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Lighting up . . . Newly elected Waitaki Power Trust chairman John Clements holds an old street light while standing alongside the more efficient LED version, which has been installed around the Waitaki district. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

After 50 years in the electricity industry, it is fair to say John Clements knows a thing or two about how it works. The career electrician and recently elected Waitaki Power Trust chairman spoke to Daniel Birchfield about his new role and what the future holds for the ever-changing industry.

Q What does the role of chairman of the Waitaki Power Trust involve?

Well, and I’ll say this with tongue in cheek, it depends on how passionate you want to be about things. It can be as long as a piece of string. We [trustees] like to put back something into the industry that has given us so much. It does take time, effort, reading and knowledge of the industry. The industry is changing.

Q What does the trust actually do?

The trust holds shares in the company on behalf of the consumers. There are five trustees and we are the custodians of those shares in Network Waitaki Ltd. We have a responsibility to be prudent, careful, but also to ensure the company is providing a safe, reliable electricity network.

Q How much of an asset is Network Waitaki to North Otago?

It’s a tremendous asset. We have a very small, locally owned community network. We can look at our neighbours and probably hold our heads high. When I came to Oamaru from Dunedin, Network Waitaki was way ahead of the Dunedin etwork .. it’s very innovative. I think you’ll find Network Waitaki is one of the most efficient networks in the country.

Q How did you get involved in the industry?

I was an apprentice at the Dunedin City Council electricity department in 1969 and I was a registered electrician there until I moved to a lifestyle block in Oamaru in 1977. I did 20-odd years with the Waitaki Electric Power Board and since then I have been working for myself. I have been involved with the replacing of the street lights in the district to LED lights, and putting up the Christmas decorations around the district and in Waimate. I sort of fell into it really, but I’ve got no regrets.

Q What is the biggest change you have seen in the industry?

The speed and technology, and the data that people have at their fingertips, that’s probably the biggest.

Q What do you make of the evolution of technology in the industry?

I think in the next five to 10 years, more and more uptake. People are becoming more and more conscious of our environment. We have a lot of water and have to use it more efficiently, especially with electricity production. Also, I think generally people are a lot more knowledgeable about how to save on electricity.

Q What is the most unusual situation you have come across in your time as an electrician?

Well, in Dunedin I can well remember people in flats lifting the windows and they had two alligator clips clipped on to the power and got free power off the two live lines into the house. There was also a few growing cannabis that had high power usage – it’s pretty obvious. The meter readers often find a bit of “tobacco” growing somewhere.