Aurora waits for pole review

Downer linesmen work on pole replacement in Tomkins St, Green Island, yesterday. Since January about 1000 poles in Aurora Energy's network have either been replaced or repaired. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Downer linesmen work on pole replacement in Tomkins St, Green Island, yesterday. Since January about 1000 poles in Aurora Energy's network have either been replaced or repaired. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery
Aurora Energy has spent millions of dollars replacing or repairing more than a thousand poles in the past year; but the company will not say how many more potentially dangerous poles there are until an independent review is complete.

The lines company declined to say how many potentially dangerous poles remain in its 54,000 pole network across Otago, despite questions from the Otago Daily Times.

In a statement, an Aurora spokesman said the company understood information on the condition of its poles was of public interest, which is why it would wait until an independent engineering review was completed before releasing the information.

Engineering firm WSP has been commissioned to conduct an independent review of the lines company's network, which is expected to be completed in November.

The review would include an update on all condition 0 (worst condition) poles, as well as well as the rest of the 54,000 poles, the spokesman said.

It would also include an action plan on how Aurora could inspect and maintain them.

Since January, about 1000 poles had either been replaced or repaired and the company was about a third of the way through its four-year pole management programme, the spokesman said.

In the past 18 months, nearly 4000 poles, 7% of the network, had been replaced or repaired.

More than $35 million had been invested in pole renewals in the past 12 months.

But former Aurora employee turned whistle-blower Richard Healey said the number of poles being replaced was a publicity exercise.

Mr Healey said if the company focused on replacing its worst-condition poles the total number would decrease, so it instead to targeted the easier-to-fix poles first.

He used the example a Green Island site where contractors had been working to replace a pole for almost two weeks now.

The Green Island situation demonstrated how much work was required for some of the most difficult pole replacements, he said.

Aurora Energy has said all replacements are prioritised on risk.

tim.miller@odt.co.nz

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