the community centre to purchase around 40 tukutuku panels for the kaumātua to create – something the organisation had been wanting to do for some time but the cost was prohibitive. 

To celebrate the end of the project, a morning tea was held with the project team and Mahi Mai kaumātua and a photo taken in their newly their newly sealed carpark. Above is a photo of the group at the celebration, while the photo below shows the outdoor transformers, along with bunding and firewalls.

 Two large outdoor transformers in an electricity substation yard.

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