Power operator staying put
After considering options for site upgrades, southern electricity network operator PowerNet now expects to retain its South Otago depot at its current location in Balclutha.
In March, PowerNet chief executive Jason Franklin announced $4 million had been earmarked to upgrade the company’s Charlotte St premises, which were no longer fit for purpose.
Options included a move elsewhere in Balclutha, a move to nearby Milton, and a straightforward redevelopment of the existing site.
A detailed design and quantity survey assessment of that site is now underway, with a view to work starting in 2018.
The redevelopment by PowerNet represented an investment in South Otago ‘‘in a facility that will be there for another 40-50 years,’’ Franklin said.
‘‘After consulting extensively with our South Otago staff, we ruled out a change in location. About 65 per cent of PowerNet staff reside in Balclutha, and that alongside the ability to respond effectively to faults region-wide were among key criteria in our decision.’’
Planning for the new depot would take several factors into account, he said.
‘‘We want to optimise the work environment for those using it, with improved vehicle and worksite safety and flow, and infrastructure that can deliver for PowerNet, its people and clients for at least the next 50 years.’’
Although work was almost certain to go ahead at the Charlotte St site, unexpected obstacles emerging during the planning stage could still halt the project, Franklin said.
‘‘There is a risk that we... encounter issues that may result in another site having to be considered if those issues cannot be overcome. We’re not aware of any show stoppers at this point, however it’s only fair that we flag that, until the detailed design and business case is finalised, there is a risk we may encounter problems with the preferred site.’’
The Charlotte St site was zoned mixed-urban, with any changes potentially subject to a Clutha District Council zone change, new noise restrictions, building heights and environmental considerations.
Franklin paid credit to the Balclutha staff for their patience. ‘‘The way staff engaged, and the quality of the feedback which contributed to the eventual decision, was much appreciated.’’
PowerNet business improvement manager Rachael Watt is looking forward to the upgrade.