Mayor’s faith in Aurora shaken by pole failures

Tim Cadogan
Tim Cadogan
Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan says his faith in Aurora Energy has been shaken and contacting Government ministers may be his "next step" as frustration and fear about fallen power poles grows in Alexandra.

Three power poles have fallen in Alexandra in the past three months — in Eureka, Chicago and Ventry Sts. None was red-tagged.

Mr Cadogan said he preferred to say the poles had "failed", rather than fallen, as none had fallen completely to the ground, all being held up to some extent by wires.

But he said his confidence in Aurora — and that of the Alexandra community  — had been "severely shaken" and the only thing that would restore it was if no more poles fell and the failing of three poles "turned out to be a coincidence".

Mr Cadogan said it was lucky no-one had been hurt or worse by the failed poles and what was happening was "ridiculous" and an "unacceptable situation".

He said he spoke yesterday with Aurora chairman Steve Thompson and chief executive Grady Cameron to voice his "extreme displeasure at the situation as it currently sits in Alexandra".

He said "the tone of the conversations" he had with them assured him they were taking the matters seriously.

"I’m being told that they’re [Aurora] doing everything  they can ...  I have little choice but to believe that Aurora is doing everything they could be doing."

However, if another pole fell, Mr Cadogan said he would then "consider his options". They would include taking things to a ministerial level. It was a possible "next step", he said.

When contacted by the Otago Daily Times, Mr Thompson said "significant progress" had been made in the last 12 months "to remove the risk of ageing power poles in Alexandra", and more work was planned.

He said Aurora took  any pole failure seriously and, given recent events had taken "urgent, additional steps to remove the remaining risk from poles nearing the end of their useful life in Alexandra".

This would start immediately and would mean more pole inspections and more pole reinforcement "to further accelerate removal of risk from ageing poles".

Aurora would also "maintain the momentum of pole replacement in Alexandra by keeping on external crews into next year", he said.

Mr Thompson said "we also recognise that the Aurora Energy electricity network is a large and complex asset, and while we have made rapid strides in the past 12 months, we are well aware we still have more work to do and we are doing it".

Aurora was planning to spend more than $720million in the Dunedin, Central Otago and Queenstown Lakes districts over the next decade on maintenance and capital upgrades, Mr Thompson said.

Of that money, $347million would be spent on asset renewal including poles, replacement of ageing sub-transmission cables and an upgrade of overhead lines. 

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