Businesses hit by power cut

ALEX FENSOME AND ALANA DIXON
Last updated 05:00 09/10/2012

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Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt is seeking answers after a disruptive electricity cut in Invercargill's central business district on Saturday night.

Mr Shadbolt said the cut, which lasted more than three hours for some customers, was shocking.

He raised it at yesterday's city council infrastructure and services committee meeting under urgent business.

He said he had received several phone calls afterwards about problems caused by the outage.

PowerNet general manager of network operations Gary Pritchard had told Mr Shadbolt a fault had been found 80m from the Tyne St substation and that work was being carried out to fix it.

Cr Neil Boniface said the outage was the first fault PowerNet had had for two or three months.

"[The system] is reliable but [the outage] is still of a concern."

Power was restored for most people within 40 minutes but for some others, electricity was out until 3 or 4am, he said.

Before the meeting, Mr Shadbolt said: "The electricity company always prides themselves on the low number of outages compared to other networks . . . I imagine this cut will have a severe impact on the reliability statistics."

PowerNet chief executive Jason Franklin said the outage was regrettable but it was an isolated event. "We don't believe it could have been detected in our routine checks."

Invercargill's Reading Cinema was among businesses left counting the cost. The cinema was full of movie goers on a busy night when the cut hit at 9.24pm.

Movies were cut short and audiences evacuated to the car park.

Manager Neville Cook said the power cut could barely have happened at a worse time.

The cinema lost custom on the night and did not reopen until 2pm on Sunday after the computerised till system crashed because of the cut, losing valuable school holiday morning business.

Mr Cook said he could not put a cash value on the disruption, but it had definitely cost money.

A fault with the 3D projector was found after the power cut, although it was not clear whether it was caused by the outage. It cannot be used until it is repaired, meaning new 3D releases, such as Dredd will have to play in 2D.

Otherwise the cinema was back to normal, Mr Cook said.

Customers who missed out on the end of movies had been given vouchers as compensation, he said.

Bars and restaurants also had their evening service disrupted.

Devil Burger manager Calli Ladbrook said the diner had just finished serving a rush of customers when the power went out. Restored after 20 minutes, it was not too serious.

Speight's Ale House manager Stephen Grieve said the cut "cooked our music system" but otherwise didn't affect business.

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PowerNet manages the Invercargill city network on behalf of council-owned Electricity Invercargill Limited (EIL)

PowerNet's annual report for the year ended March 31 said the SAIDI index, which measures the average duration of a power cut, for EIL's network was nearly 64 minutes. This was more than double PowerNet's forecasts and above the Commerce Commission target for the network.

Since the report there was a large power cut on July 25, affecting 1333 EIL customers in south Invercargill, some of whom lost power for more than three hours.

- The Southland Times

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