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Why Can’t We Hold Vector Accountable?

Written By: - Date published: 8:28 am, April 19th, 2018 - 85 comments
Categories: business, capitalism, climate change, disaster, Economy, energy, Environment, sustainability - Tags:

For those of us who were without electricity to their houses in Auckland for several days, it’s worth turning our thoughts to Vector.

First off, a huge thanks to all their lines maintenance subcontractors who worked incredibly hard and their families who saw them go out and work at night in the storm for us. It was only this morning that many of the street lights came back on, as they had constantly re-routed electricity to domestic homes while available power was tight.

But secondly, Vector has not been held to account. Not by the government, or the media, or anyone else. It is very hard to.

In the long term, there’s a chance that Vector will come back under democratic control when in 2073 the trust that owns 75.1% of Vector is wound up and the shares returned to Auckland Council.

But that’s no comfort when you can’t even see the matches to get the fire started, and winter’s coming.

The only major regulation that Vector is under is through the Electricity Commission. Suppliers of electricity lines provide public information about their network and electricity prices on an annual basis. They are regulated just to ensure that the price and quality of the service is comparable with what consumers would expect to receive in a competitive market.

Being able to prove what the price a consumer would expect to receive in a competitive market is one of the most arcane sports in the legal and economic enclaves of New Zealand. It is about as far removed from me, thousands of me, and my last remaining piece of Little Lucifer Firestarters hoping like crap that the damp matches will strike as you could possibly be.

The Auckland Council offered hot showers at its swimming pools, and bottles of water. My nearest was half an hours’ drive away. That apparently is the limit of what to expect from the entire public realm.

Even if I squinted my eyes and dreamed of a New Zealand in which the state owned every electricity company directly, I have no faith that the owners would give any more of a damn. When I needed it most, in the middle of a storm, and cold, with the fridge and freezer defrosted, neither ownership nor regulation helped.

Some may say that the whole of Auckland would not need Vector or their likes if everyone was on photovoltaic cells and lived off grid. Few have the capital, and the sentiment is again pretty cold comfort. Vector do interesting programmes in that area, but uptake is low and will remain so.

We are a nation beset by oligopolistic capture in our electricity suppliers. We have very few regulatory instruments with any force. We have a government that now exists with respect to electricity in a nasty halfway house that is neither state-controlled, nor well regulated when it really counts, nor fully market driven. The sum total of accountability was to call them and get a voice recording, and an app that didn’t work. Cheers. The circuit vector of accountability never lands on Vector.

Vector generates tonnes of revenue, which instead of really preparing for the future where all lines need to be undergrounded, throws the money away in individual cheques to share trust beneficiaries. It cannot be seen to overspend lest the average price per unit becomes out of whack with “what consumers would expect to receive in a competitive market”. Which is a fat lot of use while your washing goes mouldy in the machine and you’re trying to find your shirts in the morning by braille.

To even keep the sewerage system working, Watercare had to bring in shipping-container-sized portable generators to all their pump sites. Some phone exchanges had independent power. A properly resourced Vector would have had that scale of backup.

These storms cannot be arranged and are getting worse, faster, and more destructive. A state, a society, and a commercial economy without either the institutional will, instruments, or ability to unite consumer dissatisfaction with shareholder force is too brittle to sustain much damage at all.

No compensation, no apology, no rebate, no discount. Nothing.

It will be next in some other city, some other company. In time we will all hold the match together.

Cold comfort, when winter’s coming, and no one is held to account at all.

85 comments on “Why Can’t We Hold Vector Accountable?”

  1. AsleepWhileWalking 1

    Isn’t the daily line charge a contractual agreement with an expectation that this type of event is insured against, planned for and fixed quickly?

    If we had a choice in paying (in other words each household could opt out and accept the risk of having to organise repair themselves) then it might be less of an issue.

    Surely there is some remedy under law??

  2. ianmac 2

    Trees. And more trees over or near power lines. Strong winds bend trees onto lines and the lines surrender. Naughty Vector. And no blame for those householders who keep the trees they love as near the power lines as possible.

    • tc 2.1

      Undergrounding resolves that a.k.a investing in the networks resilience against a naturally occurring threat that’s on the rise …..WIND.

      • dukeofurl 2.1.1

        not economic in rural and semi rural areas around auckland.

        Vector shareholders are those consumers living in the old Auckland City and Manukau city areas.
        North Shore and Waitakere areas were given free shares worth many $1000s of dollars.

        The Trust that holds the ownership of Vector shares has a undergrounding program which it pays for around $10 mill per year, but only for the area of its shareholders/consumers.

        There is no undergrounding program for the North Shore/Waitakere areas ( unless they want added charges to pay for it)

        As the map shows high risk areas like Muriwai might have substantial extra charges to mitigate their high risk

        • Draco T Bastard

          not economic in rural and semi rural areas around auckland.

          It is economic. In fact, doing it is economic because of the amount of preventable loss that occurs when it’s not done.

          It’s not as profitable.

          • dukeofurl

            Im thinking a $2 mill under grounding of a rural road with 5 houses on it.

            That $2 mill in the city could do 200 houses.

            Uneconomic is all about Cost to benefit ratio.
            More important things to do with the money eg housing

            • Draco T Bastard

              That $2 mill in the city could do 200 houses.


              Since when have houses cost $20,000 each?

              Uneconomic is all about Cost to benefit ratio.

              And how much would be saved by under-grounding the power lines out in the rural areas? How much would be lost if a dairy farm suddenly couldn’t milk the cows?
              What if that farm had 20kw of solar panelling on it that fed into the grid?
              How many people would suddenly be be in danger of dying to cold if the power went down?

              More important things to do with the money eg housing

              They’re not mutually exclusive. The problem isn’t money but the financial and capitalist system that prevents a community doing what’s needed unless it makes a few people rich.

              • dukeofurl

                Rural areas the houses are further apart, much further
                have you been out in these areas?
                Another thing you dont know about.

                Milking cows is only the first part, the milk is then held in chilled vats and after the tanker takes it away the vat uses very hot water to sterilise the inside ready for the next milking.

    • Et Tu Brute 2.2

      What happened to council responsibility? I had a rental property and I used to get letters from the council – I think it was council anyway – whenever the trees got too close to the lines. There are after all, or should be, bylaws on trees, property boundaries and power lines. Even without such demand letters – I inherited the property, lived on the other side of the country, and didn’t have funds to do much until sold – property owners should take some responsibility for sticking to the rules. The storm might have been an Act of God, but the tree too close to the lines wasn’t (sorry creationists).

      • Draco T Bastard 2.2.1

        Yep, fining the people who are the direct cause of the problem will certainly help a little.

        But it won’t get the lines under-grounded as is needed.

        • Et Tu Brute

          Don’t need fines. Vector’s insurance would make claims against the property owner’s insurance.

          • dukeofurl

            Yes that will be coming.
            if the tree that fell over is on your land, expect a bill of may $10k ?

            Trees on Auckland Transport controlled roadsides will cost them too.

          • Draco T Bastard

            Insurance doesn’t pay out if you break the law. If maintaining your trees around power lines is a legal requirement and you don’t then insurance won’t pay out, ergo, you get the full bill.

            I’d throw the fine in as an added bonus.

      • dukeofurl 2.2.2

        Trees close to power lines- that would have been the lines company

        In up to 140km hr winds, the branches could come from across the road

        Trees have roots which the wind can force the trunk over. Trimming wont change that

        In my street the trees are on the road reserve and the lines pass through the branches. They come and do a major prune every 3-5 years.
        Must have worked as while there were flickers didnt lose power.

        Does spoil the aesthetic of the trees though as the other side of the road doesnt have the power lines

    • ropata 2.3

      For no apparent reason many of the leafy streets of Remuera and Ponsonby have underground power already, but most others aren’t even on the plan


      • dukeofurl 2.3.1

        Most of the central isthmus is ‘leafy’
        Their undergrounding is only for central and south Auckland and a lot of south auckland was built underground

  3. tc 3

    Rigged game folks, you want accountability and a resilient network that’s strengthened against such events then nationalise it from Generator through to all the lines companies.

    Let the generators who swallowed up all the retailers belt each other about at the bill delivery end and watch them all cry like babies about how tough that actually is. Especially without a juicy generator business backfilling the costs.

    Recall the blackout’s of 97, the diversity into akl CBD didn’t arrive till nearly 15 years later so there’s plenty of evidence that the Bradford reforms have done nothing more than line ticket clippers pockets.

    To paraphrase an old NZED engineer who worked on Wairakei and ended up at MRP…” we really fu**d it up mate…I dont get how we can be charging so much…”

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      Recall the blackout’s of 97, the diversity into akl CBD didn’t arrive till nearly 15 years later so there’s plenty of evidence that the Bradford reforms have done nothing more than line ticket clippers pockets.

      Working as intended then.

      Privatisation was only ever about rich people becoming even bigger bludgers on the poor.

    • dukeofurl 3.2

      MRP doesnt do lines

      Are you making it up?

      • tc 3.2.1

        MRP is a generator with hydro’s on the waikato and owns retailer Mercury.

        Wish I was making it up, consumers would be livid if they understood the extent of largesse in electricity made much worse by 3 terms of national.

  4. Keepcalmcarryon 4

    You had a storm people, it takes time to fix stuff.
    First world problems.

    • Ad 4.1

      Over 90% of New Zealand lives in cities.
      It’s not a “first world” problem. It’s a New Zealand problem.

      • Keepcalmcarryon 4.1.1

        More immigrants needed wasn’t it yesterday? How’s that creaking infrastructure holding up?
        I’m thinking of ending all my posts with Auckland because.

        • Ad

          Focus your comments on the post.

          If all you can give to a discussion is a single word, please stop commenting now since you have made it clear you have nothing to contribute.

        • Tamati Tautuhi

          Little Sir Johnnie Key forgot to budget for increased pressure on our Infrastructure and Steven Joyce failed Economics 101 at University, so it is not surprising the mess NZ is currently in ?

      • dukeofurl 4.1.2

        Its a 40-50 year event currently

        Do you think theres enough staff sitting around who can fix huge damage in days ?

        if you live a rural area with plenty of trees, expect those trees to…damage the power lines during high winds

        • Ad

          The price of resilience and capacity redundancy is definitely one area to consider here.

          For example, merging the Ministry of Civil Defence with the NZDF would give a ready reaction force with the logistical and organisational might to respond at scale and speed.

          • dukeofurl

            Electricity is dangerous. All different skills to NZDF

            I was amazed at a person in Piha who had on site water tank and sewage disposal but seemed upset that their water pump without power meant they couldnt use toilets flush.
            They didnt seem to have heard of getting a bucket of water from the water tank and pouring that into the toilet.

          • Draco T Bastard

            For example, merging the Ministry of Civil Defence with the NZDF would give a ready reaction force with the logistical and organisational might to respond at scale and speed.

            That’s actually a really bad idea. The two organisations are completely different with a different focus.

            If you want Civil Defence to be able to do what you want them to do then we’d have to resource them to be able to do it.

            • dukeofurl

              No you cant just wave ‘resource’ words around

              How many arborists/ tree surgeons do you think we have ?

              How many skilled linesmen/woen do you think we have.

              Its ludicrous to think we can have 20x the number of skilled people normal usage for once in 40 yr events. Even then the complexity would mean it still would at least a week.

              Suggest people who are in high risk rural/ lifestyle block areas take some of the burden in increasing their OWN resilience is mor acchievable.

              I would rather see housing for homeless and better public transport than undergrounding lifestyle blocks or cutting down most street trees in urban area

              • Draco T Bastard

                Its ludicrous to think we can have 20x the number of skilled people normal usage for once in 40 yr events.

                True but I’m not the one saying that we need that.

                Suggest people who are in high risk rural/ lifestyle block areas take some of the burden in increasing their OWN resilience is mor acchievable.

                Get them to underground their power lines? Sure – why not.

                I would rather see housing for homeless and better public transport than undergrounding lifestyle blocks or cutting down most street trees in urban area

                What makes you think that they’re mutually exclusive?

          • OncewasTim

            Not a bad idea – at least in getting NZDF to participate more actively in CD.
            We could even get them involved in that ‘housing crisis’ thingy. I notice around some of the Waiuru hills there’s been a bit of housing development in recent times.

        • Chuck

          When I lived rural for about 17 years, we always had power cuts multiple times each year due to wind – tree damaging lines. Since I have been back in the suburbs I have had 2 power cuts in the last 5 years.

          Trees and power lines do not mix well!

      • dukeofurl 4.1.3

        Most of the world problems are ‘electricity for only 2 hrs a day, but you dont know which 2 hrs’

    • Baba Yaga 4.2

      The ‘storm’ was a category 2 cyclone. I live in Auckland, and have been affected by the storm, and your comment is spot on. IMHO Vector, the Council, everyone involved have done a fantastic job. But there will always be whingers…

  5. Pat 5

    Its a worldwide problem and one thats going to increase…and dont think insurance is the answer. It is a model already under stress and as with all private entities can simply fold its tent….leaving the only true guarantor of last resort, the state…..think Southern Response…..and the state then has to weather the political/financial fall-out.

    Best option, try and limit the frequency and intensity of the events….and build to the new reality….but whatever you do dont ask anyone to change how things are done or to pay for it.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      Its a worldwide problem and one thats going to increase…and dont think insurance is the answer.

      Yep. It’s a problem caused by capitalism and insurance is actually a scam. The only workable ‘insurance’ is a viable community.

      • dukeofurl 5.1.1

        never heard of re-insurance ?

        EQC got $10 bill or so payout.

        They had an additional level of reinsurance above that – NZ taxpayers , but that is paid for by an annual $20 mill EQC payment to the government

        Community is all very well, but when you have 1000s of home s with $100k plus damage.
        Your community maybe can shovel away the once soft mud.

        • Pat

          yes I have indeed heard of reinsurance…and AMI had insufficient despite meeting the regulatory requirements….and I will also note that the reinsurance was withheld during various periods post quake and there was a very real threat that the reinsurance industry was going to withdraw completely from the natural disaster market in NZ….and could well do so in the future

          • dukeofurl

            I think that was just talk about withdrawing… theres money to be made.

            What did happen was the standard insurance changed from ‘what ever it costs to rebuild’ to fixed price and the reinsurance is back.

            as for AMI as Bernard Hickey said
            “The Sunday Star Times calculated here AMI invested 3.7 per cent of premium income in reinsurance.
            Other insurers exceeded 10 per cent, with Lumley General reporting 16.3 per cent. ”
            Plus AMI was concentrated in Christchurch, so that should be an increase in risk factor
            ( As I have been saying those who live on steeper hillsides or want to live in rural blocks with country roads and large trees- INCREASED RISK)

            • Pat

              “I think that was just talk about withdrawing… theres money to be made.”

              Talk that wasnt without a realist threat….there is less and less money to be made hence the new conditions and increased exclusions and premiums….and it will only get worse.

              AMI may have invested less than others in reinsurance however the critical point is they met the regulatory requirements….they were undone by an unanticipated risk….its the things you dont foresee that cause the problem….and we are refusing to foresee the coming risks.

        • Draco T Bastard

          never heard of re-insurance ?

          Yes I have. That’s an even bigger scam because, as you point out “They had an additional level of reinsurance above that – NZ taxpayers ,”

          EQC got $10 bill or so payout.

          And that achieved exactly what?

          At the time of the Christchurch earthquakes our economy was at pretty much full capacity which means that when they hit there was, quite simply, no one to help. The only thing that $10b would have done is push prices up for builders and building materials which is what we actually saw to a large degree (although builders wages seemed a little stuck).

          In a large disaster such as the Christchurch earthquakes all of the economy’s spare capacity will be used up and then some which means that no amount of insurance can actually cover it because all the resources of the nation are being used already.

          Community is all very well, but when you have 1000s of home s with $100k plus damage. Your community maybe can shovel away the once soft mud.

          Or the government, acting as representatives of the community, could have actually made the money available to shift the nations resources into doing what was needed a hell of a lot faster. It wouldn’t have needed an insurance premium at all and it wouldn’t have been wondering how much it’s dividends were going to go down as pay outs exceeded income. Or even if it was going to go bankrupt as happened with AMI(?).

          • dukeofurl

            Main earthquake was in Feb 2011

            Not a good time economically as we hadnt picked up after GFC.

            The rest of your reply isnt worthy of any response as it just is babble worthy of an 8 yr old

  6. dukeofurl 6

    That was a windstorm

    Wait till a tropical cyclone like Bola hits Auckland, its only a matter of time. Previous equivalent was in late 1920s or early 30s.

    Those areas in Waitakeres which both get higher rainfall and and have steep winding roads etc. The sheer volume of landslides etc will put out roads for many months cutting off access.
    The areas has both sewage and water supply, the breakages will mean homes will not be livaeable for periods up to a year ( pipe breakages take longer than power lines to fix)
    Some parts may even be ‘red zoned’ and considered not repairable like Christchurch.

    Then there is hassle of dealing with EQC and insurance and under/over cap when the slips affect your house and land around it

    Sell out and move away over the next few years. Dont say you havent been warned.

    • Ad 6.1

      You can’t move whole cities. Nor do you need to.

      What will Vector do any different next time?

      • dukeofurl 6.1.1

        I worked on issues related to ground stability in the Waitakeres and around Auckland for many years.
        Landslips are not preventable, the resilience issues are 100s more difficult than power lines affected by wind

        Are you going to sit and wait ? It could happen next year if the seas around NZ remain extra warm over summer or it might not for 20 years.

        I do check the Councils flood and overland flow maps, I would never choose to live in a high risk area. Same goes in area of raised landslip hazard- which might not affect my home but could be the services especially water and sewage.

        • lprent

          I tend to operate in the same way. I picked a location to live in that was 85m above mean sea level, just below a ridgeline above a narrow valley, and with a higher ridgeline opposite. It is also underground power… I also got engineers reports for all of the usual known risks.

          So I had a power outage in 1998 with the rest of the CBD just after I moved in. And a leaky home because of a subcontractor skimping on placing the water proofing to spec.

          Shit happens and you can’t get rid of all risk.

          The problem is that this last storm looks to me to be more of a 5 year event these days rather than a 40 year. In 10 years it will be a yearly event. Just like el Nino and la Nina used to have a nearly a decade between cycles, but now tend to happen every few years. More energy in the climate systems and you get more frequent events.

  7. Draco T Bastard 7

    Even if I squinted my eyes and dreamed of a New Zealand in which the state owned every electricity company directly, I have no faith that the owners would give any more of a damn.

    The owners would definitely give a damn. If the directors, our elected MPs, did is another question and they’re the ones with all the power. Our system’s been purposefully designed to remove power from the people and put it in the unaccountable hands of bureaucrats and capitalists.

    When I needed it most, in the middle of a storm, and cold, with the fridge and freezer defrosted, neither ownership nor regulation helped.

    There are lessons to be earned:
    1. Don’t trust capitalists no matter how nice they say they are.
    2. We need means of accountability to the people for the bureaucrats and MPs so that we can get people in there to do the job properly.

    We are a nation beset by oligopolistic capture in our electricity suppliers.

    Capitalism is all about oligopolistic capture and not just of electricity but of everything. It’s how they bludge so successfully.

    Some phone exchanges had independent power.

    It used to be that all exchanges had independent power for when the power went down. Usually in the form of large number of large 2v lead acid batteries and a diesel generator. Same for the TV masts. Communication was seen as vitally important in emergencies. Apparently it’s not any more.

    A properly resourced Vector would have had that scale of backup.

    Not really. That backup actually needs to be on site of the place that needs to be kept going. Having it in a central location has issues:
    1. It would require a large garage of some form wasting land/space
    2. If the storm/earthquake/volcanic eruption prevented those generators from then getting to the site they actually be useless.

    In the case of power we should have regulations forcing the power underground. That would stop the issues of lines being brought down by badly maintained trees (The Labour led government removed the legislation for lines companies to do so in 2003). Of course, under-grounding requires serious investment and we know that the level of investment to do it just hasn’t been there across the country. There was that case down south not too long ago about power poles being almost completely rotted through in another case of things being cut to keep rates down.

    These storms cannot be arranged and are getting worse, faster, and more destructive. A state, a society, and a commercial economy without either the institutional will, instruments, or ability to unite consumer dissatisfaction with shareholder force is too brittle to sustain much damage at all.

    It will be next in some other city, some other company. In time we will all hold the match together.

    When a country is run for profit and to keep rates and taxes down, as ours is, then what that country will always get sub-standard infrastructure. The type that will fail when the brown stuff hits the whirly thing.

    And because we’ve now been running the country that way for so long if any political party tries to tell people that taxes need to go up to pay to fix the fuckups of the past decades they either won’t be voted in or they’ll be voted out and National’s delusional do more with less slogan will cause even more damage (With infrastructure it’s physically impossible to do more with less – you actually do need to use the required amount of physical resources).

    As Brian Rudman says:

    Closer to the mark surely, are the conclusions of the official inquiry into the 1998 power fiasco. In early 1998, not one, but all four of the major power cables servicing the CBD from the Penrose substation fizzled out, one by one, over several days, leaving downtown Auckland with a power crisis that lasted more than a month. The official inquest said the power company’s operations and power line maintenance were below industry standards. The lesson to be learned, it said, was that utilities should systematically evaluate risk facing physical assets such as power lines.

    Yet 20 years on and what do we have but more than 100 powers lines skittled by falling trees across the whole isthmus after a single storm.

    Capitalism: Failed yet again.

    • dukeofurl 7.1

      “Some phone exchanges had independent power.”
      Still do
      My supermarket has its own large generator

      cell phone sites have battery back up. Its not expected to last for days though

    • Draco T Bastard 7.2

      Continuing from Rudman’s piece:

      Trustees are required, as part of their duties as highlighted on the trust website, to “Take a proactive role in ensuring security of supply for our customers”. As someone who last week was without power for two periods totalling nearly 24 hours – and I got off lightly – I say the trustees have failed horribly, as the controlling shareholder, to fulfil this function.

      Instead, they seem content to don their Santa hats each September and, with much self-praise, share out the dividend – last year it totalled $110 million – at $350 a household. Imagine how much pro-active, supply-securing undergrounding that would have paid for.

      And now you understand the dead-weight loss of profit.

      • dukeofurl 7.2.1

        The Entrust Trustees have no obligations to those on North Shore or the North -West.

        The shareholders are only in what used to be called Auckland and Manukau/Papakura Cities

        Those customers got a $2500 free gift of shares when the lines company was corporatised

        Those Entrust shareholders got nothing at the time but the annual dividend….every year

    • Baba Yaga 7.3

      Virtually all power has been restored across Auckland. In most cases power was restored within just a few days. My mother’s power was out for 4 days, and she came and stayed with us. The current electricity market actually works well. But here’s what you’d like to see, I guess…

      “But throwing money at the problem may not be enough. Despite pumping more than $3.8 billion into the sector since 2010 to put 40 new plants on stream, lack of transparency, mismanagement and corruption continue to hobble regular access to electricity.
      According to the newspaper El Nacional, there have been 10,647 failures in the SEN (National Electric System) between January and June 2013. The states of Zulia, Anzoátegui, Miranda, Amazonas, and Aragua have been the most affected by the current crisis— leaving populations in those areas seething with anger.
      On August 11, 2013, in the central states of Carabobo and Aragua, the western state of Falcón and the eastern state of Anzoátegui, blacked-out customers vented their frustrations on Twitter. Three days later, in the city of Valencia, in Carabobo state, residents blocked the highway for seven hours after a day without electricity. Consumers soon found themselves short of candles, since the power outage had closed stores as well.
      Meanwhile, businesses—from factories to restaurants—are using diesel-based generators to stay open, further driving up the cost of goods and services in a country where inflation is already raging at over 20 percent. Some families purchase small generators to produce electricity when blackouts occur, but this has led to tragedy as well: between April 2012 and January 2013, 10 people died after inhaling the fumes produced by the machines.”

      • Draco T Bastard 7.3.1

        Ah, a RWNJ lying – what a surprise.

        • Baba Yaga

          Are you saying the article about Venezuela is not accurate?

          • ropata

            Maybe the USA should invade and spread capitalism like they have done so wonderfully in Iraq, Syria, Libya

          • Draco T Bastard

            No, I said you were lying. Specifically when you said:

            But here’s what you’d like to see, I guess…

            And, yeah, I’m pretty sure that the RWNJ rag you quoted was also lying in some way or another. Like most right-wing rags they always decry socialist governments.

            • Baba Yaga

              I said ‘I guess’. Oh and It’s not difficult to decry socialist governments when they invariably wreck countries.

  8. dukeofurl 8

    People who chose to live in high risk areas should really just buy a $800 home generator so they can run their fridge- stove- hotwater , maybe TV ( not all at once)


    • Sanctuary 8.1

      It might be cheaper in the long run for Vector to buy generators in bulk and offer them at cost to customers in the West. I would buy one for $300..

      • jaymam 8.1.1

        I bought a 4-stroke petrol 2500watt generator for about $350 from Repco. It’s not sine wave but it runs everything in the house except for one old CRT TV (and obviously not the stove). I have run a cable over the fence to keep the neighbour’s freezer running for 3 days.

    • DH 8.2

      The problem with gensets is they cost a fortune to run. That 2800watt $737 unit would burn a good 1 litre of petrol an hour costing you around $50 per day if you wanted to run the house off it.

      The more expensive inverter generators are cheaper to run but it would still cost a packet to run a house off one.

      It’s also beyond the average person to power a house with a genset, it’s not as simple as plugging one into the switchboard. You’d need to make the house generator ready and that would probably cost more than the generator.

      • dukeofurl 8.2.1

        Fine choose the cheap option of no power for a week.- Live off the grid then

        • DH

          I think it’s more about working out what will work and what’s a practical risk management strategy. Realistically you’d need either a battery/inverter/(small) genset system or a bloody big genset to run a house, those small ones wouldn’t cut it without an expensive power management system .

          The typical water heater uses 2000 watts and so does an electric jug, brew up a coffee while the thermostat has kicked in and you’ll trip the overload on a 3-4kw genset.

          The point being is there’s no cheap alternative to run a house for a short period in the absence of mains power, best you could do is keep the fridge & lights etc going IMO.

          • dukeofurl

            Hot Water heaters are now mostly 3kW.

            But 1 hr of full on heating should be enough for a couple of quick showers.

            • DH

              How would you turn it on? Water heater, lights and stove are hardwired to the switchboard.

              There’s perhaps a call for houses to be made generator ready but it would cost a bit and the rareness of these types of outages might make it a marginal investment.

              • dukeofurl

                Thats what electricians are for.

              • jaymam

                I have separate wiring from my garage to power points upstairs and downstairs in my house. In the garage I can plug a wire into the generator or inverters. None of that goes near the grid power.
                I also have a battery and inverter in a box that I can carry anywhere that needs 230v power. That’s good to keep a freezer going.

  9. Rosemary McDonald 9

    Was anyone keeping track of the type of trees falling and damaging power lines?

    It has not been cold enough to loosen the leaves on the deciduous trees…so the winds from that winter storm would have blown the branches off the trees rather than the dead leaves from the branches.

    Resilience has been the catch cry for the past nine years…those Aucklander’s lucky enough to have homes to live in are offered free hot showers and bottled water after a storm inconveniences them…did I miss the media reports of those Aucklanders forced to live in their vehicles given such support?

  10. SpaceMonkey 10

    We are a nation beset by oligopolistic capture… full stop. Pretty much since the New Zealand Company spotted an opportunity to profit from colonisation.

  11. joe90 11

    Simon Wilson on undergrounding.


    Take the question of keeping trees clear of power lines. Regulations set by MBIE, the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, state what they can cut. They have no authority to cut vegetation back further than 1.5 metres from the main power lines on arterial roads and a mere 0.5 metres from the lines on a suburban side street.

    “We were getting lines brought down by trees that came from the other side of the road,” says Mackenzie. “Broken branches flying through the air.”

    So should the lines be underground?

    Already, 55 per cent of Vector’s network is underground. That includes all new developments and many parts of the city where old lines have been replaced. Vector spends $10-$12 million a year replacing old overhead lines, especially in at-risk areas. That includes places where cars keep hitting the poles. (That’s a big issue in Auckland: we’ve had 182 fatal and serious crashes where a car has struck a pole in the last five years.)

    Of the 45 per cent of power lines still above ground, 60 percent is in the north and northwest, much of it in small town and rural areas.

    Undergrounding is not easy. The work has to be coordinated with Chorus, so broadband cabling goes in at the same time. Street lighting needs to be redesigned and footpaths often need to be re-laid.

    The lines have to be at least a metre down, often more, and in areas of volcanic rock that means a difficult dig. Regulations state they can’t dig under the drip lines of trees, which limits where the lines can be laid.

    Is undergrounding the whole urban area even possible?

    “It’s possible,” says Mackenzie, but it’s very challenging. The costs are extremely challenging.”

    He says undergrounding costs from four to 10 times as much as running the cables above ground. Vector’s rough estimate is that to put all remaining cables underground, just within the urban limits, never mind about the west coast, Riverhead and all the other exposed rural areas, would cost about $3 billion.

    “That’s equal to the entire value of our current asset,” says Mackenzie.

    A question for Auckland, right there. What does this cost-averse city want to pay for a secure power supply?


    • Ad 11.1

      Redirect the fulsome dividends into future-proofing.

      McKenzie should and could do far better in a response.

      • joe90 11.1.1

        It’s hard to have much sympathy for Aucklanders who’re doing it tough at the moment because this is something that’s been decades in the making.

        I’m a distribution linesman and every time I visit South Central /West Auckland I’m gobsmaked by the age and state of the network.

        Honestly, there’s street after street with poles, conductors, hardware and kit from the 1950’s, bodgied up death traps, still in use, that ought to have been replaced 30 years ago.

        My own community was doing it hard because of the job losses and depopulation of late eighties and nineties, yet the network was constantly being upgraded, the entire city is ring fed and it’s now pretty damned resilient.

        Auckland let the bean counters run the engineering, and now it’s time to cough up.

        • Ad

          Great to hear your on-round experience in this field Joe.
          Sure don’t see any ‘gold plating’ of infrastructure around our place.

          Vector’s inability to secure our networks and the large part of New Zealand society that depends on them is criminal.

        • greg

          people in the west took the money in one capital pay out they have no right to be under grounded .they excepted one final pay out for there power nz shares short sighted greed

      • dukeofurl 11.1.2

        Are you a Entrust beneficiary Ad ?
        didnt think so, as it then comes at no cost to you

        I would suggest there is zero chance of that. The cost is about the current value of the supply network.
        Future proofing for a once in 40 yr event, a classic case of gold plating

        • Ad

          So tell me again why those who get the dividends inside the old Auckland Coucnil area from the Vector Trust have their lines undergrounded and hence their electricity supply secure, but those who simply pay their bills on time and happen to live out west and don’t get the cheque from the Trust and don’t have their lines under grounded get no electricity.

          Is it something to do with the people in the west of Auckland? Would you like to continue your slur?

          If you seriously think that preparing for a once-in-40-year event is gold plating, you might check on the age of the NZ pylon network, the age of the NZ Kaikoura and Christchurch rail and motorway networks, the Tauranga and Thames floodplains, and Auckland’s SH16 and Tamaki Drive return cycles. People notice them when they stop working, just like we did, well inside their 40-year average return cycle.

          That’s not gold plating. That’s survival of our society.

      • Graeme 11.1.3

        It’s those fulsome dividends that are the problem, someone’s clipping the ticket.

        Requiring essential infrastructure to return a profit to produce a dividend is really putting the cart before the horse.

        This isn’t just an auckland problem, in Queenstown we have a lines company owned by Dunedin City Council that let our network go to wrack and ruin so DCC could get dividends to pay for their flash stadium. And killed a linesman in the process when a pole fell over.

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