A High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) conductor fell across State Highway 7 in the Weka Pass area, Waikari in North Canterbury, New Zealand.


Field teams were rapidly mobilised to do the critical recovery work as New Zealand went into a level 4 COVID-19 lockdown and harsh weather conditions challenged.


Exceptional collaboration between our teams and our client, quick thinking and a bit of innovation on the run ensured all the work was done safely and power restored for the residents of the local area.

It's often during critical situations that the true skills and experience of our people is revealed. This was the case when a High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) conductor (wire) fell across State Highway 7 in the Weka Pass area, Waikari in North Canterbury, New Zealand.

What started out as a standard day quickly escalated when the southern lines team, part of our broader Electricity & Gas team, received the call at 3.08pm regarding the fault which caused the line to fall.

Partnering with our client, the team jumped to action, dispatching a helicopter to the location. Field teams were also mobilised and sent to site to clear the road and open the Highway. The Highway was reopened that evening but the critical work of restoring the line, and power continued.

Ventia crew works safely at height on repairing the critical equipment

The crew works safely at height on repairing the critical equipment.


Responding to a range of challenges

To complicate matters further, New Zealand went into a level 4 COVID-19 lockdown on the same day and the area was experiencing a range of poor weather conditions including temperatures as low as -4°C to 20°C, strong winds (up to 80kph some days) and rain.

Ventia Operations Manager Mike O'Brien assessed the damages.

Arriving at the location the team in the helicopter reported that the damage was worse than expected with a number of additional issues.


Collaboration between response teams

Our client Transpower set up a national response team to manage the repair process that included Ventia people, and the team met daily. Ventia also set up an on-the-ground southern response team, located at the Islington office which was supported by the local Transpower service delivery manager and engineer.

At the peak of the operation, we had approximately 40 staff on site including sub-contractors. The team utilised all equipment at their disposal including cranes, crane trucks, diggers, a bulldozer, tractor winches and helicopters. Most of the responding team were accommodated in (Amberley), 40-minutes north of Islington and the work site was an hour north of Islington meaning travel was required to and from site on a daily basis. Extra support staff were also mobilised from Washdyke, Wellington, Rotorua, Napier, and Hamilton.

Helicopter view of the tower and the conductor cable broken at the attachment

Helicopter view of a tower where the conductor cable had broken off at attachment.


Innovation on the run

Keeping staff fed also proved a challenge, due to businesses being closed during the lockdown. A creative solution was reached by engaging a local  café at Waikari to feed the team. This in itself took a bit of organising as the  café staff needed to be added to the isolation bubble and become essential workers responding to the fault.

"This repair would not have been possible in the time frame without the involvement of both the Washdyke and Islington depots," said Ventia Operations Manager Mike O'Brien.

"The Washdyke crews were able to load equipment and mobilise that evening, allowing them along with the Islington team to start the repair process at first light.

The prompt response and synergies between the two teams, expedited the repair process on this unique critical asset.

Towers on undulating hills

The team managed to complete the job safely in a challenging terrain.


"There were so many people who did a great job, including Andrew Middlemiss who was critical to the success of this difficult repair. His knowledge, experience and calm manner allowed him to manage the fault repair, work through all the challenges and guide the team to successfully restore the circuit in very trying conditions and difficult terrain."

Ventia General Manager Electricity and Gas Australia and New Zealand Craig MacDonald echoed these thoughts.

"Our people did an exceptional job of not only rapidly responding to the issue but also meeting and responding to every challenge that was thrown at them," he said.

The response included innovating on the run and also working as one with our client to meet the end objective.

"Critically all the work was done safely and we were able to get the power restored for the residents of the local area."


Strong client relationship

Ventia has been a trusted partner to Transpower for more than two decades. Our team provides maintenance and project services to Transpower to support the delivery of electricity 24/7 New Zealand-wide through 11,238 route kilometres of high voltage transmission line, 60 route kilometres of underground and submarine transmission cable, 40,674 supporting towers and poles, 169 substations and 1,093 transformers.