Date published: Sep 22, 2023

Base Power unit provides storm relief for Powerco's Ākitio community

Severe gale force winds ripped through Powerco's western lower North Island electricity overnight Sunday 17th September 2023.

The Tararua coastal township of Ākitio was hit particulary hard, with 240km/h winds taking down 350m of overhead line running through dense forestry and cutting off power.

Powerco said 2900 of their customers initially lost power following winds of up to 153kph overnight on Sunday in the lower North Island, and 403 customers, mostly in the Tararua District, were still waiting to be reconnected as of Tuesday afternoon.

“Because of the scale and complexity of that work we can’t give individual restoration times but at this stage the majority of customers will be back on tonight,” a spokesperson said on Tuesday.

Crews have been working to clear the lines while waiting for the weather to clear enough for a helicopter to re-string them.

Powerco said a Base Power system was on its way to the Ākitio Community Centre, which was operating as a welfare hub for affected residents.

Powerco head of network operations Caz Haydon acknowledged waiting to be reconnected was frustrating for customers.

“We understand how frustrating it is to be without power, particularly for an extended period of time, so I’d like to personally thank our customers who are without power for their patience and understanding while we work to fix the damage and reconnect you,” Haydon said.

Pongaroa farmer Mark Wheeler said the power went out at his house about 9pm on Sunday.

It followed Pongaroa residents being disconnected for days earlier this year during Cyclone Gabrielle, he said.

“We’ve always had reasonably extreme weather in this area ... you live with it, it’s part and parcel of being in the area,” he said.

“This is fundamentally a farming area ... so households, as much I hate the word, are used to being pretty resilient.

“You generally have at least a weeks’ worth of produce in the larder, and you’ve probably got about two or three months worth of canned goods and stuff … so people are used to this sort of thing.”

Wheeler was currently using a generator 12 hours a day to keep his freezer going and coffee machine up and running. Although a “good percentage” of locals also had generators, he said many that were donated to the area after Cyclone Gabrielle had since been returned.

“There is a shortfall of generators at the moment ... but other than that, people are in pretty good spirits.”

In the meantime, the community rallied together using their community centre as a welfare hub, giving the team time to bring in more generation.  The Base Power  unit will be staying to supply the community centre during future events.

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