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Unison reconnects more of Hawke’s Bay despite weather challenges

Unison has restored power to more households in urban and rural communities in Hawke’s Bay over the weekend, despite progress being impacted by continuing wet weather in the region.

As of Sunday, Unison has restored power to the majority of customers in the immediate Napier and Hastings area except for areas still affected by flooding. On Saturday customers were connected and power restored in Clayton Rd, Clifton, Kaimate Rd, Bayview, and parts of Waiohiki Rd and Korokipo Rd.

We are now working to restore power to residential parts of Awatoto and Meanee, which were areas badly affected by flooding. Customers in areas or properties affected by flood damage should read our advice about the process to safely reconnect which is outlined on our website.

Unison’s Incident Controller, Jason Larkin, says “While the adverse weather affecting the region over the weekend has slowed progress, our crews are working tirelessly to progress this essential work despite the challenging conditions. We are throwing all our resources at this and using all options available to restore power safely, as quickly as possible.”

Unison’s rural restoration plans are in full swing, following meetings with communities from Waihau, Puketapu, Patoka, Puketitiri, and Te Haroto to understand their needs and explore solutions to restore power as quickly as possible.

In consultation with the isolated Patoka community, Unison has developed a plan restore customers using a generator. 

Unison’s Incident Controller, Jason Larkin says, “Our teams made great headway developing and advancing plans to restore power to our hard-hit rural communities this week. Unfortunately, the speed we can progress those plans in some of those areas is heavily impacted by a lack of road access and ongoing adverse weather.”

“At Patoka, our next challenge is getting our line crews, trucks, and materials in to undertake repairs and to keep the generator supplied with fuel. Despite the lack of access, our aim is to begin restoring power to customers in the area from Monday.”

As soon as access and weather allow, Unison will meet with more rural communities including Glengarry, Te Pohue, Tutira and Tangoio, to discuss plans to restore power quickly and safely to those areas, as well as returning to Patoka and other communities to provide updates on restoration progress.

Plans include installing generation in these settlements which are hubs for the surrounding communities.  We are working through the details of access, refuelling as well as essential network repairs necessary to connect generation but hope to have generators running there by midweek.

For cut-off Tutira, Unison is working to bring its cyclone-damaged substation back into service and repair the main line that supplies the substation. It estimates this work will take around one week to complete, however they’re assessing alternative options including generation to supply power to parts of the network in and around Tutira in the next few days.

“Conventional access routes to some of these areas have been absolutely destroyed by the cyclone and that, combined with extensive damage across our rural network, means there’s no one-size-fits-all solution for these communities”, says Mr Larkin.

“We’re committed to working with these communities and considering all options including generation. All options are dependent on access and trees must be cleared, lines inspected and repaired before restoring power. The safety of work crews and the public is paramount.”

As of Sunday morning, there are still 2,537 customers without power in Hawke’s Bay, mostly in outlying rural areas. A power restoration map showing Unison’s progress with plans to restore power is available at www.unison.co.nz/outages and on Unison’s Facebook page.

Transpower’s supply to the region and our own network is currently in an abnormal emergency configuration with reduced security and resilience. Unison therefore continues to encourage those Hawke’s Bay businesses and households with power, to be prepared for occasional power outages and to conserve power wherever possible, while the repair, restoration, reconfiguration, and resupply of the network continues. 

“Heavy damage to some parts of our network from the cyclone requires a massive repair and rebuild to affected parts of our network. Many of the fixes put in place to restore power to the majority of households quickly, are just temporary solutions. Until the network is permanently repaired and transmission fully restored, which could take months, supply will remain fragile”, says Mr Larkin.    

“We’re acutely aware of the impact ongoing outages have on all our communities and the livelihoods of businesses, and greatly appreciate their cooperation in remaining prepared for outages and mindful of power use.” 

Some important key messages for the community are as follows:

  • Reconnection of flood damage properties
  • Where a property has had flood damage (and is not red or orange stickered), or there is evidence of damage to the electrical installation at the property including the service line connecting the property to the network, an electrical inspection is required before the property can be reconnected to the network.
  • This is to prevent the risk of harm from electricity or damage to property e.g. an electrical fire.
  • Unison (with the help of agreed contractors) is arranging for these inspections to be carried out.
  • Before a property can be reconnected, Unison requires an electrical safety certificate be prepared by the inspector, which confirms the customer’s installation to be electrically safe to liven.
  • Customer service connections and service lines
  • Along with damage to our network Cyclone Gabrielle has also damaged customer service connections and lines, also known as service mains. These are the lines that connect the dwelling, building or equipment – such as a pump, to the electricity network which are owned by the customer.
  • 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.
  • 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. 
  • Before your property is reconnected
  • You must ensure all appliances are turned off.
  • Any generators that have been connected to the electrical installation at the property e.g. at the meter box, or the distribution board, must be disconnected.
  • If you are in doubt or have concerns about your electrical installation or generator, please contact Unison for advice.  We will determine if an electrician or electrical inspector is required and will arrange for them to visit.
  • Occasional outages: 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. Unison urges 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: 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: We are aware some customers are having issues with hot water as we’re repairing and reconfiguring our network across Hawke’s Bay. Electricity distribution businesses, including Unison, use a tool called ‘ripple control’ to turn off households’ electric hot water systems at times of peak demand. We are using ripple control to preserve power supply while work to reinstate Transpower’s supply to the region continues, and we also have one ripple control plant out of service due to the damage at Transpower’s Redclyffe substation. Our immediate focus is to restore power to customers without it, after which we will turn our focus to streamlining hot water across the network. Please be aware that electricians are not permitted to bypass ripple relays on switchboards unless directly requested by retailers.
    • For those in Hastings:if you have power, you should have hot water. If this is not the case, please report this at www.unison.co.nz/outages. It may take several weeks to resolve your issue as Unison focuses efforts on restoring power to as many customers as quickly as possible. For customers who wish to resolve their issues sooner, you may wish to speak to an electrician in the first instance, to check your property’s internal switchboards as it’s possible your hot water circuit breakers or fuses have tripped.
    • For those in Napier:We are working very hard and trying various ways to send a ripple control signal through to Napier, but it is very likely that there is not enough strength in this signal to reach all areas. Therefore, we’re asking customers without hot water in Napier to please bear with us. Our immediate focus is to restore power to customers without it, after which we will turn our focus to streamlining hot water across the network.
  • Please respect and stay clear of Unison crews as they work 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 as possible. Many of them have also been impacted personally by Cyclone Gabrielle at home. Please keep your distance and respect our crews as they focus on completing repairs on the network.  
  • 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.
To report an outage visit www.unison.co.nz/outages in the first instance as it is experiencing high call volumes through its call centre, which can still be used for those who do not have access to the internet - 0800 2 UNISON (0800 286 476).
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