Sparky's Frontline Repairs

Monday 28 March 2011, 1:14PM


CPIT electrical tutor Andrew Massie got to see the damage an earthquake can wreck on a city’s power network firsthand – then he rolled up his sleeves and helped with the repairs.

Andrew was on an academic study leave placement with Connetics, where he was helping to consolidate the Christchurch network following the September earthquake, and, more specifically, gaining experience in cable jointing and line mechanic work to take back to CPIT’s Tradefit site.

Events of 22 February changed the focus of this work, giving Andrew a unique insight into what happens behind the scenes when the city’s lights go out.

“The most frightening damage was due to the power of the quake damaging steel and lead armoured high-voltage cables and simply bending them like straws, causing them to fault,” Andrew said. “I’ve tried bending them back into shape, and it is impossible! The New Brighton Substation sinking two metres into the ground due to liquefaction was also mind-blowing.

“The most urgent priorities in terms of repairs were the higher voltage cables, which allows Orion to reconnect power to larger numbers of people first,” he said.

“We primarily worked on 11,000 volt cables initially, then focused on lower voltage 400 volt cables. The overhead teams rapidly installed the overhead 66,000 volt to get the New Brighton Substation relivened.”

Much of Andrew’s experiences are recorded in his blog (, which he wrote for teaching purposes and as part of his own studies towards a Diploma in Teaching and Learning Technologies at CPIT.

This was also where Andrew paid tribute to the “heroes I am having the extreme privilege of working with.
“Starting at the top, the management and administration staff at Connetics have shown fantastic resilience and superb organisational ability to coordinate the reconnection of power in our broken city so rapidly.

“The ‘coalface’ workers simply keep going. Quality and unwavering performance in the face of the biggest natural disaster to strike this country has been the hallmark of these workers. Yes, they are paid to do the job, but many carried on working with broken homes that had no water, power or sewer.”

As well as renewed respect for supply industry workers, Andrew also now has a collection of earthquake-damaged cable samples to show to his students back at CPIT, courtesy of Orion and Connetics.