Queenstown’s power rangers


As worksites go, the smouldering remains of native scrub near a still-burning bush fire is not exactly anyone’s first choice.

But Delta workers and contractors manned up last week to restore power to the top of the lake within just 24 hours.

After legions of brave volunteer firefighters got the upper hand in their battle to control a 150-hectare blaze at Rat Point last Wednesday, they rolled into action.

A detail of 15 engineers, digger drivers and support staff cut tracks into the charred scrub and managed to replace six power poles.

Delta supervisor Vaughn Collier says: “It was very smoky and the wind got up quite strong.

“They were still fighting the fire.

“It had jumped over the hill but they were still actively monsooning.

“We came out looking like chimney sweeps but got the job done.”

Collier says Delta were called about the fire, about 20km from Queenstown on the Queenstown-Glenorchy Rd, in the early hours.

They isolated the supply, cutting off Glenorchy.

About 12 hours later, at 1.30pm, fireys gave the thumbs up for them to access the site.

“The fire had swept through there quickly and destroyed six poles – some were just completely gone, vaporised.

“Others were still smouldering.”

The poles are `tanalised’ soft wood and carry on smouldering even after being doused with water or fire inhibitor.

Base and Done-Rite Contractors on three excavators cut tracks and cleared the debris.

A Delta team of 10 from Queenstown and Wanaka worked in behind them, erecting six poles to support about 800m of 11kV wire.

“We were fortunate there was minimal damage to the overhead lines themselves and below the poles wasn’t rock.”

The wire will be assessed over the next month.

At 8pm, the heavens opened bringing torrential rain.

“It slowed us quite a bit and with the fatigue I thought we’d have to wait till the morning.

“But we managed to get it back on.

“Six poles is a big job – quite an achievement and I’m proud of the guys and the way they went about it.”

Glenorchy Community Association chairman Peter Reid, a contractor himself, says locals were stoic about the power cut but impressed with Delta.

“They did a sterling job,” Reid says.

“The last time, with the snow, they had multiple areas, and did well then too.

“But this time they could chuck men and gear at it in one
concentrated area.

“To work there in among the fire crews, and have it on by midnight – pretty good job.”