Wellington Scoop

Not explaining the blackout


by Lindsay Shelton
There has been a disturbing lack of information about last night’s huge power cut in Wellington city streets. Those responsible seem to be in denial.

The blackness in so many suburban streets created a dangerous environment for several hours.

But today there is not a word of explanation or apology on the website of Wellington Electricity. Worse, the company doesn’t even acknowledge that there was a problem.

Last night, the “power outage” page of the website stated that there were no outages. Contradictorily, however, there was a red panel on the home page, confirming

there has been a fault on the electricity network providing power supply to street lights in Central, Eastern and Southern suburbs of Wellington City. Field crews … expect to progressively restore power to the street lights during the evening. We apologise for the loss of this service and are investigating the cause.

Have they completed their investigation. What was the cause?

The company’s website deletes all details of power outages as soon as they’ve been fixed. No chance for anyone to assess how many have occurred, or how long they lasted.

Wellington Electricity owes its customers an explanation of what caused last night’s blackouts in so many city streets. Its aim of providing safe, reliable, cost-effective and high quality delivery of electricity should include the provision of reliable information of the reasons when things go wrong.

The city council should be providing an explanation too – the electricity company was last night telling people that the street lights are not its responsibility because they are owned by the council. The council’s phone operators were receiving most of the calls from concerned residents, without being able to provide any authoritative information except that the electricity company was carrying out the repairs.

Should we mention the strange fact that Wellington Electricity is an overseas-owned company? Its owner is a Hong Kong billionaire – is he concerned when there’s a serious breakdown of the service that he is providing, as occurred last night? He owns a system on which 160,000 Wellington homes and businesses depend for their electricity. He and his employees should be ensuring that they don’t leave us without an explanation of power failures. What did last night’s investigation reveal?

We’re the clients who are paying the electricity bills. We deserve to be told.


  1. Cackle McFee, 8. September 2017, 14:25

    Its an outrage that the WCC privatized that public asset to start with. Getting information should be easy, but there is as much transparency in these organizations as there is in a night out on the town (without lights).

  2. Ellie, 8. September 2017, 21:26

    Ahh yes, when there is a problem and a phone call goes through to Hong Kong and we are then told “all available men are out on the job” we know that is all 2 of them.

  3. Ian, 9. September 2017, 16:38

    That public asset (the street lights) has not been privatised – the lights are still owned by the WCC. But the contract to maintain them is with Wellington Electricity. However, Wellington Electricity do not sell WCC the energy to keep them going. Confused yet?

  4. Traveller, 9. September 2017, 17:00

    Losses every year since the billionaire bought our electricity company. Has there been a consequent reduction of adequate maintenance, to save money on his behalf? Who can tell us?

  5. Stop Trexit, 9. September 2017, 17:33

    The pusillanimous Wellington CC blames Li Ka-shing’s Wellington Electricity for problems with the power supply to our Trolley Buses. So what do they do? In league with ‘so last century’ Chris Laidlaw of GWRC, they put out a contract to pull down the trolley bus wires. Diesel buses will make their lives easy? No ambition, no ideas, no will-power.

  6. Cackle McFee, 10. September 2017, 7:37

    Hey Ian, by the privatization of public assets I meant the Wellington electricity grid which was once a public asset. In 1996, the foreign owned power company TransAlta acquired and formed a “consolidated electricity distribution network business”. In 1998, ownership was passed to United Networks, which Vector acquired in 2003. In July 2008 the network was purchased by CK Infrastructure Holdings Limited. Who audits CK Holdings for running its losses through the company? And why is the Wellington power infrastructure that we paid for now in the hands of foreign “for profit ” multi nationals?