22 Jun 2013

Wellington residents frustrated by lack of power

9:59 pm on 22 June 2013

Residents in the Wellington region without electricity since Thursday night's wild storm are frustrated they may stay disconnected for several more days.

About 800 homes were still without power late on Saturday evening.

Pauatahanui resident Ellen Moss, without power for 48 hours, said her house hadn't stopped leaking.

"I mean this is a third world country as far as I'm concerned, it's terrible. The power company should be doing something about it. They should be putting a generator in I think somewhere, a big one. So why do they think they can just leave us without power for a week?"

Lower Hutt resident Steve Bensen said he was frustrated by a lack of communication from the power companies.

"The main thing I'm concerned about is just not being able to get any information. If you ring the 0800 numbers you get recorded messages and some of those are now about 48 hours old, so they don't give you any information at all."

Lines company Wellington Electricity said its 0800 number had been flooded with calls but it was encouraging people to keep trying to get in contact.

The company hoped power would be restored to most properties by Tuesday - but for rural properties, it could take a week.

A helicopter patrolling remote parts of the Eastbourne coast and Makara on Saturday morning had spotted power poles snapped off at the base by high winds and whole sections of line brought down by fallen trees.

The company said the sodden ground would make it hard for heavy vehicles to reach the lines and it was worried landslides and more bad weather could undo its repairs.

At the height of Thursday night's storm power was cut to about 30,000 properties.

Wellington Electricity is reminding people in areas still without power to stay well away from fallen powerlines and check on their neighbours.

Wellington City Council said it had had more than 1000 storm-related calls, 500 of which had been about fallen trees.

It was still clearing trees on Middleton Road between Johnsonville and Tawa, Makara Road and Alexandra Road on Mount Victoria.

Some of Porirua's roads remained blocked by large trees on Saturday evening, and would be closed until early next week.

The Porirua City Council said Belmont Road would not reopen until Monday and Paekakariki Hill Road not until Tuesday at the earliest.

It said crews had been working since first light on Saturday to clear downed trees from the city's roads, parks and reserves.

KiwiRail said Interislander ferries had resumed sailing - but the huge swells in Cook Strait had meant delays and longer travel times.

The Kaitaki, which broke its moorings and had to shelter in the harbour during the storm, was still out of action.

The Bluebridge ferry Straitsman is due to resume sailing at 8pm on Saturday.

The Fire Service said it had dealt with hundreds of damaged roofs after the gale force winds tore through the region, lifting roofing iron and tiles and uprooting trees.

A fallen tree damaged the roof of a Lower Hutt house.

A fallen tree damaged the roof of a Lower Hutt house. Photo: RNZ

Metservice said the polar weather would ease from Sunday.

Warning over tree removal

Wellington City Council is warning people to be careful of private contractors offering to clean up trees damaged by the storm.

Radio New Zealand has received reports of unskilled labourers attempting tree clearing work, which the council says should only be performed by trained arborists.

Council spokesperson Julian Emeny says people should check the credentials of contractors offering to remove large trees.

He says people who've suffered storm damage may be feeling vulnerable and could be taken advantage of by unskilled workers.

Some roads opened

State highways in the Wellington area are open but fallen trees, slips and debris mean some other roads remain closed.

They include Middleton Road near Johnsonville, Paekakariki Hill Road and Makara Road at Karori.

All Wellington's south coast roads are open, but the Wellington City Council is warning that extreme care should be taken.

Wind bent steel cradle at marina

Even boats on solid ground were hit hard by Thursday's storm.

At Seaview Marina in Petone the wind forced the steel cradle holding a large ketch in dry dock to bend right over, puncturing it as it fell over on its side.

Chief executive Alan McLellan says it required an "amazing amount" of force to bend the steel arms of the cradle at right angles.

Mr McLellan says other boats at the marina have broken masts, ripped sails and broken windows.

He says Wellington boat owners should be able to properly inspect their yachts on Saturday.

Running on empty

The storm has caused some temporary shortages of 91 octane petrol in Wellington.

The fuel company Z Energy says its Johnsonville and Whitmore Street stations have run out of 91 octane petrol and are selling 95 octane fuel at the 91 price.

The stations were expected to be refuelled on Saturday afternoon.