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Unison progresses plans for Awatoto restoration

Unison is engaging with local residents, the business community and councils to develop restoration plans for the Awatoto Industrial Area.

Unison’s Awatoto Substation supplies power to a high number of industrial and residential customers in Napier. It was one of three substations on Unison’s network, alongside Tutira and Esk Valley, that was severely damaged by flooding from Cyclone Gabrielle.  Last weekend Unison repaired and restored power to its Tutira substation and surrounding areas while repairs to the Esk Valley substation are in progress. 

Awatoto was hit hard by flooding during Cyclone Gabrielle leaving behind floodwaters that contained biological and chemical contaminants from the industries in the area and Napier City Council’s wastewater treatment plant.  

Preliminary testing of the area has been undertaken and initial results show high levels of contamination in silt and remaining flood waters, which could be harmful to people.  Napier City Council has been working closely with the Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee chaired by FENZ, which advised in a report that a hard cordon around the area is necessary to ensure public cannot access the site. 

Unison is conducting risk assessments in preparation for inspecting, cleaning, and repairing Unison’s substation and network assets.  Today teams have also been on site to disconnect and service transformers in order to extend and liven 11kV lines, in the hopes power can be restored to residents in some northern parts of Awatoto early next week.  

Unison’s Incident Controller and GM for Commercial Jason Larkin says, “We’re acutely aware of the impact having no or limited power has on communities and the livelihoods of businesses.

“Unfortunately given the flood damage and contamination in Awatoto, work to fully repair our network in this area will take some time, but we’re considering a number of alternatives to restore power to some parts of the area quickly in the interim.”

“Our crews are poised to undertake the necessary inspections, decontamination and repair of our distribution assets and substation as soon as environmental testing confirms we can safely carry out this work. The safety of our teams remains paramount,” says Mr Larkin.

In the interim, Unison says it is working on restoration plans for the Awatoto Industrial Area and engaging with the local business community and councils.

“We have a number of large commercial and industrial customers in Awatoto who we are very conscious are keen to clean up and get business underway. I want to assure these customers that Unison is working tirelessly, and closely with other agencies, to restore power to the area as soon as safely possible,” says Mr Larkin.

“Unfortunately, there is also a small residential community that has been affected and without power as a result of the Awatoto flooding.  Restoring power to them is our top priority.

“I want to reiterate how grateful and thankful we are to our customers for their continued patience and support. Our teams and crews remain focused and are working at pace to get the lights fully on.”

As at 3pm today, Unison is providing generation to 644 households that are unable to be reconnected to the network due to extensive cyclone damage, to meet their essential welfare needs; and less than 1000 customers remain without power in the region, mostly in isolated rural areas.

Some important key messages for the community are as follows:

  • 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.
  • 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 (eg, diggers tip trucks, forklifts, etc) as part of the cleanup, 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.
  • Occasional outages to be expected over the coming weeks:
    • Customers may experience occasional outages over the next few weeks. These could be as short as 5-10 minutes but may last longer and may be more frequent at peak times. We urge customers to be prepared – guidance on preparation for outages can be found on Unison’s website at: Electricity outages - be prepared (unison.co.nz)
  • Conserve power where possible:
    • We ask customers with power, to please conserve it while Hawke’s Bay is on limited supply. Switch off lights when they’re not in use, air dry laundry, if possible, unplug devices if they’re not charging, turn appliances off at the wall when you’re not using them, use a microwave or air-fryer to heat food instead of the oven, and only run the washing machine with a full load.
  • 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 hard to repair sections of the power network: Our crews, contractors and those of Transpower 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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