Aurora's chief told to 'man up'

A union leader has called on Aurora chief executive Grady Cameron to ''man up'' and take responsibility for the number of compromised poles in Dunedin and Central Otago.

E tu (formerly Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union) industry co-ordinator Joe Gallagher yesterday praised Aurora's $30.25 million programme to replace close to 3000 power poles in little over a year.

"It's good to see that common sense has prevailed for the sake of the workforce and the community,'' Mr Gallagher said.

However, he felt Mr Cameron's claim there was no health and safety problem and it was only fast-tracking pole replacements because of a loss of public confidence was ''just plain odd''.

He called on Mr Cameron to ''man up'' and take responsibility for letting the network get into the state it was now.

Grady Cameron.
Grady Cameron.

''Be a real Southern man, own the decision and own the situation. Clearly something hasn't been done right, otherwise why have we got [so many] poles that need urgent repair?

''Clearly ... it took [this issue being raised publicly] for the funding to flush out.''

The risk from red-tagged poles was real and could be exposed in a ''big storm'' or if a substandard pole was hit by a car.

''He is sort of trying to downplay it in the hope that it will all go away and he will move on from it,'' Mr Gallagher said.

The state of the poles had clearly been an issue for some time and it was just for ''the grace of God there hasn't been any more fatalities''.

''They have got an ageing network, they have been underinvesting in the pole replacement, it's been highlighted as a serious issue, public pressure has been brought to bear on the issue and the funding has been found to accelerate the replacement programme.''

Mr Gallagher's comments come as the Otago Daily Times has been told Mr Cameron briefed staff yesterday Aurora planned to continue to replace 1000 poles per year after the fast-tracked plan was completed to keep ahead of the issue.

If correct, this would represent a significant increase on planned pole replacements and cost up to $10million a year, based on the average cost of $10,000 per pole in the plan announced yesterday.

Mr Cameron did not reply to specific questions yesterday, but an Aurora spokesman issued a statement saying it was addressing issues caused by the aged state of its network and recognised there were poles that needed replacing.

''Given that the Aurora Energy network is an older network, mostly built in the 1950s and 1960s, we have an increased number of poles that are coming up for replacement.

''That's what the fast-track programme addresses.''

After the programme announced yesterday was completed it would continue ''scheduled pole replacement work'' in line with the age of the network.

vaughan.elder@odt.co.nz

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