Questions are being asked after a power cut paralysed central Wellington and brought Parliament to a standstill, including the underground Civil Defence bunker supposed to be the nerve centre for disaster planning.
An angry Prime Minister Helen Clark said the situation was ridiculous after it was revealed that an emergency generator at Parliament had failed after the power cut, just before midday yesterday.
Nearly a dozen people were trapped in lifts and thousands of bus passengers had to switch transport during the blackout.
Politicians, judges, retailers and office workers were among 14,000 Vector power customers plunged into darkness after a failure at Transpower's Wilton substation.
Miss Clark confirmed the power went out as ministers were about to head into the windowless 10th-floor Beehive Cabinet room.
A standby generator briefly started when power failed but then stopped. With stairways in "total darkness" and the lifts not working, Parliament was effectively at a standstill till the power came back on 17 minutes later.
Miss Clark's office later confirmed that the failure extended to the Civil Defence bunker.
But she said when the power failed she was more concerned about the Cabinet room being plunged into darkness. "It's ridiculous."
Transpower spokeswoman Rebecca Wilson said a transformer failed at the substation supplying some of the CBD and northern suburbs. The cause was not known.
Go Wellington spokeswoman Fiona Gibb said 63 trolley buses ground to a halt, affecting "a few thousand" passengers.
Wadestown, Wilton and parts of the lower CBD were affected.
All four parliamentary buildings were without power.
Parliamentary Service general manager Geoff Thorn said six people were trapped in lifts. Some "fairly large" back-up generators were about to start up when the power came back on.
A website launch in the lead-up to World Environment Day by Education Minister Chris Carter had to be cancelled.
Topp Darukanprut, from Native Thai restaurant In Willis St, said the failure came as he prepared for the lunchtime rush.
"We lost everything. Our eftpos didn't work. We would probably have lost a bit of business because it was such a bad time for it to happen and is quite annoying."
Four people were trapped in a Grand Chancellor James Cook hotel lift. Central city fire crews freed a woman stuck in the Metro Building lift in Thorndon Quay.
Power was fully restored by 12.15pm.
The power cut stopped parts of Citylink's high-speed telecommunications network, causing frustration for Internet users well into the afternoon.
Internet users reported websites, including stuff.co.nz, were slow or impossible to load.
Citylink managing director Neil de Wit said the outage caused problems on its network, a high-speed fibre-optic network used by many businesses and government agencies in the CBD. The network was fully restored soon after 3pm.
Last year electricity company Vector was in the firing line when four power cuts in a week hit pre-Christmas trading in central Wellington.
Calls for Vector to provide compensation fell on deaf ears despite backing from the Retailers Association and Wellington Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Yesterday chamber chief executive Charles Finny said he would be talking to Transpower.
- © Fairfax NZ News
How important is NZ's anti-nuclear policy to you?Related story: It's all good, just don't mention the nukes
A different life for Tess
Will Yahoo ruin Tumblr?
Breaking Bad is back!
The vanilla Budget
A day of building in time-lapse video
The cookbooks that made me
Monarch magical mystery tour
Microsoft reveals Xbox One
Born Sandy Devotional
Books you should read ... in your 20s
The groom's perspective of weddings