The rate of pole replacement and remediation has accelerated since last year and rapid progress has been made since the Fast Track Pole Programme began last November, says Aurora Energy Chairman Steve Thompson.
“In the first three months, we completed detailed safety and operational planning, and progressively brought on external crews to complement the Delta team.
“To date, we’ve removed the risk of 813 poles identified as high priority as part of the Fast Track Pole Programme and through normal renewal and maintenance. Of the 813 poles, 650 have been replaced. We now have 21 crews working on the programme, as well as some civil contractors. All in, we currently have more than 120 people dedicated to the pole programme across the network in Dunedin, Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes.”
Thompson said the initial focus has been on the poles in high priority areas near schools, kindergartens and high pedestrian areas. “We have already removed the risk of condition 0 poles from the central business districts of Queenstown, Wanaka and Arrowtown in the Lakes area and are well advanced in removing the risk of highest priority condition 0 poles in the central business districts of Roxburgh, Alexandra, Clyde and Cromwell in Central Otago. In Dunedin, we continue to remove the risk of condition 0 poles in the central business district and other populous areas.
“Safety remains our top priority and we’ve been using the detailed process and methodology agreed with WorkSafe NZ. For the safety of our workers and the public, power is turned off when external contractors are working on equipment as standard procedure.
“A programme of this scale involves an unavoidable increase in the number of planned power outages. We appreciate this can be inconvenient and we thank people for their patience as we carry out this important maintenance and asset renewal work.”
Thompson said Aurora Energy had increased customer service support and communication in anticipation of the disruptions. “Electricity retailers notify customers well in advance if a power outage is required. In addition, we publish planned outages in regional newspapers and on the Aurora Energy website www.auroraenergy.co.nz/outages and write directly to those affected where the planned outage affects large groups of customers.”
“On occasion, we may be unable to proceed with work on the day the planned power outage is scheduled due to events beyond our control. For this reason, we encourage all customers to check the Aurora Energy website www.auroraenergy.co.nz/outages on the day of the planned power outage in case of a late cancellation.
“Removing the risk of highest priority poles will take significant ongoing resources to get the job done by year-end as well as continuing the scheduled cycle of maintenance and renewal,” Thompson added.
The Fast Track Pole Programme will use the best of the available options to fix the problem and remove risk, these will include:
- Replacing the old pole with a new one
- Repairing the pole or using a reinforcement method, or
- Reassessing the pole using an independently verified testing method and replacing or repairing the pole or updating the condition assessment as appropriate.
Of the 2,910 poles identified, Queenstown Lakes accounts for 678 poles, Central Otago 1,266 and Dunedin the remaining 966.