Cyclone Gabrielle: Power poles in Tauranga perched near crumbling cliff worry Maungatapu residents

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There are concerns about these power poles on top of a crumbling cliff in Maungatapu. Photo / Alex Cairns

Some Maungatapu residents are worried frequent storms may be making two power poles perched near a crumbling cliff face increasingly unstable.

The Transpower poles in Te Ariki Park sit at the tip of the Maungatapu peninsula as part of a line running through the residential suburb and across Rangataua Bay to Mount Maunganui.

They sit at the end of the park, and near a significant slip.

Transpower says the poles were checked three weeks ago and there was no immediate risk, but given the recent heavy rain, it will check again.


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The national power grid operator previously proposed moving a 3.3km portion of the Maungatapu line, with the erosion threat to some poles being among its reasons.

But its proposed new overground route along State Highway 29A and over the Maungatapu Bridge ignited a lengthy legal dispute, with local groups and Transpower eventually cancelled the project last year.

Holly Tipuna’s home is at the entrance of the Te Ariki Park and while she had worried about the nearby power poles in the past, she said Cyclone Gabrielle in February had made things worse.

“It was kinda freaky ‘cos we noticed after it happened all the extra trees fallen over down there. I was like, ‘cool, our land is going to be next’.”


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In her view, the poles looked “so close to falling over”.

Pauline Harawira has spent decades speaking out on concerns about the safety of lines, including the problems with the poles.

She said she was the only one left of an older generation who had battled for the removal of the power poles.

“Most of the guys who had led the thing are gone now. They’ve all passed away. There’s no one left except me.”

Power poles perched near the edge of a crumbling cliff in Maungatapu. Photo / Alex Cairns
Power poles perched near the edge of a crumbling cliff in Maungatapu. Photo / Alex Cairns

Harawira hoped the relevant parties could come to a consensus that ensured the safety of the community.

The Tauranga Environmental Protection Society took part in legal action against the power line realignment.

Its chairman, Peter McArthur, said he believed the poles in the park were in poor condition.

The Maungatapu Marae sits on land below the park and clifftop power poles.

Ngāti Hē spokesman Peter Ririnui said that over time, the power poles had major effects on the land.

In his view: “The power lines or the poles are influencing the erosion in regards to destabilising part of the land where they are situated … They are major and are having a major effect on our fields.”


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Another hapū member, Wakata Kingi, believed the erosion surrounding the power poles had worsened over the years, and he also pointed to damage by the cyclone.

“Looking at it coming across the bridge [the other] day, my mate said, ‘Whoa man, that looks worse over there now’ … I guess the cyclone has affected it.”

Transpower said its staff inspected the area just over two weeks ago, including checking the power poles near the cliff edge.

It was confident there was no immediate risk to the transmission poles. However, Transpower said that given the recent bad weather, staff were taking a prudent approach and commissioning a fresh, full geotech review.

They were working with mana whenua to gain access across their land to carry that out.

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