Holiday blackout fears for traders

PORT Fairy business leaders are seeking assurances power outages won’t leave the town in the dark during the busy holiday season. 

A blackout in October left traders frustrated and tens thousands of dollars out of pocket. 

The Port Fairy Business Association spent Tuesday night hearing from Powercor Australia over what led to the blackout and what measures were in place to prevent a repeat. 

Infrastructure around Port Fairy dates back to the 1960s but the company says it is in the process of upgrading poles and replacing wooden crossarms with steel. 

Powercor regional manager Nick Rees said the October 17 incident was caused by a storm that damaged backup lines being used while repairs were taking place on the normal supply lines. 

“Powercor had some planned maintenance for an overhead high voltage conductor and during that project we had to switch the system around so a minimal amount of customers would be affected,” Mr Rees said. 

“We had Port Fairy on an alternative high voltage power line and during that time a storm came through and took out that alternative feeder.” 

Powercor is also using helicopters to audit poles in rural areas and is using the rollout of smart meters to closely monitor outages. 

Traders also voiced anger at the company’s complaints hotline. 

Port Fairy IGA owner Colin Cleary was blunt about efforts to contact the company after losing produce during an outage. 

“I did make a claim and it took six months ... your claim system sucks,” Mr Cleary said. 

Rocksalt cafe owner Bron-wyn Mellor said Powercor needed to be more upfront about how long repairs took with businesses losing money by keeping staff on during outages. 

“We kept four staff for three-and-a-half hours thinking it would only be short,” she said. 

Business association president Ken Brookes said traders were pleased with Powercor’s response during the meeting. 

Mr Rees said the region’s wind farms in Yambuk, Codrington and Macarthur did not produce enough reliable baseload power to step in during a blackout.

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