Supporting the recovery from Cyclone Gabrielle

15 February 2023 at 4:44 pm

Orion Group is working with impacted north island Electricity Distribution Businesses (EDBs), emergency responders and the Government to provide support in the wake of Cyclone Gabrielle.

Orion Group Chief Executive Nigel Barbour says they’re in contact with impacted EDBs to ensure support is fit for purpose.

“We’re working with Top Energy, National Emergency Management Agency and New Zealand Defence Force to fly, via an Air Force Hercules, 15 Connetics Line Mechanics and two Connetics Utes. These will travel directly from Christchurch to Kerikeri to assist with power restoration.

“We’ve also sent two control room controllers up to Whangarei for a week to assist Northpower and are looking to send up another one or two control room controllers next week, also for a week.”

Nigel says there are key constraints in natural disaster power restoration.

“This is both a fatigue management and supervision issue. Having our people up in Whangarei allows Northpower to scale up the number of controller desks they are running and therefore increase the number of crews that can be safely supervised in the field.

“Similarly, the big issue for Top Energy is managing fatigue and our crews will help them manage this over what is likely to be a long hard slog. We’re fortunate that Connetics have an ex-Top Energy staff member on the team who knows the network well and can help direct and schedule work.”

Additionally, the Group is working with Wellington Electricity (WE*) for Connetics to pick up some of Northpower’s workload in Wellington from WE*.

“This will allow Northpower to move more crews up from Wellington, and to keep those crews up north for longer.”

The Group is also sending skid and truck-mounted generators along with specialist operators to support Powerco.

Nigel says the recovery time could be similar to previous significant weather events.

“Overall, my sense is that this storm is comparable with Cyclone Bola in 1988 and the lower North Island storms and flooding in February 2004. I was working in the sector at the time of the floods and from memory it was a three-week slog to get the network pieced back together and customers reconnected.”