Residents’ plea: give us power

Power problems are making dairy farming difficult for Kirsty Steeghs and other Maungatautari residents.

Maungatautari residents are want an end to power problems wreaking havoc with their homes and businesses.

They are demanding action from electricity distributor Powerco and met with representatives of the company last week to discuss their concerns.

Powerco’s customer experience manager Haydn Davies acknowledged the frustration of those who wanted supply issues resolved immediately.

“But we’re confident that the work we’ve done so far, and are continuing to undertake, will reduce the likelihood of power outages,” he said.

The company acknowledges it is dealing with aging equipment.

Kirsty Steeghs, a spokesperson for the residents’ group, said frequent power cuts and surges were affecting about 380 properties and had collectively left residents tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket.

She had recorded more than 60 disruptions to the area’s power supply between January 2019 and February this year.

People working from home had lost business hours, B&Bs had been forced to close, a home beauty salon had had to cancel bookings and two large camps had been left without water for drinking or sanitation, she said.

Kirsty, who farms in the area with her husband Rory, said the power problems had also hit farmers hard.

Many dairy farmers had abandoned milkings and could not meet cooling and stirring requirements for their milk, resulting in production losses.  Cows had also been left with full udders, putting them at increased risk of mastitis.

A number of heavy pumps and equipment, electronics and household appliances had also burned out from continual power surges, she said.

She and her husband were among residents who had spent up to $50,000 to purchase new generators.

A letter she sent in February to Powerco seeking action from the electricity distributor was signed by more than 80 residents and business owners.

Four Powerco representatives and two from Transpower met about 60 members of the group at Maungatautari Hall to discuss the issue Thursday 13 the week before.

In a statement to Cambridge News Powerco said it was improving the quality and reliability of the Maungatautari and Horahora power supply.

It had ramped up its work programme over recent years to “address challenges on its network caused by ageing assets and how it was originally designed”, said Mr Davies.

“We know that we still have work to do in order to better meet the needs of our customers in this area both now and into the future, and we’ve begun work on our plans to achieve this over the next few years,” he said.

Powerco expects to deliver work to improve the design of the Maungatautari area network and future proof it by 2024.

However, in the short term there would continue to be planned power outages for some residents.

Following Thursday’s meeting with Powerco, Kirsty said while she acknowledged the company appeared to have a plan in place to improve the power supply, her group was disappointed the lines had been poorly maintained in the first place.

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