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Lifeline Failure in Hawke's Bay

Utilities are organisations and companies that provide the essential services to your home and community. A failure of one or more of these utilities can occur as a result of any type of natural disaster. Think about what you would do if there is no power, no phones, no water or no internet?

To find out more about the hazards where you live, work and play, visit out hazard map portal

What warning will there be?

The most common warning of a lifeline outage is the warning of bad weather.

How do I get prepared?

Think about what you would do if there is no power, no phones, no water or no internet? Visit our Get Ready page or Happens and make a plan.  We also suggest:

  • Have your utility company’s phone number, email and website address handy. That way you can report any faults and follow the progress on the restoring of services.
  • If you are reliant on electricity for a medical device, notify your electricity retailer directly.
  • Know when, where and how to turn off the water, electricity and gas at the mains switch to your home or business. Remember to treat all electrical equipment as ‘live’.
  • Ensure your business is prepared. Ensure you have UPS (battery back-up) to allow you to close down IT systems in a controlled manner and to keep your telephone system operating as long as possible. The more dependent your business is on electricity the more important it is for you to investigate and install emergency back-up options such as diesel-powered generators. 
  • Generators are essential for back ups for dairy farms and other rural businesses.
  • Have different ways to charge your mobile phone: You can use a dynamo radio to charge some phones, or you can use your car to charge your phone, or keep charged power packs to plug them into.
  • Businesses with phone PABX or VOIP type circuits should be backed up by batteries or generators or they will fail during a power outage.  If you have a home phones with a:
    • copper circuit then an analogue phone will work when the power is off, if it is connected straight to the exchange and the exchange is backed up by a generator.  If your house is connected to a cabinet, then the phone will work provided the batteries hold charge at the cabinet.
    • fibre connection and the power goes off your phone will stop working, unless you have a generator.

Learn more about power outages at Unison.

What to do when it happens and after?

The Ministry for Primary Industries has resources available for different types of adverse events.

A utility failure may result from hazard event or from equipment failure, but the consequences of a prolonged loss of these services, especially in the urban areas can be significant, causing social disruption and economic loss.

One of the significant risks identified in the Hawke’s Bay Engineering Lifeline Study was that the supply of electricity to Hawke’s Bay is limited by the capacity of the single line from Wairakei to Whirinaki. This line crosses two major fault lines. If this supply were to be lost, other sources would not be capable of maintaining the full supply of electricity to Hawke’s Bay to enable all homes and businesses to continue functioning. This means there is a real threat that following a major earthquake, power could be lost to the region for at least several days.

In winter, disruption to utilities such as power could have a potentially serious effect for people needing to heat their homes while people who rely on electrical medical equipment would be especially vulnerable.  If Hawke’s Bay had prolonged power losses the following could occur:

•             Severe disruption to all services and businesses in the affected areas including phone and computer failure affecting banking and trade transactions.

•             Short-term economic losses to industries and businesses operating in the affected area, in particular to the retail, hospitality industries, and industrial sectors.

•             Long-term economic losses to many industries and businesses in the affected area, with an estimated long-term economic impact equivalent to 0.1-0.3% of GDP. The 1998 Mercury Power Crisis in Auckland forced 54% of businesses to vacate their premises. 400 businesses failed.

Any lifeline failure may significantly disrupt our communities, and can have a large economic impact.

In a communication failure, we would be unable to get assistance in an emergency or life-threatening situation, families and businesses would be unable to contact one another, and there would be disruption to ATM, EFTPOS and banking/financial systems.

Utility Company Lead Agency

The company whose equipment causes the loss of service would be the lead agency responsible for coordinating restoration of supply. They may require the support of councils and emergency services.  News media will broadcast information and updates.


Our community has become more and more dependent on technology and people often find it difficult to manage when services are cut or fail. Hawke's Bay have had numerous lifeline failures and below are the details of the most significant ones.

February 2002

A bulldozer ruptured the natural gas pipeline near Palmerston North butting gas supply to Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu and greater Wellington.  The pipeline took days to fix, affecting around 50,000 customers, although there was enough residual gas in the pipes to supply essential services and domestic users.  Large commercial users had to turn off supplies to conserve the remaining.

15/16 August 2001

Gale force winds and rain struck Hawke's Bay. Winds gusting to 90km/h caused power cuts from Dannevirke to Wairoa and closed the Napier-Taihape Road. The winds and electrical storm caused line faults and blew fuses that blacked out hundreds of homes in Napier and Hastings, particularly in Pirimai and in the area from Windsor Park to Havelock North in Hastings. In the Wairoa district, Morere and Taui were affected by blackouts. Snowfalls were also widespread.

25/26 September 2000

Hawke’s Bay was thrown into commercial and domestic chaos by the region’s biggest storm-driven blackout in almost 40 years. The power cut was estimated to have cost the region’s industry hundreds of thousands of dollars. The region blacked out twice when both the 110kv transmission line from Tuai and the 220kv links with Wairakei failed at the height of the storm, which left the region’s high country under snow. The first total blackout lasted about an hour and occurred in the middle of the night, but the most damaging blackout began on Tuesday 26 September at 4:45 am and lasted up to 5 hours in some areas. It was the first time in 22 years that the area’s three electricity supply points, the Redcliffe, Whakatu and Fernhill sub-stations, were all out at the same time.

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