Electric showdown at Mystery Creek
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.’’
Ruan Naude from Electrix uses a flaming torch to shrink an insulating rubber wrap.