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Auckland goes old-school
June 11, 2006 5:24 PM   Subscribe

Power is out for around half the people in New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland. At around 8:30 this morning, high winds blew a grounding cable onto high-voltage cables in the Otahuhu substation, causing about 1/3 of the load to fail, including all buildings and traffic control in the central city. I guess no one has heard of redundancy, nor learnt from prior mistakes?
posted by pivotal (31 comments total)

 
What, again?
posted by Nelson at 5:28 PM on June 11, 2006


Yup. It just stuns me that in this supposedly first-world place, we can have one incident at one location cripple the entire fucking central business district. Heads must roll.
posted by pivotal at 5:33 PM on June 11, 2006


They were lucky it happened on a Sunday.

(Time zones are funny.)
posted by smackfu at 5:39 PM on June 11, 2006


Try monday rush-hour. Poor cops doing traffic directing in the hail.
posted by pivotal at 5:42 PM on June 11, 2006


Hey, when did New Zealand get electricity? /kidding.
posted by fenriq at 5:54 PM on June 11, 2006


It just stuns me that in this supposedly first-world place, we can have one incident at one location cripple the entire fucking central business district.

Be glad it was just your central business district.
posted by b1tr0t at 5:59 PM on June 11, 2006


Because Aucklander's are so up themselves anyway and don't think there's life "South of the Bombay's" they don't have any remote disaster recovery either. None of the people at my wife's work (here in Wellington) can log onto their network because all the infrastructure is up there.

Plus as the AKL office is not in the CBD, they'll have to wait longer before getting back online.
posted by bruzie at 6:00 PM on June 11, 2006


I wonder how Baghdad is doing today.
posted by scarabic at 6:20 PM on June 11, 2006


It wasn't just the CBD. I'm in the 'burbs and have only just got power back again. I work nearby (am home sick today) and their mail servers are still out, so I'm guessing things are still down over there.

The power company told me this morning 'there are an insane number of faults all over New Zealand', so I'm guessing there will be more reports of such things coming through.
posted by shelleycat at 6:31 PM on June 11, 2006


IIRC, during the 1998 Auckland outage, one of the problems was that even though they had redundant supplies, there was no way to run the CBD on partial power: it was fully on (too much for the remaining cables to handle) or fully off.
posted by hattifattener at 6:37 PM on June 11, 2006


Jesus Christchurch!!

(oh come on ... you wish you'd said it)
posted by ZenMasterThis at 6:57 PM on June 11, 2006


Here's hoping it's enough to shock people into readiness, but not so much as to cause any deaths.
posted by jiawen at 7:18 PM on June 11, 2006


So, Peter Guttman wrote about Auckland's "Y2K Beta Test" here. But don't bother clicking, it's in nz :)

The following is the contents extracted from Google and cleaned up substantially:

Auckland's Power Outage, or, Auckland - Your Y2K Beta Test Site
posted by effugas at 7:23 PM on June 11, 2006 [1 favorite]


Jesus Christchurch!!

Well, if the North Island wasn't so reliant on us Mainlanders for their electricity, a downed power line may not have caused so much trouble. :P It has given me pause to consider what would have happened to my two kids if our power went out, since we have no heating source that isn't electric. Even our gas fire needs power to start it and run the fan. Stupid smog restrictions.

I'm not sure if it's related but iHug's international data transfer has been slow or down for a large part of the day. It's back up now but I am relieved to say that Metafilter still loaded for me, even when my own sites didn't.
posted by tracicle at 7:39 PM on June 11, 2006


Well, if the North Island wasn't so reliant on us Mainlanders for their electricity, a downed power line may not have caused so much trouble. :P

Is this actually true though? Are there references or statistics to back it up? I've seen this bandied about a lot over the years but also seen information about power generated in the North Island that discounts the whole 'they rely on us' idea, and am no longer sure what the situtaion actually is. And given the total bias against Auckland from the rest of the country, I no longer believe the hype.

(Moved north to Auckland two years ago, love the place, adore the people, despise the offensiveness and prejudice I am now subjected to whenever I travel anywhere else. It's not warrented and is pathetic.)
posted by shelleycat at 7:56 PM on June 11, 2006


*laughs*

In case anyone hasn't seen Guttman's article, these are classic:

Q: If there are power shortages, which will you keep running, the cappucino
machine or the air conditioner?
A: Both.

More jokes:

Q: How many Aucklanders does it take to change a lightbulb?
A: Does it matter?

Pickup line for Aucklanders:
"Would you like to come up to my room and see my work?"

Q: What did Aucklanders use before candles?
A: Electricity.

posted by effugas at 9:13 PM on June 11, 2006


I don't really know either, shelleycat; that comment was supposed to be tongue-in-cheek. I would assume that there is some reliance on South Island-generated power mostly because why else would Transpower be so gung-ho on building the new line of pylons across the Waikato?

According to Contact Energy, "the majority" of hydro power is generated in the South Island, with 60-70% of all power being hydro-generated, and the majority of power usage is in the North Island. This article says that "little" electricity is generated around Auckland.

I don't feel like downloading and reading through PDFs right now, but here's a substantial list of documents on NZ energy production and consumption that may have some useful answers.

I hear a lot about the anti-Auckland sentiment from Aucklanders and I think it's primarily a rural vs metropolitan thing that has caught on in the urban South Island too. I'm working on supressing my knee-jerk JAFA comments. :)
posted by tracicle at 9:15 PM on June 11, 2006


Why else would Transpower be so gung-ho on building the new line of pylons across the Waikato?

The bottom part of the Waikato doesn't join on to the South Island. I realise we don't generate much electricity around Auckland but the North Island is bigger than that (which most Aucklanders do actually realise). And the majority of 60-70% is going to be somewhere close to 50%, not exactly huge reliance that South Islanders often put forward. We do use more than we generate, always going to happen given the unbalance of population spread in NZ, but I'm not convinced it's a big deal. Our money is good for your region too, and problems like today's will impact on the whole country.

I'd quite like to wade through the list of documents but I'm too busy attempting to catch up on my lost half days work. Unfortunately being a PhD student staying home sick doesn't mean actually getting to take the day off.
posted by shelleycat at 9:44 PM on June 11, 2006


It was a nice day to hang out reading and eating cupcakes with my dog. He didn't do much reading though, I must say. The power didn't come back on until about 4.30pm for me.
posted by The Monkey at 10:10 PM on June 11, 2006


Hello New Zealand! How's the weather down there?
posted by Skygazer at 10:22 PM on June 11, 2006


Well, bad. Duh. The wind was so strong it blew all our electricity away.
posted by The Monkey at 10:24 PM on June 11, 2006


New Zealand has power? When did that happen?
posted by jeblis at 12:03 AM on June 12, 2006


Gah. I load up Metafilter to get away from the wall-to-wall OMG! OMG! The weather! OMG! marqueeing across the screen on Campbell Live ... and it's on here as well. Thanks a lot, pivotal.

Heh. One of the outraged business leaders busy being self-important has just opined that 'this would never happen in New York!' What a putz.
posted by Sonny Jim at 12:10 AM on June 12, 2006


New York is a mythical Xanadu for New Zealanders, having replaced London as the metropolitan ideal for us bumpkins to aspire to.

But let me join you in attempting to import putz into local lexicon.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 12:33 AM on June 12, 2006


I love the word putz more than I can say ...
posted by Sonny Jim at 1:34 AM on June 12, 2006


not that there's anything wrong with that.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 1:57 AM on June 12, 2006


Its a bastard when you run out of change for the meter.
posted by sgt.serenity at 3:38 AM on June 12, 2006


jeblis: New Zealand has power? When did that happen?

Not today.
posted by The Monkey at 4:28 AM on June 12, 2006


effugas : "Auckland's Power Outage, or, Auckland - Your Y2K Beta Test Site"

Effugas: Thanks. Very interesting link.
posted by Bugbread at 5:27 AM on June 12, 2006


we can have one incident at one location cripple the entire fucking central business district. Heads must roll.

That's bull ! Market will solve it, the invisible hand ! This blackout isn't but the invisible hand creating opportunities for thieves. Who are you to question market forces ?
posted by elpapacito at 5:36 AM on June 12, 2006


Auckland's main problem is it's geography, the reason it is vulnerable to single events is the shape the isthmus constricts the city to.

Recently I was thinking about a congestion charge for Auckland like they have in London, but the middle of the city already has a zone that restricts traffic - Waitemata Harbour.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 11:34 AM on June 12, 2006


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