National awards for Aurora project

One of the last towers carrying power from Port Chalmers to Portobello is dismantled in September...
One of the last towers carrying power from Port Chalmers to Portobello is dismantled in September last year.PHOTO: STEPHEN JAQUIERY
A project to improve the security of the electricity supply for residents on Otago Peninsula has won Aurora Energy two national awards at the 2022 New Zealand Energy Excellence Awards.

The Harbour Crossing project received excellence awards in both the network initiative of the year and community initiative of the year categories at the awards, held in Christchurch last week.

Six old lattice towers and overhead lines between Port Chalmers and Portobello were removed last year and replaced with new submarine cables.

Aurora Energy chief executive Richard Fletcher said the Harbour Crossing project was a true example of community collaboration, combined with innovative thinking for a new technical solution, and was a testament to how far the company had come over the past few years.

"It’s not often that an infrastructure project like this ticks all of the boxes by delivering positive environmental, community and business outcomes, and we were pleased our team of professionals and specialised contractors came up with a solution that not only improved security of electricity for residents but also has wider benefits for shipping, tourism and wildlife by making a clear passageway for our local birdlife and commercial vessels," Dr Fletcher said.

"We worked in partnership with mana whenua, the island keeper on Quarantine Island/Kamau Taurua, Port Otago, University of Otago’s Marine Studies Centre, the Department of Conservation, Dunedin City Council, a resident in Port Chalmers who was very happy to have a tower removed from his garden, and the wider community when planning this project, and they all supported it," he said.

"Te Runanga o Otakou were supportive of the ambitious project" Te Runanga o Otakou manager Nadia Wesley-Smith said.

"The project has offered an opportunity to work with the Kamau Taurua community and Aurora Energy in strengthening relationships between mana whenua and all stakeholders involved."

The project was expected to cost between $5million and $7million but came in at $4.6million.

Dr Fletcher said the easiest solution to upgrade this section of the electricity network would have been to replace the assets like for like, but engaging with the community helped the company deliver the best engineering solution.

The award judges said they were impressed with the project, including the community feedback, which had delivered on economic, technical and safety outcomes and unlocked tourism, commercial and environmental benefits for the broader Otago region. They said the project not only improved network reliability but also brought the community together to restore the harbour’s pristine coastline to the benefit of everyone.

"We are excited to share these awards with the community because they were such an

integral part of this unique project," Dr Fletcher said.

"While Harbour Crossing is a once-in-lifetime project, what I’m pleased about is we are taking the same community-focused approach to everything we now do at Aurora Energy."

The award was shared with contracting partners ElectroNet, Unison Contracting, SeaWorks and HeliOtago, he said.

--  Staff Reporter





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