26 Oct 2016

Rotting power poles: 'How is it that someone hasn't been killed?'

9:00 pm on 26 October 2016

A Dunedin lines company manager turned whistle-blower says staff were always talking about the risk from rotting and failing power poles.

Thousands of rotting power poles are due for replacement in Otago.

Thousands of power poles are due for replacement in Otago. Photo: RNZ / Ian Telfer

Three investigations have been launched after Richard Healey went public with allegations Delta and Aurora, which are owned by the Dunedin City Council, are breaching safety standards and failing to clear a backlog of about 3000 failing poles.

"In Castle St in Dunedin - a very busy public thoroughfare, with the main entrance to the university - a pole collapsed there," he said.

"The foot traffic was so large, I'm amazed someone wasn't killed or badly injured by that pole. Around the lunch table, the conversation wasn't 'will someone get killed', it was 'how is it that someone hasn't been killed'."

Mr Healey said he quit because of his concerns about worker safety.

The lines companies were spending millions of dollars less than they should on essential pole replacement in Dunedin and Central Otago, he said.

On his last day at work, two poles fell in Alexandra, and last weekend another two came down, he said.

The investigations are being carried out by Dunedin City Holdings, WorkSafe New Zealand and the Commerce Commission.

Aurora has confirmed it has more than 2900 failing power poles needing replacement, and said it was reviewing its maintenance programmes.