Delta : Latest Outage #Tainui #DegradedUnsafeNetwork

Otago Daily Times Published on Nov 16, 2016

“Standard safety protection operated immediately ensuring that the downed line was de-energised and electrically safe.” –Delta [PR]

### ODT Online Wed, 16 Nov 2016
Power restored in Tainui
By Vaughan Elder
Power has been restored to 430 customers in the Dunedin suburb of Tainui after it was cut this morning when a line came down. The outage happened at 9.10am after a power line fell on Cavell St near the intersection with Magdala St. […] Despite the line leaving scorch marks on the ground, the Delta spokesman said the line coming down presented “no danger to the public”.
Read more


Alert To Future Posts:
Delta is riddled by massive HEALTH AND SAFETY problems, perpetuated by a Sick and Dysfunctional executive culture (CEO, and ELT silos), resulting in a preyed-upon, demoralised, risktaking ‘make-do’ workforce.

The risks to individual lines staff are Ginormous. ‘Fatal conditions’ abound. Corporate care ensuring the physical and mental wellbeing and safety of staff is almost completely lacking. The risks to life are exponentially Unacceptable.

What’s needed ?
Independent senior industry experts (plural) prepared to Scrutinise Delta and Talk Out Loud : to see to immediate replacement of the inexperienced ‘make-worse’ CEO Grady Cameron – and to swiftly empower thoroughly coordinated, highly risk averse and analytical professional work teams to prioritise and carry out network upgrades and replacements.

But what about the money….. there is none. The cost of bringing the electricity network up to compliance standard is Astronomical. A different model of ownership and operation is required –potentially, an opportunity, the Community could assume ownership of the network. Hopefully, ODT can explore the options by looking at other successful models – and which have No Ability to ‘strip and burn’ the asset.

Various sources inside Delta tell us the company has brought in an ex staffer as ‘Consultant’. They are paying him $5000 a day…. to skim the surface, was it. But really, Delta is setting up a new company ‘within Delta’ to replace the dangerous poles (at a Very Slow rate) – the work will be contracted out to the usual culprits. More soon.

Related? The NZ Companies Office notes:
‘DELTA NETWORKS LIMITED – Approved Name Reservation’


vaughan-elder-odt-files-1Wed, 16 Nov 2016
Valpy Rosebowl winner
Otago Daily Times reporter Vaughan Elder has been named the newspaper’s 2016 Valpy Rosebowl Trophy winner. […] The award, for editorial excellence, is presented annually on the anniversary of the November 15, 1861, publication of the first issue of the ODT, New Zealand’s oldest daily newspaper.
Read more


Certainly, Vaughan Elder and the other journalists at ODT are holding their end up with timely coverage of the unfolding Delta ‘dangerous poles’ situation. However, the poles – although highly visible and a useful tool to raise Community awareness – are actually the least of it in terms of danger to Delta lines crew and the Community.

Lots to come out in the next days from sources inside and outside Delta.

All the while the Dunedin City Councillors sit on their hands, without a peep about COST TO RATEPAYERS AND RESIDENTS.

Remember, through the glass darkly, Mayor Cull made a song and dance before the local body elections about having reduced the council’s debt by some small millions; crowing his success with “straightening out council companies”.

This was ‘reinforced’ by [fleeing] Richard Thomson ‘at the end of his last meeting as chairman of the council’s finance committee’, informing us the council’s debt at the end of June had dropped to $217.25 million. ‘This was $30.6 million below budget and well below its target of $230 million by 2021.’

Ahem, ticking the third box of authoritative commentary, on 7 October Graham Crombie rolled up to tell us DCHL’s profit was up 57% and ‘debt across the companies and the council has reduced by $16.8 million to $581 million’. Oh dear, All progress lost and squandered now as Delta borrows $30M to replace the odd pole here and there, with god knows what other spending to be made in the vain hope of compliance.

Dear Daaave : Win some, Lose squillions more.

Otago Daily Times Published on Sep 2, 2016
Dunedin mayoral candidate Dave Cull
The clock is ticking as Dunedin mayoral candidate Dave Cull gets 30 seconds to explain why he should be mayor.

Posted by Elizabeth Kerr

This post is offered in the public interest.

*Image: – Vaughan Elder, tweaked by whatifdunedin


Filed under Aurora Energy, Business, Delta, Dunedin, Economics, Events, Infrastructure, Media, Name, New Zealand, People, Politics, Project management, Property, Public interest, Stadiums

21 responses to “Delta : Latest Outage #Tainui #DegradedUnsafeNetwork

  1. Greta Good

    A new entity (beware enterprises that require New Clothes) – another nausea inducing salary – all running parallel to the Deloitte review commissioned by DCHL. Suspend disbelief readers….next we will be asked to believe that DCHL knew nothing of this. Enough already. Heads on plates. Now.

  2. Edison Gurglar

    A pole came down in Tainui ceasing supply to 430 customers and scorching the ground.

    Didn’t Richard Healey advise us this would happen.

    It must have been climate change
    Or maybe it was the result of global warming
    Or perhaps a dead man caused it.

    Whatever, there are over 3000 poles that need replacing now.

    Sack the PR genius, fire the $5000 a day guru, you silly bastards at Delta need poles and pole replacement workers. Even a monkey could see that.

  3. nick

    Surely Delta’s problem must be a shortage of well paid managers.
    At 88 last count earning over $100k, let’s see if they can’t get to 100 by Xmas.

    A few suggested roles:
    Asset Management Plan Revision Gen Mgr
    Service Delivery Failure Mgrs (3) – Dunedin 2, Central Otago 1
    Public Liability Reinsurance Mgr
    Public Relations Consultant Interface Mgr
    Commerce Commission Liaison Mgr
    Deloitte Inquiry Team Response Mgr
    Obsolete Switchgear Reconditioning Team Mgr

    Seriously, let’s spare a thought for those poor guys on the ground working with this chaos, and trying their best to keep the power on for us all. These guys get called out in atrocious conditions to replace rotten poles, usually on stormy nights. Thanks hugely guys.

  4. Elizabeth

    Absolutely agree Nick, huge sympathy for the “guys on the ground”. They work really hard to keep the power on for us – that said, they must stop taking personal risks though and stick to industry safety guides. Their bosses seem almost oblivious to H&S and proper incident/condition reporting ….hypothetically, would any of us on staff like to report a major safety risk/liability in the network direct to (as compelled) the CEO who might send us down the road for our trouble. Such is the gloss of the ‘glass office’ within an office at Halsey St, Dunedin. What was that about living in glasshouses and throwing stones office chairs.


    Garrick Tremain – 16 Nov 2016

  5. Elizabeth

    In tomorrow’s ODT, more on Delta…. the line coming down in Tainui this morning which “cut power to 900 homes” – also an issue with a substation leaking.

  6. Elizabeth


    Richard Healey at his Facebook page on today’s outage in Tainui.

    Interesting sample of comments in reply to Richard’s post:

    Andrew Glennie HI Richard Healey, maybe you could answer a question for me in relation to this. If a high voltage powerlines has come down and subsequently caused damage to the electrical system of my house, who is responsible for paying to get that fixed?
    Like · Reply · 11 hrs

    Richard Healey Good question. Delta will tell you to go to your insurance company. That won’t work for people who can’t afford insurance and it won’t pay for your excess.
    Electricity is a dangerous substance. Network owners have a responsibility to ensure that it doesn’t escape and cause harm. There is plenty of case law around companies who fail in their duty to control hazards.
    Like · Reply · 2 · 11 hrs · Edited


    Malcolm Taylor Tainui? Geez, some of those houses still have TRS wiring. That would be a recipe for a house fire.
    Like · Reply · 10 hrs

    Richard Healey Yes indeed. Although there was apparently a plan to check wiring before a re-liven there was no move do a welfare check to see if anyone was lying on the floor dead.
    Like · Reply · 1 · 10 hrs

  7. Peter

    Grady Cameron had an ideal photo opportunity to show leadership and walk around close to that fallen line in Tainui and prove to all those naysayers that there was no danger to the public.
    Goodness me, why jump to conclusions about scorched earth? Some people are just hysterical.

    • Hype O'Thermia

      There was no danger to the public.
      There is no danger in firing an assault rifle in a school either, just do it at a time there’s nobody on the premises.

      How does The Grader (employed to smoothe over rough patches) ensure that lines and poles only fall when there’s nobody around?

      If a pole falls in a crowded street – does anyone have time to scream?

  8. Elizabeth

    Thu, 17 Nov 2016
    ODT: Delta denies 6600V danger
    A falling high-voltage power line scorched grass and risked sending a deadly current into surrounding homes in Dunedin yesterday. Whistleblower Richard Healey said the downed line in Cavell St, Tainui, cut power to almost 900 residents and was the third equipment failure on Aurora Energy’s network this week. Cont/


    Thu, 17 Nov 2016
    ODT: Results of review likely next month
    The Dunedin City Council should get the results of a review of its under-fire companies Delta and Aurora within weeks. Mayor Dave Cull yesterday said he had delivered a call from the council to holding company Dunedin City Holdings Ltd (DCHL) asking for it to “urgently advise” whether it still had confidence in the chairman and board of Delta and Aurora. […] Mr Cull also gave an update on a review of the power network by consultant Deloitte, announced early this month. Cont/

  9. Elizabeth

    Garrick Tremain – 17 Nov 2016

  10. hamlinb

    A question for you Richard:

    I am in Christchurch doing research at the moment, but looking at the poles on the way up yesterday (not Delta’s) a point struck me. All the poles that I saw within each ‘line’ are of a consistent specification, condition and age. Now Delta’s lines are not – if the ones around me are anything to go by: in Mosgiel old follows new, with a variety of poles, fixtures and fittings in evidence.

    I am thinking that a lines network is quite a thing to manage with tens of thousands of poles, not to mention all the other bits. Now it seems to me that the only way to keep on top of this is to manage the network on a line by line basis. There will be only only hundreds of lines. The basis would be to install a new line, entire, with gear that has a 50-year life expectancy – to depreciate it over 40 years, and then replace it wholesale at that point with another completely new line and to start the cycle all over again.

    I assume that this is how it is done by reputable companies – Am I right? While you do not extract the maximum use from any individual pole, insulator and wire that way, compared to letting each component on a line age out and fail individually, and then replacing them, the cost benefits of the ‘replace line to schedule’ rather than to ‘replace individual fittings to dangerous condition/failure’ are enormous. Lines are more reliable and inspection/replacement can occur on a planned and large scale ‘per line’ basis.

    This has to be more cost efficient than teams scrambling out in the dark at 3am to an unannounced and unknown location with a truckload of single examples of what one hopes are the right bits and pieces to remediate the failure and complete the emergency fix. The ‘look’ of the lines in Canterbury did tend to support the line by line management approach outside of GC’s fiefdom.

    One thing that has not really been questioned thus far is GC’s consistent description of Delta’s network as ‘aged’ as if this is somehow an unavoidable characteristic of the networks that he is responsible for. Dunedin is an old town. However, reticulated electric power on wooden poles has been with us all for a century, which means that power lines all over the country, not just in Dunedin and Central, should now be on their third or fourth lifecycle. There is thus no God given reason why Delta’s networks should be any more ‘aged’ than any other in the country.

    The aged nature of Delta’s network is thus a likely outcome of choice rather than geography, history or serendipity. One suspects that in the case of Delta/Aurora that ‘choice’ might have taken the form of a decision to abandon scheduled replacements of entire lines at some point since 1992.

    If one had a scheduled line replacement policy of 40 years for lines that had an expected life of 50 years, this abandonment would give you an attractive initial ten year period of increased profits and dividends based on zero or heavily reduced expenditure – courtesy of the prudence and professionalism of your predecessors.

    After that sweet period things would rapidly go pear shaped, with network costs rising towards and then exceeding those of a scheduled line replacement policy, had it been maintained. Total network costs would exceed the scheduled line replacement because, rather than maintaining a network of hundreds of individual coherent lines, the company concerned is trying to maintain a network that now has no such line-level integrity, and which, as a result, consists of hundreds of thousands of individual components of unknown age, condition and specification – which can, and do, fail unexpectedly.

    If these increased network costs are not met, but are further deferred, then the condition of all of these myriads of individual components will continue to deteriorate. The outcome is a highly unpredictable and dangerous situation.

    If it is allowed to arise, I would presume that such a situation is unmanageable, even were a good management team to be put in place. Restoring the line-level coherence that would support organised management and maintenance would require the wholesale, expedited identification and replacement of all lines that should have been replaced under the original scheduled line replacement policy – including all the new(er) components on those lines that had been inserted on an ad-hoc basis in the interim.

    If this is indeed the situation that has been ripening in Delta since the mid 1990s, then rectification means replacing more than half the network – right now – and that’s just to make it manageable. $30 million simply won’t scratch that task. However, anything less leaves us with an unmanageable and thus unmanageably deteriorating, incoherent power network.

    Am I warm Richard?

    • Richard Healey

      I find it hard to believe that you have appreciated the precise nature and extent of the problem through casual observation when I, and others, have been fighting for years to get the asset management decision makers at Delta to reach the same conclusions.

      Those following the discussion closely will have noticed some quotes in the ODT from the last CEO John Walsh. He claims that the results of several thousand formal engineering assessments on Aurora’s poles are ‘speculation’ and not evidence. He is also on record as saying that the existence of more than 3000 substandard poles on a network where he proudly championed a run to failure policy is – “coincidental”.

      Delta has, for more than a decade, sought to justify a deliberate policy of degrading the performance of the network on the results from an annual survey sent to 400 people each year. In that survey Delta ask if the participant would prefer a better quality of supply or a cheaper price.

      The survey was once postal. Response levels dropped to such a low point that it is now conducted over the phone.

      Two decades of neglect has been justified primarily on the results of that survey.

      Here’s the question that was never asked: ”Would you accept a significantly increased risk of harm to you, and your family, while experiencing unremitting increases in your power bill for the next twenty years?” That would have been an honest question.

      You are correct in your assumption that every other network in the country has experienced the same opportunity to “age” as Aurora’s. The problem of decay is universal – the way in which it is handled is not. The use of the phrase “aged network” is frankly – cringeworthy. It doesn’t make sense and it is not defensible. Every time Grady Cameron uses it I am embarrassed for him.

      Similarly, you are bang on in your assessment of the effect of replacing an asset here and an asset there – while not addressing the other items, of the same age, that have been living in the same environment, at the same time.
      It is prohibitively expensive. As you say, a run to failure policy means that you are out at all hours, and in all weathers, doing things that you could have achieved at a fraction of the cost given a planned replacement strategy.

      But the safety outcomes are even worse. In the middle of the night there is very little crew supervision, engineering oversight is nil, fatigue levels are high, availability of components is limited, the temptation to take shortcuts and get home to bed is large.

      You are also spot on in your assessment of the logistical nightmare that this approach creates. In any one street you may have examples of four generations of hardware. It is impossible to stock direct replacement parts. On the fly modifications to the parts that are available in order to make them fit where they were never designed to go, introduces another road to failure and another hazard to the people struggling to keep the lights on.

      For many years the contracting arm of the company has been fighting for the reintroduction of ZBAM. A zone based asset management approach, exactly the solution you have proposed. In the simplest terms, you identify a geographic area, plan the logistics, move large amounts of construction resource in, turn the power off once and go like hell to replace every component you can access.

      The point you raise about the lack of a standard design for poles and other equipment will present a huge barrier to an accelerated pole replacement program. In order to undertake such a program it will be necessary to increase the number of crews employed on pole replacement by around 700%. That cannot be done through training. A lineworker capable of operating at higher voltages will take more than five years to reach competency. That means employing teams from outside contractors.

      On many networks that would present few problems. On a network where huge variations in build standards exist, where many structures are highly degraded, and where no adequate processes and procedures are in place to control the inherent risks, that presents a very large problem indeed.

      Like you, I am aware that the budgeted $30M will barely scratch the surface. An accelerated replacement program will always be more expensive than a planned, staged, well paced program. But that is not the only problem.

      There is a fleet of old, poorly maintained and frankly dangerous high voltage switchgear to contend with. Vector have the same problem. They have a program to replace many hundreds of switches within ten years. The budget is around $50k per unit.

      Aurora’s asset management plan identifies 300 switches for replacement within the next three years. It has budgeted to replace less than 30 of those…. The unbudgeted expenditure, just to replace the remaining 270 switches, will be around $15M.

      Aurora will claim that better assessment of the switches will result in it being possible to extend their life. I won’t bore you with the technical details but consider this – Vector has the same need to conserve shareholder funds, and the same types of switchgear, and has done the detailed assessment that Aurora has failed to do, and has arrived at the decision to replace.

      There are many, many other components that are also neglected and decayed. For instance, the pole replacement program does not aim to replace the wires. I have measured lines on the Otago Peninsula where the wire has corroded to 27% of its original size. Testing last year identified wires so corroded that they broke at half the tension that they would have survived when new.

      The situation isn’t as bad as it seems – it is considerably worse.

      This year the Commerce Commission docked Aurora’s salary. The Commission attempts to regulate the electricity supply industry by placing hard limits on the amount each company can charge consumers.

      One factor in determining the calculated rate of return is the value of the asset. Bigger networks can earn more money, that part is pretty straightforward. The next bit is the part that will savagely bite the Dunedin ratepayer. When a company fails to meet reliability targets the Commerce Commission brings out the big stick.

      In Aurora’s case that has meant, because the decaying asset has resulted in more time without power for more people, the Commission has reduced the amount of money that Aurora can make by a little under 5%.

      The only way to achieve an accelerated pole replacement program safely is to do the work with the power turned off. Power off equals failed reliability targets, equals higher Commerce Commission sanctions, equals reduced revenue at a time of increased expenditure.

      You may think that such a system is insane, I may agree with you. Measures of network reliability are, by definition, lagging indicators. They only alert you to problems after they have been created.

      Removing revenue from a company at a time when it desperately needs it, is unlikely to produce the desired outcome. It is however the system we are stuck with.

      I could go on all night. I don’t need to, you have outlined the problem nicely.

      One parting note. There is another cringeworthy phrase that Grady keeps trotting out. It’s been seen again in the last day or so. Delta keep attempting to blame the climate in the region for the problems on the network.

      It works like this Grady, we are at 45 degrees latitude. Ours is the perfect example of a temperate climate. Just like the three bears’ porridge, not too hot, not too cold, just right.

      I’ve stood outdoors in Norway while the thermometer reads -27 degrees Celsius. Guess what? The lights were still on. Only a month ago I watched a news item about the 240kmh winds that battered Cuba, in the background there was a pole line. Guess what? It was still standing.

      Do us all a favour mate, stop embarrassing yourself. If you just can’t, then please do it somewhere else.

      • nick

        Another level of all this mess with lines network regulation is the reset date of March 2020. This is when Aurora is allowed by the Commerce Commission to reset its lines charges for the next 5 years, based loosely on profitability, and levels of investment in the network, for which Aurora is entitled to see a return. Look at the Commerce Commission’s “Default Price Quality Path” formulae to get a more in-depth understanding. In readiness for this date, we will see many lines companies pushing as hard as they can to press a case for huge increases in charges to consumers. Aurora will already be working on theirs.
        You won’t see Network Waitaki on this road. They are an Exempt Business for the Commission because they are a 100% consumer owned trust, working in the opposite direction to Aurora.

        Network Waitaki try to deliver their electricity as cheaply and as reliably as possible to their consumer-owners. They do a great job.

        Aurora try to extract as much as they can from their consumers, while cutting all the maintenance costs that they can to help pay a dividend to the DCC and make their annual ‘subvention’ payment to that bloody stadium.

        In effect we have a huge regional tax via everyone’s power bills happening every month. In exchange for this ‘tax’ we now have a large tier of highly paid managers overseeing not only a rundown network, but with a history of dodgy property deals and a poorly run contracting division which has lost tens of millions.
        And NO ONE gets called to account.
        And where are the directors placed in all this chaos?

        In a publicly listed company, heads would have rolled long ago.
        Suffer on Dunedin and Central Otago.
        Anyone remember what Max Bradford promised?

        • nick

          And as Central Otago residents have been ‘de facto’ ratepayers to the DCC through our monthly power bills since 1999, is it not time they also had a vote in the make-up of Council.
          From a distance, it appears there is one councillor who tries hard to get answers to the problems that have beset the City over the ongoing mismanagement of Aurora / Delta for years. He doesn’t seem to get much support from his peers. In fact, quite the opposite . . .

  11. Elizabeth

    At Facebook:

  12. Elizabeth

    Hmm. No street lights in Pitt St or nearby George St … make that the whole of George St and side streets as far as I can see…. Nothing up at ODT Online.

  13. Baron de Gurgelaar

    I’ve found the street light switch, Richard, but which one of these buggers is the traffic light switch?

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