Board member hopes to take Aurora to task

Russell Garbutt
Russell Garbutt
Vincent Community Board member Russell Garbutt is calling on his fellow elected members to stand up against what he says is the ''continuing failure'' of Aurora Energy power poles and other infrastructure.

An Aurora spokesman has responded that the board was ''right to be concerned'', saying any pole failure was a safety risk. Aurora was taking ''every practicable step'' to address a backlog of poles in poor condition, and that the most critical work would be prioritised, the spokesman said.

Mr Garbutt has lodged a notice of motion for today's board meeting and is asking the community board to formally adopt a range of concerns it has about Aurora. He then wants the Central Otago District Council to adopt the same concerns, and request a meeting of council representatives with Aurora board members and management.

The Aurora statement said its representatives welcomed the opportunity to update elected members on its network renewal programme, and had offered to provide a full briefing.

Mr Garbutt's notice of motion says failures of Aurora's infrastructure - including the pole that fell outside Clyde Primary School on December 16 - continued to occur ''despite assurances from Aurora Energy that they provide a safe network''; and the failed poles and other infrastructure could ''seriously endanger our community''.

Mr Garbutt also said the costs ''imposed upon Central Otago subscribers'' to Aurora's network were ''disproportionate and unfair''.

''During this entire period when Aurora failed to spend money on maintaining their network because of the political decisions by the Dunedin City Council, consumers in our region continued to pay line charges. The expectation was that by paying line charges that their network was being maintained, but the cash derived from the line charges was going to help build the new Dunedin stadium.

''Aurora has given notice that it intends applying for permission to increase line charges to help pay for their costs in starting to maintain their network.

''Because users in our area already pay greater charges than a user in Dunedin, any increase in fees ... will be unfair in our community.''

Mr Garbutt said Aurora had announced significant increases in spending on its network.

''But at the same time, it is important to note that the Commerce Commission have determined that Aurora have failed in a number of years to provide a safe and reliable network and have issued notice that they intend fining Aurora for these breaches.''

The Aurora statement said its pole programme had made ''significant progress, replacing or reinforcing more than 6000 of the network's 54,000 poles in the last two years and there is more to do''.

''Our plan will see us continue to address the most critical work in a prioritised way this year and within three years the backlog will have been addressed and our inspection and renewal programme will move to a stable and managed state.''

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