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Unison reconnects Glengarry, moves to recovery phase

Unison has made further progress this week restoring the network in rural Hawke’s Bay areas that were extensively damaged by Cyclone Gabrielle. Unison has today switched Glengarry from generation to network supply, so customers will no longer rely on power being supplied by a generator. Good progress is also being made restoring the network north of Napier at Whirinaki, which Unison aims to reliven next week. 

Unison’s Incident Controller and GM for Commercial Jason Larkin says, “Switching these remaining areas back to network supply is significant. While customers in the area won’t notice a change in service, it means the area has a more resilient supply of power and removes the need to bring in diesel to keep the generator running.”

“Glengarry recorded the highest rainfall in the region during the cyclone, and the damage to our network in the area was considerable. This has been a massive job for our crews over recent weeks as they have worked extremely hard to restore the new poles and lines after parts of the network were destroyed by the cyclone and flooding.”

This week marks a new phase in Unison’s response to the to the devastation caused by Cyclone Gabrielle, as it transitions to focussing on recovery.

“Cyclone Gabrielle hit five weeks ago and at each stage of our response we had a clear plan involving four key phases – firstly prioritising establishing an emergency supply from Transpower to the region and using this to restore power to as many customers as possible, then focusing on restoring main lines to Napier to extend supply to more customers in the second phase.

“Phase three involved rural engagement and restoration, as we pushed into some of the most hard-hit areas. On Monday we moved to phase four, which focuses on our transition to recovery.”

In this phase Unison will continue work 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. It is likely this phase will run until at least the end of April.

“Two key focus areas in phase four include the clean-up and repair of our Awatoto substation; and working with Transpower to get normal secure supply from the national grid fully restored to Hawke’s Bay”, says Mr Larkin.

In Awatoto, where floodwater and contamination damaged Unison’s distribution network and zone substation, crews continue to clean, inspect and repair network assets. Good progress was made this week decontaminating, cleaning and dehumidifying the substation. Once completed, Unison will begin work to reconstruct a temporary substation using a pole-mounted solution to mitigate any further flood risk.

“We have now been able to fully access the Awatoto substation to assess the extent of damage caused by the flooding,” says Mr Larkin.

“Decontamination work began last weekend and continues today. We appreciate the impact having no or limited power has on the community and businesses. We are engaging with residents and the local business community who face challenges re-entering their properties and restarting their businesses and operations, to ensure our plans are cognisant of their needs.”

As at 9am Friday 24 March, less than 400 properties remain without power in Hawke’s Bay.

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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)

  • 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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