Gisborne back in business but impact of power cut lingers

5:48 pm on 14 December 2016

Gisborne businesses can re-open this morning, two days after they had to shut up shop after power to the city was cut.

Shops are closed in central Gisborne due to the power outage.

Shops in central Gisborne were deserted during the city's power outage. Photo: RNZ / Michael Cropp

Electricity was restored to the Eastland Network just before 7pm yesterday, after crews completed urgent repairs to an 800m span of high-voltage powerlines brought down by a plane on Monday morning. Two people died in the crash.

Eastland Network said it would have to cut the power again to complete the repairs to the line, and people in the area will be without power again for eight hours on Sunday.

The planned blackout is to enable final repairs on high voltage lines near Hangaroa, which were damaged by a light plane crash on Monday morning.

Eastland said it will again cut power supply between 6am and 2pm on Sunday, to allow for repair work.

Spokesperson Brent Stewart said crews had fixed one circuit but needed to get a second one back in working order.

He said there was simply no way to make the repairs safely without shutting down the power.

But as power came back on last night, not everything went to plan for some local businesses.

Kat Jensen raced to her Bendon Outlet store where the automatic doors unlocked and opened by themselves.

"There was a policeman standing outside which was great. I can tell no one's been in. If someone had gone in the alarm would have gone off."

Down the road, Huifang Xiao was in tears because her shop's entire cash take of $4500 from Friday to Monday had been stolen.

She was devastated, and was upset police had not been able to take fingerprints of the area where she had kept the cash hidden.

Police said they would be going to see her again today.

Brent Simpson of Gisborne business Charcoal Chicken

Brent Simpson of Charcoal Chicken has a generator on the way. Photo: RNZ / Michael Cropp

Brent Simpson has a generator arriving for his Charcoal Chicken business today, because he could no longer rely on a steady power supply.

"We just got our chiller back down to temperature to save our stock. We think we are going to have further outages so we will have frozen bags of ice for our chiller when that happens."

Trish Fallon, who owns Footloose shoes, said she hoped authorities would learn from what happened, and would consider adding another network in case the town gets cut off again.

"We are isolated. I always tell everyone that we are a third island because we have got issues with getting certain things to here, we've got those hills that a barrier to here, so it's something that we have to look at in the long run."

Trish Fallon owns Footloose shoes in Gisborne.

Trish Fallon owns Footloose shoes in Gisborne. Photo: RNZ / Michael Cropp

A barista at Verve Cafe, Rhonda Bryant-Corbett, said she was glad to reopen today.

"When the power came on last night we all all knew that we had to come to work today."

Adrian McGhie from Peel Street Cafe, said he had a rush of customers this morning, serving more than 50 coffees not long after opening.

Gayle Newband said she wasn't too fussed by the lack of power.

"I just went to bed early. I think a lot of Gisborne people had the best sleep they've had in ages. We couldn't watch TV and we had to watch the battery power for our phones and internet."

Australian tourist Jamie Ouzas said it was "fantastic news" that the power was back on.

"Quite a few of us haven't had a hot shower for the last two days. It's been hard but the community of Gisborne has just stuck together and held fast, like true warm hearted New Zealand people as I know them."

He was at a barbecue run by the Rapid Relief Team just before the power came on.

The team's leader, Gareth Vigis, said they cooked 2500 sausages after setting up late on Monday evening.

"I guess last night was a little bit of anticipation but this morning they've made it through the night. They were hoping it was going to be on by the end of today and people were reasonably optimistic."

Eastland said it could cost up to $100 million to put a second electricity transmission line into the district.

The company said the idea of building a new line on an alternate route had been considered before.

Chief executive Matt Todd said it would be expensive.

"The cost of building a new line is in the $75-$100 million range. So if you spend that much, that's going to be an additional cost per customer in the Gisborne region of about $400 per year. That's a lot for a region that doesn't have a lot of money and already has high electricity prices."

Mr Todd said Eastland was happy to revisit the idea of a second line if the community wanted it.

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