Unison Media Advisory

Friday 24 February 2023, 6pm

Unison’s progress in restoring power to rural communities in Hawke’s Bay is being impacted by continuing wet weather in the region.

Unison’s rural restoration plans have been in full swing this week. Following an aerial assessment of the rural network to identify key sites for repair, Unison has met with communities from Waihau, Puketapu, Patoka, Puketitiri, Te Haroto to understand their needs and explore solutions. Customers at Whirinaki and Puketapu were restored, and today a generator was installed in Seafield Road to supply more customers in the Esk and Puketapu areas.

Unison’s Incident Controller, Jason Larkin says, “Our teams made great progress developing and advancing plans to restore our hard-hit rural communities this week. Unfortunately the adverse weather forecast is impacting the speed we can progress those plans.

“As one example, this week we transported a generator to Patoka to bypass damage to the line supplying the substation there, following a herculean effort to move the generator along forestry tracks and across a ford at the Tutaekuri river. The forecast weather, combined with the lack of conventional road access, has cut off access for refuelling and hampered efforts to get crews back in there to get the community reconnected.

“All options are being considered, but the safety of work crews and the community is paramount.”

While the weather is holding up rural restoration efforts, Unison crews will continue with repairs in urban and rural areas that are accessible and where conditions are safe, and resume efforts to areas still isolated as soon as is safe.

“While the weather forecast for the region over the weekend may slow progress, our crews are committed to progressing this essential work, despite the challenging conditions. We are throwing all our resources at this mammoth repair and using all options available to restore power as quickly as possible.

“As soon as access and weather allow, we will be visiting more rural communities including Glengarry, Te Pohue, Tutira and Tangoio, to explore how we can to restore power to those communities quickly and safely, as well as revisiting Patoka to provide updates on our plans.”

As of this afternoon, there are still 2,789 customers without power in Hawke’s Bay, mostly in outlying rural areas. There are small pockets still without power in urban areas due to isolated flood damaged assets or faults, and Unison is repairing these street by street.

Unison continues to encourage those Hawke’s Bay businesses and households with power, to be prepared for occasional power outages, which could be as short as 5-10 minutes but may last longer and may occur more frequently at peak times; and to conserve power wherever possible.    

“We’re acutely aware of the impact the loss of electricity has on all our communities and the livelihoods of businesses”, says Mr Larkin. 

“Over the next few weeks we are asking the public to be mindful of their power use – we’re not asking businesses to curb their operations, but please think before you flick the switch and turn things off if you’re not using them.  Please also prepare for unplanned outages as crews work tirelessly to restore power and supply as quickly as possible.”

A power restoration map has been developed to capture Unison’s plans to restore power to its rural communities and is available atwww.unison.co.nz/outages. Regular progess and outage updates are available on Unison’s Facebook page.

Some important key messages for the community are as follows:

  • 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 atwww.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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