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Featherston firefighter in the dark during storm

While many in the region suffered power outages as a result of the recent gale force winds, one emergency responder in Featherston had a mysteriously chopped fuse to deal with.

Volunteer firefighter Niamh Mc Namara was out responding to one of the 22 calls the brigade received on Sunday last week [September 17].

When she returned home in between callouts, she wasn’t unduly surprised to find her own power gone.

“People everywhere had lost their power, so I didn’t think anything of it,” she said.

But when Mc Namara woke up the next morning and realised her neighbours had their electricity back but she was still in the dark, she chased up distributor Powerco and her provider, Electric Kiwi.

“At this stage with my fridge, I had to make decisions about what was in there,” Mc Namara said.

To Mc Namara’s initial relief, Powerco arrived just before 7.30pm after she had called Electric Kiwi twice and left an outage report on the Powerco website.

Crew assessed the issue and told Mc Namara that it looked as though her provider had disconnected her, due to the way the fuse was removed.

“He said for Powerco, if for any reason they remove a fuse, the usual protocol is to leave it there but have it hanging, and leave a tag on it for details,” Mc Namara said.

“If the provider does that, they remove it entirely and take it away.”

Gusts so strong in Featherston, emergency services were dealing with a shed roof caught in the gale. PHOTO/BELLA CLEARY

Later, a spokesperson from Powerco confirmed this and said they did not know why the fuse was detached.

“A Powerco crew member was dispatched to the customer’s address on Monday, September 18 and found that there was no fuse on the service pole, which is why the customer had no power,” they said.

“Powerco had not removed the fuse and does not replace fuses that have been removed by third parties because the reason for the fuse removal is unknown. This is for the safety of the customer and their property.”

The spokesperson said Mc Namara was advised to contact her provider, which she said she did, again.

“Because I had electricity in the morning on Sunday and then it was gone when I got back, someone had to come while there was an emergency on, and all the power guys were mad busy,” Mc Namara said.

“Someone came along in the middle of that and removed a fuse so that someone’s house could be disconnected during a storm.”

Mc Namara said it was lucky she lived close to the fire station and had an understanding chief fire officer who allowed her to charge her phone and make meals in between callouts.

Later on Monday evening, someone from Electric Kiwi arrived to look at the fuse and restore the connection.

But she is still waiting for clarity on why she was disconnected in the first place.

“I had taken over that account for that house the Monday before and had paid all my bills,” Mc Namara said.

“At no point between that and the Sunday had there been any communication from Electric Kiwi saying I would be disconnected.”

“It all points to Electric Kiwi, but no one really knows.”

Even though the account was transferred to Mc Namara’s name the previous week, she has been living on the property and paying bills to Electric Kiwi for four years.

A spokesperson from Electric Kiwi confirmed Mc Namara’s power did go out on Sunday but said there is no record of anyone being instructed to disconnect her.

“As an absolute last resort, we will only disconnect customers due to non-payment on a business day that is not a Friday or the day before a public holiday,” they said.

“In this particular case, our customer wasn’t disconnected for non-payment.”

The spokesperson confirmed Mc Namara’s power was reconnected on Monday after she had got in touch about the issue.

Describing the situation as odd, the spokesperson said Electric Kiwi is continuing an investigation to work out what happened.

Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary
Bella Cleary is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age, originally hailing from Wellington. She is interested in social issues and writes about the local arts and culture scene.

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