Farmers fume at silence on power line route

CHRIS GARDNER
Last updated 05:00 30/01/2013

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Waipa Networks is facing a backlash from angry landowners over its refusal to reveal where it plans to build a 110kv power line, which will cross three Waikato districts.

Ray Milner, chief executive of the Te Awamutu-based network provider, refused to detail exactly where the company wants to erect the $20 million line when he spoke at Otorohanga District Council yesterday despite being told of landowners' frustrations.

The line will start near Fonterra's dairy factory on the outskirts of Te Awamutu and end near the Hangatiki intersection near Waitomo village. The distance by road is approximately 40km.

"The line will come through your area and we will be out there talking to landowners... We do have a preferred route,"  Milner said.

"Generally these high voltage lines should be kept as straight as possible because turning corners is not recommended."

The company had tried to avoid urupa and buildings.

"I don't believe we're going more than 200 metres closer to houses."

The company's communications strategy, he said, was to approach those directly affected by the line. He did not want them to learn about the project in the media.

But Otorohanga Mayor Dale Williams reminded Mr Milner that he was speaking in a public meeting.

About 60 per cent of landowners affected had been spoken to, Mr Milner said.

Cr Ken Phillips, who represents the rural Kiokio/ Korakonui ward to the north of Otorohanga, said Waipa Networks wanted to build on his land but wouldn't discuss any other details with him.

"I cannot get hold of a map to tell me where it is going," Cr Phillips said.

"I find it a bit strange . . . I have a number of concerned farmers in my ward who are not very happy about it."

Otorohanga businessman John Haddad said Waipa Networks wanted to put about 300m of line through his Kiokio Station Rd farm north of Otorohanga.

"I've told them to take their line somewhere else as I have plans to subdivide it when I retire," he said.

Williams said Waipa Networks should have taken part in the district plan process in the interests of transparency.

He said utility companies should be looking at sharing existing infrastructure corridors rather than creating new ones.

"We are already taking into account concerns and the proposed route of the line may be moved," Milner said.

He said the new line would remove the need to have power outages every four years for maintenance.

In Waipa Networks' worst year for outages in 2007/2008 there were six outages and only one was planned. "Customers went without power for 12 hours that year," Milner said.

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The new line would be supported by 16-metre poles, rather than pylons. They would be erected every 100 metres of the route depending on topography.

Williams asked for a monthly progress report from Waipa Networks.

Milner responded with: "We should be the ones that explain what's going on and answering questions. There will be a map at some stage, once the preliminary negotiations are over. It will take some time. We would like to see this completed before the next four year outage in 2016. We want most of these negotiations by the end of this year."

- Waikato Times

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