10 Oct 2018

Commerce Commission takes legal action against Vector

5:52 pm on 10 October 2018

An Auckland resident who was without power for three days due to an outage says she has lost confidence in lines companies.

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Photo: RNZ / Claire Eastham-Farrelly

The Commerce Commission is taking legal action against the Auckland lines company Vector for breaching quality standards in 2015 and 2016.

More than 10,000 homes throughout Auckland were without power in three separate weather related outages in 2016.

Auckland resident, Rebekah McLeod, was without power for three days following an outage in that.

At the time she had a new born baby and was forced to put her freezer in the hallway of their apartment building to prevent flooding.

She said it was a trying experience and was pleased Vector was being held to account, although she felt as though not much had changed since 2016 as outages continued to affect those close to her.

"Some of our friends who lived in parts of Auckland around One Tree Hill were up to a week without power.

"They had young children, they had no hot water, they were having to cook using a little gas stove they happened to have in their garage. It had a big impact for a number of my friends."

That storm in April of this year cut power to 100,000 Auckland customers.

Ms McLeod said she did not have a lot of confidence in Vector when the power goes out.

"The odd weather event is understandable but you don't expect not to have consistent power in this day and age."

Vector admits it failed to fix power line outages in time in both 2015 and 2016.

Although it lifted its service standards by 2016, the Commerce Commission said it did not do enough risk planning to mitigate increasing risks, such as cutting down trees near power lines.

Electricity Network Association chief executive Graeme Peters said the time it was expected to take to fix power outages was now too short and meeting it was becoming more difficult.

"We're certainly keen to work on changing the way that reliability is measured and the (Commerce) Commission has indicated to us that they're keen for that to happen.

"We're working really positively with them at the moment on that."

Mr Peters said lines companies did not want more outages to occur but they could not control the weather.

"We are seeing more outages in some areas, it's related to less live line work and more storms and trees coming down on lines.

"If we can do something around the area of moving trees away from power lines I think we'll see less outages."

The Commerce Commission filed proceedings against Vector in the High Court today, with the lines company facing potential fines worth millions of dollars.

Both Vector and the Commerce Commission declined RNZ's request for comment.

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