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Unison Welcomes Energy Minister to Hawke’s Bay

Unison today welcomed Energy Minister Dr Megan Woods to Hawke’s Bay to see and learn more about the damage caused to the region’s network by Cyclone Gabrielle, Unison’s restoration efforts, and the challenges faced in getting communities reconnected.

Unison Group Chief Executive Ken Sutherland, Chief Operating Officer Jaun Park, and Incident Controller Jason Larkin, alongside Transpower Chief Executive Alison Andrew, accompanied Dr Woods on a visit to Transpower’s flooded Redclyffe substation, and to drop in on a Unison crew working in Puketapu. 

Since damage from Cyclone Gabrielle cut power to many across Hawke’s Bay, Unison and Transpower have worked together to deliver emergency solutions, develop a proactive recovery plan to get power back into the region, and reconfigure the grid to bring supply into Napier. This cooperation will be ongoing as Transpower and Unison work closely to restore a secure supply into Hawke’s Bay from the national grid.

“It’s been great to have the Minister come and see what our people are doing, meeting and talking with our lines men and women, but also seeing the infrastructure challenges we have as a region – especially electricity”, says Mr Larkin.

“Our own substations that have been flooded need to be rebuilt, made resilient, potentially moved. With the flooding of Transpower’s Redclyffe substation, there are big questions about how Hawke’s Bay and the East Coast regions can have a resilient connection to the national grid in the future – what that looks like, where it’s going to be built, and how those costs are going to be met and shared.”

Unison continues meeting with and restoring power to more households in rural communities across Hawke’s Bay, after restoring power to the majority of customers in urban Napier and Hastings. Unison crews continue to work street-by-street to restore power to urban areas that were badly affected by flooding and remain without power, such as parts of Awatoto and Meanee.

Unison’s new, temporary depot in Pandora, Napier, was officially opened on Tuesday to house the manpower, machinery and equipment required to undertake this work.

Unison has met with communities in Puketapu and south Puketapu, Glengarry, Patoka, Puketitiri, Te Pohue, Waihau / Upper Dartmoor, Te Haroto, Kaiwaka / Tangoio and Tutira to understand their immediate needs and develop restoration plans, and will meet with the Eskdale / Bay View community this afternoon.

Today Unison restored power in Brookfields Road, Meeanee, and began restoring parts of Puketapu South from a generator in Omaranui Road. Unison is also assessing generator solutions for Te Haroto and Te Pohue. Unison has now restored power to parts of Glengarry, Patoka, Hendley, Rissington, and Puketapu.

Mr Larkin says, “We understand how hard it is for people to be without power for this long, and our crews are working tirelessly to restore power to everyone across Hawke’s Bay as quickly as possible.

“We still have a long way to go in terms of repairing and restoring our network and getting power to all customers, particularly in heavily damaged and isolated communities, but we are throwing all our resources at this mammoth repair as well as using all the options available to restore power as quickly as possible, such as connecting generators.

“We’re really grateful for the support we’ve had from the community and other agencies we've been working with.”

As of Thursday morning, there are still just over 2,000 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.

Some important key messages for the community:

Reconnecting flood damaged communities and properties

  • If your property has received a red or yellow sticker, Unison is unable to restore power to it, and you should make contact with your insurer in the first instance.

  • If your home has received a white sticker or is flood damaged and has not been stickered, please log a fault on Unison’s outages page at www.unison.co.nz/outages or call 0800 2 UNISON (0800 2 84676)

  • In severely flood damaged areas, Unison’s network infrastructure has been washed away completely and will require a complete rebuild.
  • These areas include Esk Valley, Dartmoor Road, Pakowhai.
  • Restoring power to these areas will be extremely challenging with repairs likely to take months.
  • Unison is exploring all options to bring power back to these communities as soon as we can, including potential temporary generation. 

  • Unison can arrange an electrical inspection to reconnect damaged properties that have not been red or yellow stickered.
  • 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, such as an electrical fire.
  • Unison (with the help of agreed contractors) is arranging for these inspections to be carried out. Customers will need to log a job at www.unison.co.nz/outages to start this process.
  • Unison will work with customers to repair damaged customer service connections and service lines, which must be repaired before electricity can be restored.
  • 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 which are owned by the customer that connect the dwelling, building or equipment (such as a pump), 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.
  • 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 reconnection takes place, the following safety measures MUST take place
  • Customers 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.

Some important key messages for the community are as follows

  • 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 is an issue for some customers connected to the network and Unison is working to resolve this.
    • 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
    • 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 286 476).
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