A major telecommunications fault last month left hundreds of Mahurangi residents without service for nearly 24 hours, and many businesses out of pocket.
Cellphone coverage, internet and eftpos went down at 4.30pm on Friday, February 9, when a digger working on the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway project severed a fibre internet cable.
Full service wasn’t restored for nearly 24 hours, bringing trading to a halt as weekend visitors and festival goers flooded the area on one of the busiest days of the year.
Chorus reports that within minutes of detecting the outage, it contacted rural fibre repair subcontractor Visionstream.
Chorus communications manager Steve Pettigrew says his records show that the technician from Visionstream was delayed in getting to Puhoi because of traffic and didn’t arrive until 7pm. He says by 4am on Saturday it was decided that specialist equipment was needed. Work to restore services started at 10am and was completed by 3.30pm.
However, the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and motorway construction company NX2 tell a different story.
NZTA senior manager project delivery Andrew Thackwray says NX2 attempted to inform Chorus of the damage six minutes after it happened but received no response.
An NX2 project engineer then attempted to contact Visionstream and despite calling three times, as well as sending text messages and photos, got no reply.
At 8.30am on Saturday, an NX2 site supervisor on the Warkworth end of the motorway informed the NX2 project engineer that a Visionstream subcontractor had been searching for the site of the damage from 9pm until 4am – on the wrong end of the motorway.
Chorus said that the fibre outage on January 9 and 10 affected 17 businesses and 834 residential customers, but internet provider Rodney Broadband director Darrel McNab says, in reality, the numbers were far higher.
Rodney Broadband had at least 300 business customers affected and that figure would likely be dwarfed by other major providers such as Spark and Vodafone.
Among the businesses affected was Plume Café in Matakana, which had to let customers leave without paying.
Owner Farida Cooper said if customers didn’t have cash or a credit card the cafe just let them go because it couldn’t process eftpos payments.
The Point Wells Store was unable to take payment for around 300 transactions.
Store manager Rebecca Lane said she provided customers with receipts with details for bank transfers and relied on their honesty to make the payment later.
Mr McNab says he and other providers have contracts with Chorus to have faults restored within three hours and the near 24-hour delay wasn’t good enough.
“The NX2 motorway works will continue for another two years. My concern is that Chorus and its contractors do not have the resources and mechanisms in place to adequately fix future disruptions.”