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Back-up power for the people

There is light at the end of the tunnel for parts of Wairarapa that have experienced persistent power outages during recent severe weather events.

Castlepoint and Riversdale are two of four New Zealand communities that are to receive a backup electricity supply from Powerco to boost resilience [the two other areas benefiting from a backup supply are Himatangi Beach and Whangamōmona in the Manawatū-Whanganui region].

Installation hasn’t yet begun in Riversdale and Castlepoint but is due to be completed before the end of this year.

The site selected for Castlepoint is Masterton District Council’s wastewater treatment site, which a council spokesperson said is a secure location.

“The generator will provide a welcome source of alternative power, should it be required in an emergency, and will not only ensure the wastewater plant can continue to operate but also ensure the community as a whole has a backup source of electricity,” the spokesperson said.

The Riversdale site for the development is on private farmland
on Homewood Rd.

Karen Frew, Powerco’s general manager of electricity, said the project will enable community hubs to supply essential services in a natural disaster.

“Power to the Whangamōmona, Castlepoint, Riversdale, and Himatangi communities is supplied by single feeders, which means we’re unable to re-route power from another feeder to restore supply if there’s an outage,” Frew said.

“With generation, there’s a resource ready to help power the community in the event of the electricity feed being unavailable.”

Frew said Wairarapa’s remote and rural terrain often impacts Powerco’s response time following wild weather.

“The isolated nature and the particularly difficult forestry block terrain, particularly for Castlepoint and Riversdale, has meant, at times, lengthy delays in supply restoration following storm events for our customers,” Frew said.

“This generation will enable lifeline supply for the likes of wifi, phone charging, fridges, freezers, and food preparation to continue for these communities when they need it most.”

Frew said Powerco is also working with iwi and community leaders in the region on community resilience projects.

“In an emergency, local marae and rural halls become community hubs, which need to continue to be powered even if the rest of the region is without electricity,” Frew said.

“While these marae and community halls may have access to generators, a sticking point has been the availability of a manual transfer switch that safely connects the marae or halls’ electrical circuits to the generator.”

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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