Elec­tric show­down at Mys­tery Creek

Waikato Times - - NEWS - THOMAS MANCH

Roam­ing the coun­try­side, deal­ing with heights and high volt­age, search­ing in the sun for an­other over­load.

There’s a dis­tinct ca­ma­raderie be­tween a posse of lines­men – but don’t call them cow­boys.

Piri Bennett, 36, says safety is para­mount on the wire and he’s hop­ing his crew will be re­warded for their com­mit­ment to best prac­tice.

The Waipa Net­work crew was one of eight com­pet­ing at the Con­nexis An­nual Con­nec­tion, a three-day in­dus­try event at Mys­tery Creek, which fin­ished yes­ter­day.

Teams of four ‘‘lineys’’ are tasked with erect­ing a power pole, hang­ing fuses and run­ning wires, as if con­nect­ing a res­i­den­tial home to the net­work.

A judge fol­lows the move­ments of each team, award­ing points for each job.

In­di­vid­u­als com­pete in the ca­ble join­ter sec­tion, scored on their clean­ing, pre­par­ing power lines and join­ing them to a sub­sta­tion con­nec­tion point, called a bush­ing. A flam­ing torch used to shrink an in­su­lat­ing rub­ber wrap is just one of the tools de­ployed un­der time pres­sure.

Bennett, who started as a lines­man at 18, has been com­pet­ing for 11 years and has come sec­ond place twice.

‘‘It’s a pretty phys­i­cal job, out there you’re deal­ing with heavy equip­ment … so there’s a bit of dan­ger,’’ he says.

The worst isn’t the 16,000 volts, it’s deal­ing with in­quis­i­tive peo­ple of­ten keen to stick their noses into a highly charged sit­u­a­tion. But deal­ing with a cross-sec­tion of the com­mu­nity is also one of the best bits, trainee lines­man Chris Bere­joni says.

‘‘Doesn’t mat­ter where you go, peo­ple flick on a switch to turn on the jug.’’

Fel­low lines­man Zack Ramsey agreed: ‘‘it makes you feel like a re­spected mem­ber of the com­mu­nity’’.

‘‘Heaps of peo­ple don’t know it’s even a job un­til the power goes out.’’

PHOTO: KELLY HODEL/STUFF

Ruan Naude from Elec­trix uses a flam­ing torch to shrink an in­su­lat­ing rub­ber wrap.

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