Power company apologises for shambles

TIM DONOGHUE
Last updated 05:00 28/01/2014

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THE Wellington Electricity Company has accepted full responsibility for the mess which led to a five-hour power cut in one of Wellington's busiest weekend shopping blocks.

Wellington Electricity Company chief executive Greg Skelton said a planning error for Sunday's repairs to a substation resulted in just half the people affected by the shutdown in Lower Cuba St actually being notified.

More than 100 residential and business customers were affected. About 50 of them were not notified and half of that number were business operations.

"We made a mistake and we've apologised to the people affected," Skelton said yesterday.

The apology for the lack of notification did not impress several business representatives, including Cheapskates in Cuba St and the Life Pharmacy in the James Smith complex, who said they would be looking for compensation from the power company.

The landlord's representative in the James Smith building, David Blackmore, described cutting power to the street on Sunday without notifying major businesses as "mind-numbing stupidity".

The planned outage, from 9am to 1.30pm, included James Smith complex anchor tenants Rebel Sport, The Brand Outlet, Shoe Connection and Life Pharmacy.

Workers had to be sent home from the businesses not notified of the outage, customers were turned away and cafes had to throw out food.

Skelton said two of his executives yesterday visited businesses affected by the outage and offered the company's apologies. He suggested that people seeking compensation should refer to their individual contracts with power companies.

Life Pharmacy James Smith owner Philip Hines said he discussed compensation when the lines company men visited his shop.

He was advised to make his claims via the landlord's representative, Blackmore.

"We lost about $6000 in income and then you have got your wages and staffing and everything else. We had five people rostered to work on Sunday. That's about $1000 worth of wages.

"I told them [the lines company representatives] to make sure they contacted all the appropriate people and had all bases covered the next time they cut the power."

Staff at the Ivy Bar on Saturday night were approached by the contractors who wanted to know if they could cut the power at midnight.

Bar manager Steven Mawhinney said that would have been disastrous for the business. "We had over a 100 people in the bar. I think these power company guys should introduce a radical new concept and actually talk to everyone affected before they shut the power down next time."

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Trustpower chief executive Vince Hawksworth said representatives from his company would be meeting Rebel Sport representatives today.

He confirmed Trustpower had not been notified of the planned outage.

- The Dominion Post

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