Electricity was restored to Gisborne and the East Coast by 6.50pm Tuesday, but more than 40,000 residents have been asked to prepare for a further 8 hours without power on Sunday.
Eastland Network general manager, Brent Stewart, says power right across the district will be shut down from 6am until 2pm on Sunday, 18 December, so that final repairs can be undertaken on high voltage lines near Hangaroa which were damaged by a topdressing plane on Monday morning.
“Our crews have repaired one circuit to restore electricity in the district, but we need to get the second circuit up and running as soon as possible so that the district isn’t vulnerable to a further unplanned loss of electricity.”
Mr Stewart confirmed power would be turned off in Gisborne and the East Coast from 6am on Sunday morning until around 2pm Sunday afternoon.
“The crews are having a rest day today, then they need three days of preparation to get ready for the work ahead. We’ve chosen Sunday for that reason, and also because it’s a weekend day so we are aiming for the least possible impact right before Christmas.
“Unfortunately, there is going to be disruption – there is simply no way to make these repairs safely without shutting down the power.”
“People may have to have a barbecue breakfast but they’ll have electricity in time to put Sunday roasts in the oven.”
He said Monday was tagged as a contingency day for the work if the weather is bad. “Our feeling at this stage is the forecast looks ok and we will complete the required repairs by Sunday afternoon.”
Tairawhiti residents have delivered heartfelt thanks to Eastland Network on social media following the power outage and subsequent restoration. Mr Stewart thanked the community in return saying the messages of support and appreciation had been passed on to network employees and to the specialist contractors who joined the team.
“Thank you to everyone for their patience, and for their words of support. What we’re asking for now is another day of patience as we send our teams back into a remote and challenging area to complete work that will give the region security of electricity supply for the future.”
Mr Stewart advised businesses which had generators in place should speak to the supplier and electrician who installed it.
Eastland Group chief executive, Matt Todd, said he was proud of the way the network teams had responded to an extremely challenging few days. He said criticism that the region’s electricity supply was too vulnerable failed to factor in the cost of additional infrastructure.
“The power supply into Gisborne and the East Coast is via two 110kV transmission circuits from Tuai, near Lake Waikaremoana,” said Mr Todd.
“Either one of these lines can supply the district. On a large part of the line the two circuits are located on the same towers.
Unfortunately, the aircraft accident not only left two men dead, but damaged both circuits.”
Mr Todd said work has been undertaken in the past on building a new line on an alternate route, but was likely to cost in the region of $75 million.
“That cost would add hundreds of dollars to the annual power bill in a region where power is already expensive. We are happy to revisit this work if the community believes it is something it needs and is prepared to pay for.”