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Unison continues restoration work following Cyclone Gabrielle

Unison continues work to restore the electricity network in Hawke’s Bay following extensive damage by Cyclone Gabrielle. This week crews will continue working  house-by-house and street-by-street to inspect and liven flood-damaged properties, and to repair, tidy and reconfigure the network in areas remaining without power – including in Aropaoanui which was livened yesterday and in Esk which Unison aims to liven next week. 

While Unison’s response following Cyclone Gabrielle has transitioned to recovery with a focus on completing temporary repairs to the network to provide the level of service and security there was prior to the cyclone, engagement with rural communities is ongoing.

In the last week Unison has met with community members in Pakowhai, South Puketapu, Waiohiki, and Bayview, to provide progress updates, safety messages, and answer customer questions.

“At each stage of our response we had a clear plan involving four key phases – phase three involved rural engagement and restoration. While we’ve moved to phase four, which focuses on our transition to recovery, we continue to undertake repairs in rural areas and to engage with our rural communities and keep them updated on progress”, says Mr Larkin.

In this phase, Unison will maintain efforts to restore its network back to where it was prior to the cyclone, as well as inspecting and reconnecting individual properties in areas where power has been restored. Two key focus areas in phase four include the clean-up and repair of Awatoto substation; and securing full supply from the national grid.

In Awatoto, crews are working to decontaminate, clean and dehumidify Unison’s flood-damaged distribution network and zone substation, and preparations have begun for the construction of a temporary substation.

“Clean-up work in Awatoto, while arduous, is progressing well. In the meantime, we have supplied power to all Awatoto residences, and have a limited supply available to our commercial and industrial customers based there. We’ve also successfully reconnected the wastewater treatment plant.”

Another priority for Unison in this recovery phase is fully restoring supply from the national grid to what it was in prior to the cyclone.

“We’re working alongside Transpower to ensure supply into the region meets demand ahead of winter. We have a firm plan in place to undertake the work required to build additional resilience and security in transmission supply, ahead of peak demand during the cooler months”, says Mr Larkin. 

This includes work at Transpower’s Redclyffe substation this week as part of continued effort to restore electricity supply security in Hawke’s Bay back to pre-cyclone levels, which will require planned outages for parts of Napier overnight tonight. Details of outage times and affected areas are available on Unison’s Facebook page and website.

“We have worked wherever possible to minimise the risk, impact and frequency of any outages arising from this work”, says Mr Larkin.

“We want to assure our customers that we are doing everything we can to ensure a reliable supply to keep the lights on for our communities, and we remain wholly grateful for their ongoing understanding and support.” 

As at 8am Monday 3 April, Unison has 98 residential connections still without power on its network which are yet to be inspected and livened.  A further 301 properties are unable to be safely reconnected due to flood and cyclone related damage.

Some important key messages for the community are as follows:

  • Unison urges customers on its network to be prepared for occasional outages. These could be as short as 5-10 minutes but may last longer and may be more frequent at peak times. Guidance on preparation for outages can be found on Unison’s website at: www.unison.co.nz/tell-me-about/safety/electricity-outages-be-prepared
  • For customers still without power who reside in an area that is now reconnected to Unison’s network (areas coloured green on Unison’s online restoration map), please check if there are lights on in your meter box.  If not, then you do not have power to your property. Please log a fault at www.unison.co.nz/outages. This will ensure Unison is aware of the issue and can make arrangements to assess and, where possible, restore power. We encourage customers to check in on any neighbours, whānau or friends who may still be without power and pass on this message.
  • If a property (not red stickered) is without power and has had flood damage or there is evidence of damage to the electrical installation at the property including the meter box, and the service line connecting the property to the network, an electrical inspection is required before the property can be reconnected to the network. Unison (with the help of agreed contractors) is arranging for these inspections to be carried out at no cost to the property owner. Please report the fault on our website at www.unison.co.nz/outages or call 0800 2 UNISON (0800 2 86476). We will then contact you to make arrangements for an electrical inspection to be carried out.
  • Unison recommends customers of red-stickered properties request a permanent disconnection, as it will likely be some time before they are ready to use power again. Permanent disconnection helps keep everyone safe who works on repairing or re-building the property, and will ensure the customer doesn’t pay any charges for electricity while they are not able to use it. Unison will not apply any charges for permanent disconnection requests for properties damaged by Cyclone Gabrielle. See FAQs on Unison’s website for more information: www.unison.co.nz/outages/outage-faqs
  • Reconnecting service lines or service mains. These are the lines that connect dwellings, building or equipment (such as a pump) owned by the customer, to the electricity network. These need to be repaired before electricity supply can be restored to customers. While our focus is on repairing and rebuilding main distribution lines to restore as many customers as possible, we will make repairs to service lines at the same time if the job is relatively straightforward and can be done as part of our network repair work. Where there is more severe damage to customer service lines, options will be discussed with customers. Where an agreed repair is needed, we will schedule a dedicated service team to do the repair as soon as we are able. Unison does not charge for repairs that are simple and can be done immediately. However, when repairs are not straightforward and require design and construction, we will discuss the work to be done and any costs with the customer first.
  • As restoration is progressed, please assume all lines and assets are live. Due to flooding, ground contours have changed in many areas. Unison urges all contractors, farmers, orchardists, anyone working around electricity lines or using plant and machinery (e.g. diggers tip trucks, forklifts, etc) as part of the clean-up, to be aware and stay safe around electricity. Treat all lines as live, know what’s below, look up and live, and contact Unison for cable location services and safety permits.
  • Hot water:
    All customers who reside in an area that is now reconnected to Unison’s network (areas coloured green on Unison’s online restoration map) should have their hot water back on. If a customer in these areas has no hot water, they should log a fault at www.unison.co.nz/outages. Customers in generated areas (areas coloured orange on Unison’s online restoration map) may have no or limited hot water, and we ask that they please bear with us while we work to get them fully reconnected.
  • Please respect and stay clear of Unison crews as they work

Unison crews are working long hours in challenging and dangerous conditions to restore power as quickly and safely as possible. Many of them have also been impacted personally by Cyclone Gabrielle. Please keep your distance, and respect crews as they focus on completing repairs. 

  • During power outages, Unison regularly advises the following safety precautions:
  • Check for fallen or damaged electricity lines and treat lines as live at all times. Never touch wires or lines lying on the ground, hanging from poles, or objects such as tree branches that may be touching them. Fallen lines or wires may still be carrying an electrical current and could shock, injure or even kill if touched. Unison is urging anyone who sees a power line down to report these to www.unison.co.nz/outages
  • Turn off the power at the main switch if you suspect any electrical damage in your home. If the power goes out, turn off all electrical appliances to prevent possible damage by a power surge when the electricity supply is restored.
  • When the electricity network is damaged, it might take some time to get reconnected, so make sure you have a battery-operated radio, a torch, spare batteries, and a full gas bottle for your BBQ as part of your emergency kit.
  • Medically dependant customers are advised to prepare for the likelihood of no power and make alternative arrangements in advance.

Outages should be reported at www.unison.co.nz/outages in the first instance, as we are experiencing high call volumes through our call centre, which can still be used for those who do not have access to the internet - 0800 2 UNISON (0800 2 86476).

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