Afghan power deal on track

Officials still regard the work of two Timaru companies on an electricity generation facility in Afghanistan as a "low risk", despite increased threats from the Taleban.

The partnership of Washdyke-based Alpine Energy subsidiary NetCon and Sustainable Energy Services International (SESI) won the contract to construct a hybrid solar-and-diesel power facility in Bamiyan City, Afghanistan.

However, yesterday the Taleban- who claimed responsibility for the deaths of five New Zealand soldiers this month - warned of further attacks on the 140-strong Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Bamiyan province.

NetCon's general manager, Ross Sinclair, said the partnership remained committed to the project.

NetCon had kept in close contact with the Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry (MFAT) as well as on-the-ground staff.

"We've received advice from officials, and the risk assessment for the township area remains low. We already have staff on the ground for the project. "

Mr Sinclair said the MFAT project, funded through the international aid and development programme, would take about a year to complete.

It involves about 10 international staff - mostly Kiwis - working with 15 trained Afghan engineers and about 30 tradesmen and labourers from nearby villages.

Once completed, it would provide power to more than 2490 homes in several suburbs.

SESI project director Tony Woods said it was business as usual.

"I appreciate there has been increased interest and concern from people in New Zealand in the wake of what has happened [this month]. That is understandable. But there has been no change in our security risk," he said.

"While there might be isolated incidents, this does not mean the whole province is under threat."

Mr Woods said the project team had developed good relationships with the local community.

"A project such as this is a really positive thing. We are really proud to be working on something that will bring electricity to so many people."

Prime Minister John Key has indicated that the PRT might leave Afghanistan next April.

The Timaru Herald