Maryville residents who fought for compensation after having thousands of dollars worth of electrical goods damaged during a high-voltage power surge in February are receiving reimbursements following an independent audit of claims.
It comes after a persistent battle to have their damaged goods replaced by Ausgird.
Properties in McMichael, Harrison and Northumberland Street suffered major damage to their domestic electrical circuits on February 22 when a bat flew into high-voltage lines and caused an 11,000-volt cable to fall onto low-voltage wires. It prompted a high-voltage surge into residential circuits.
Ausgrid said at the time the bat caused a “flashover” and led to the failure of power-pole insulator, which allowed the cable to fall free.
Residents were left stunned when the company refused to accept liability and home insurance didn’t cover damages.
The Newcastle Herald reported some residents’ concerns of aging power supply infrastructure in the area and their questions of whether it was a factor in the surge.
In April, Ausgrid engaged an independent auditor to assess claims but said it did not believe it was liable.
About 10 residents have now received cheques for their damages and more are expected to follow for those who submitted claims.
“It’s a huge sense of relief,” resident David Marshall said. “You can tell everyone else is relieved too. We can finally get our equipment repaired and our appliances replaced.
“It’s been a long and drawn out battle, we feel like we’ve had a win for the little bloke. We’ve got a fair go, but not without a fight.”
Responding to the Herald last week, Ausgrid maintained it “does not consider that it is liable for the damages experienced by customers as a result of the incident”, but “does recognise the unique nature of the incident and the small group of customers directly impacted.”
It engaged an independent auditor to “assess each customer’s claim and has commenced payments to a small number of Maryville residents directly impacted.”
The Energy and Water Ombudsman NSW (EWON) received 13 complaints about the surge.
“When there is high to low voltage intermix, EWON’s view is that substantiated claims should be individually and openly considered by Ausgrid, and where appropriate, consumers should be reimbursed out of pocket expenses associated with their loss i.e. replacement of affected appliances, but not necessarily on a new for old basis,” EWON said.
Newcastle state MP TIm Crakanthorp, who pushed the case with the NSW Energy Minister, said it was a “victory for people power.”
“This should have been an open and shut case. Ausgrid should have worn these costs from the start.”