Hanmer Springs businesses urged to prepare for more possible power cuts

Hanmer Springs businesses are being urged to plan for power outages. Photo: David Hill
Hanmer Springs businesses are being urged to plan for power outages. Photo: David Hill
Hanmer Springs community leaders are hoping the town will become more resilient, after a spate of power outages over the last 12 months.

The region’s electricity supplier, MainPower, has been working with the Hanmer Springs Business Association and local electrician Andy Ockwell to support local businesses after a recent outage left the town without power for more than eight hours.

Hurunui district councillor Tom Davies says the latest power outage on Sunday, March 10, happened on a busy trading day.

The power was out for so long, the battery-powered back-up to the town’s cellphone tower failed, leaving residents, businesses and visitors without cell or internet coverage.

‘‘Since we still had a full village, what do we do with emergency services and how do they communicate in that situation?’’ Cr Davies said.

He was planning to meet with the Hanmer Springs Volunteer Fire Brigade, St John, police, the medical centre and local Civil Defence.

He was also hoping to speak to telecommunications providers to see what can be done to ensure the cellphone tower kept running.

Civil Defence also has a satellite phone in the town, he said.

‘‘If this happens again, we need to get this out and let people know where it will be.

‘‘Hanmer Springs can go from 1000 people to 5000 or 6000 people over the weekend and if there is a medical emergency or a fire, we are very isolated.’’

Board chairperson Mary Halloway said there were several locals with satellite phones and suggested Civil Defence could keep a list in case of emergency.

Cr Davies has been urging residents to check on neighbours in a power outage so the most vulnerable were looked after, such as those relying on a ventilator at night or needing medications kept at the right temperature.

The latest power outage was the 13th unplanned outage in the past year, with four caused by weather events, seven by birds and possums, one due to vegetation and the other a cable fault.

There have also been nine planned outages, with another one originally scheduled on Easter Tuesday, April 2, but MainPower has agreed to delay it a day.

MainPower had attended a meeting with around 100 people just days before the March 10 outage.

The company shared plans to upgrade electricity lines into Hanmer Springs and to rebuild its substation over the next five years.

But it reminded residents that rural networks can be exposed to weather and wildlife causing unplanned outages.

The message is to be prepared, Cr Davies said.

‘‘If we know there is going to be outages, and there is a planned one nearly every month, then we need to think about how we are planning and preparing for these outages.

‘‘We prepare for earthquakes with three days supply of food and water, so maybe we need to plan for power outages.’’

MainPower and Mr Ockwell are helping businesses consider their options, such as having a generator on standby.

While the recent outage had left many businesses out of pocket, the community had rallied round, offering coffee, food and activities for visitors and residents, Cr Davies said.

By David Hill, Local Democracy Reporter

■ LDR is local body journalism co-funded by RNZ and NZ On Air.