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In Unison to tackle biggest challenge on record

Unison Networks crews worked around the clock to rebuild their electricity network after Cyclone Gabrielle cut power to over 65,000 customers across the region.

It has been the most arduous challenge Unison has ever endured, with 25 crews clocking up over 60,000 hours repairing over 80 kilometres of lines, 230 power poles as well as reinstating sub-stations.

As well as 13 local crews, Unison called on the services of crews from Taranaki, Hamilton, Whakatane and Rotorua. As Unison’s Incident Controller and GM for Commercial says it was all hands on deck, with hundreds of men and women in hi-vis gear scaling infrastructure and working around the clock to restore power to Hawke’s Bay.

“We understand how hard it has been for communities to be without power for such a long time and our crews faced unique and significant challenges given the remote location and limited access to some sites as we repaired extensive damage our network.

“Our crews have gone house-by-house and street-by-street to inspect and liven flood-damaged properties, and to repair, tidy and reconfigure the network in areas remaining without power. “We are proud of our team, everyone has stepped up whether that be out in the field or back at our head office.

We have  pulled every stop and thinking outside the square to reconnect and restore power as quickly as possible.” During the early stages of the response solutions engineer Mark Cozens, who usually sits behind a desk, had donned his overalls and hard hat, leading the team at the Taradale Road switching yard.

“The effort was immense and our crews were working their backsides off,” Mark said. Unison’s response has now transitioned to recovery with a focus on completing temporary repairs to the network to provide the level of service and security there was prior to the cyclone as well as ongoing engagement with impacted communities. Unison has already attended over 25 community meetings.

“At each stage of our response we had a clear plan involving four key phases – phase three involved rural engagement and restoration. While we’ve moved to phase four, which focuses on our transition to recovery, we continue to undertake repairs in rural areas and to engage with our rural communities and keep them updated on progress,” he says.

The last stages of restoring the network back to where it was prior to the cyclone, is inspecting and reconnecting individual properties in areas where power has been restored, the clean-up and repair of Awatoto substation and securing full supply from the national grid.

“We’ve worked alongside Transpower to ensure supply into the region meets demand ahead of winter. “We have a firm plan in place to undertake the work required to build additional resilience and security in transmission supply, ahead of peak demand during the cooler months,” Jason says.