Energy Networks Association CEO John Bradley said a team of Australian energy networks had partnered with the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to assess damage and identify much needed resources.

“Cyclone Winston knocked down or damaged over 4500 power poles with impacts on up to 90 per cent of the Fijian electricity network,” Mr Bradley said.

“The donations by 10 Australian energy companies will speed up reconstruction of the electricity network in Fiji by an estimated 25 per cent, completing works months earlier.

“It will make a big difference to the safety and quality of power restoration and will increase the future reliability of the Fiji electricity network during severe weather events.”

Ergon Energy Acting Chief Executive Ros Baker said Ergon did not hesitate in responding to the request to provide assistance which included two vehicles and equipment.

“We are too well aware of the destructive impact of cyclones and this equipment will hasten the restoration of power and get Fiji’s shattered community back on its feet,” Ms Baker said.

“Getting power back on is critical to the welfare and economy of Fiji, and Ergon is pleased to be able to make a tangible contribution that will hopefully reduce the restoration time.”

The utilities' donation to the Fiji Electricity Authority includes seven heavy vehicles – crane borers, elevated work platforms and a service truck – and $270,000 of specialised tools and equipment including electrical test equipment, hydraulic cutting tools, drills and pole saws.

ENA Chairman and Managing Director of Jemena, Paul Adams, said the energy network industry had moved swiftly to respond to support the Australian Government response.

“We know how much communities depend on safe and reliable power supply, so when we heard about the scale of damage to our near neighbours, Australian energy networks were keen to lend a hand.

“This is what network businesses do best: they work together to get the power back on and keep people safe.”

Ergon and Energex personnel inspect one of the trucks bound for Fiji

Mr Bradley said the donated vehicles  - including the one pictured here being inspected by Ergon and Energex personnel at the Port of Brisbane on 17 May - will assist with the reconstruction of the overhead electricity network.  Elevated work platforms (EWPs) will assist Fiji crews to work on overhead assets with improved safety and efficiency.

“Borer-lifter’ cranes are used to bore holes into the ground several metres deep and lift power poles into place to ensure their maximum stability and strength.

“The $270,000 of small equipment donated will provide Fiji crews with key tools including hand-held drills, earth sticks and voltage detectors.

The consortium of energy networks contributing to the restoration effort also includes ActewAGL, Ausgrid, AusNet Services, Energex, Essential Energy, Jemena, SA Power Networks, TasNetworks and Zinfra Group.

ActewAGL CEO, Michael Costello, said:  “Fiji’s electricity network suffered tremendous damage from Cyclone Winston with more than 4,500 electricity poles to be replaced across the country. It is an arduous time for the people of Fiji as they recover from this disaster and ActewAGL wanted to do what we could to help rebuild the electricity network.”

AusNet Services MD, Nino Ficca, said: “AusNet Services is pleased to contribute along with our colleagues by donating an elevated work platform to help the Fijian communities recover from Cyclone Winston.”

Energex CEO Terry Effeney said: “These vehicles have been retired from the Energex fleet. They have been very well maintained and are mechanically safe and sound. We hope they will provide a timely boost to the rebuilding effort for the electricity network in Fiji and will enable the vital work to be completed as quickly as possible.”

SA Power Networks CEO Rob Stobbe said it was important Australia helped its neighbours in times of need and we’re proud to be able to partner with other network businesses to support a key task in Fiji’s disaster recovery.

“We know ourselves the value of rapid and safe restoration of power supply in major storm events and there aren’t many bigger or more damaging than Cyclone Winston,” he said.

TasNetworks CEO Lance Balcombe said TasNetworks was pleased to contribute to this important infrastructure-building initiative to help the Fijian community recover from the devastating impact of Cyclone Winston.

Zinfra Group Managing Director, Steve MacDonald, said: “When DFAT asked Zinfra to assist in the Fiji disaster recovery, we jumped at the opportunity to be a part of the response effort. We initially sent our Power Operations Manager to be part of the assessment team to carry out a needs assessment in Fiji.

“As a result of this exercise, we have provided equipment as recommended in the assessment report, which will assist in expediting the rebuilding of the electrical infrastructure in Fiji.

“The equipment supplied will also help ensure that all future construction is built to a high quality and improve network resilience to cyclonic conditions," Mr Bradley said.

On 17 May at the Port of Brisbane the energy networks and the Fiji High Commissioner saw the send off of the seven vehicles, with the equipment to follow soon.

Video transcript

Ergon Energy Group Manager Fleet and Logistics Nikki Barbi:

I think Ergon is very fortunate to be involved in this initiative. We have provided a crane borer and a service truck as well, plus some equipment and material. The team has put a lot of effort in making all of this happen in terms of paperwork and forms – making sure all the certificates of inspections were up to date.

Fiji High Commissioner Yogesh Punja:

For me this is like a blood transfusion. It’s really giving the country the essentials it need now to get back on its feet. Like we have said, the recovery out of Winston is going to be a decade - a decade is a long time to come out of it. To me, you have given another five years back by speeding up this process. It’s all about the speed of recovery. For a country like Fiji with limited resources and having the extent of damage we have seen on the ground, this PPP – public private partnership – is going to improve the essentials which are fundamental to our recovery.

Without the PPP we can’t get our hospitals going, or our schools back up - off the ground. You must appreciate that Fiji is the hub of the Pacific. So where there is devastation on other Pacific islands they look up to Fiji. I believe that suddenly you have not only helped Fiji, but the entire Pacific.