Fury at 'unnotified' power cut

TIM DONOGHUE
Last updated 05:00 27/01/2014
David Blackmore
KENT BLECHYNDEN/ Fairfax NZ

ANGRY: James Smith complex manager David Blackmore forced to shut up shop owing to a lack of power.

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A five-hour power cut to one of Wellington's busiest weekend shopping blocks has been condemned as "mind-numbing stupidity" and "unbelievable incompetence".

Wellington Electricity contractors cut the power about 9am yesterday to a section of Lower Cuba St between Manners and Wakefield streets, with what businesses say was no notification.

It affected about 120 customers, including Rebel Sport, The Brand Outlet, Shoe Connection and the Life Pharmacy James Smith.

Workers had to be sent home, customers were turned away, and cafes had to throw out food.

James Smith complex landlord David Blackmore put up signs on the main doors saying the complex was shut "because of the mind-numbing stupidity of some moron at the power company".

"Someone's nuts need to be chopped off for this," he said.

"We were not notified of the planned outage. The contractors told me they arrived at midnight on Saturday to begin the job. But when they realised the Ivy Bar was still operating, they said they would come back and do their maintenance work on Sunday morning.

"You don't shut down a central city retail street on a Sunday without talking to people first."

Craig Robertson, general manager operations for the Briscoe Group, which owns Rebel Sport, said he was disappointed it had not been told about the planned outage by Trustpower.

His company had to send about 20 staff home about 11am when they were told the power would not be back on until 4pm.

"We then had to scramble round and get as many of them back in when the power came back on about 1.30pm," Mr Robertson said.

Geraldine Murphy, chairwoman of the Wellington Inner City Association, who lives in an apartment building above Felix Cafe in Wakefield St, confirmed her building had been affected by the outage.

"The cafe had to throw out food. They were open for business in the morning when the power cut hit and simply closed down for the day.

"They were told the power would be back on at 4pm. They lost a lot of money."

She had received no notification from power retailer Genesis, which is supplied by Wellington Electricity, she said.

Life Pharmacy James Smith owner Philip Hines said he too had not received notification of the outage.

The pharmacy had to open during the outage because it serviced people coming in for prescriptions and urgent medicines.

The decision to cut the power came from Wellington Electricity, which wanted to carry out routine substation maintenance.

Its Australia-based spokesman, Drew Douglas, said the company notified power retailers, such as Trustpower and Genesis, of the shutdown and said those companies would have been at fault if they did not pass on this information to their customers.

Blackmore said he dealt with Trustpower for power supply to his anchor tenants at the James Smith complex, and received no notification.

Trustpower general manager Vince Hawksworth said last night that preliminary computer searches of his company's email records with Wellington Electricity revealed no notification of the planned outage to James Smith.

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However, Genesis Energy spokesman Richard Gordon said a letter was sent to 57 other customers in Lower Cuba St on December 27.

"That's about half the affected customers in the area. We know they received it, because some customers communicated with us about the outage."

He declined to make a copy of the letter available to Fairfax Media when asked what hours the letter gave for the shutdown.

- Fairfax Media

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