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Elton John Blackout Help Crashes

March 7, 1998

AUCKLAND, New Zealand (AP) _ Elton John’s offer to loan Auckland extra electric generators to help relieve the downtown blackout fell through Saturday after the cargo plane that was to bring the equipment was damaged.

John and Billy Joel, his co-headliner for concerts Saturday and Sunday night, instead had to hire scarce generators that were hooked to the local power grid to help provide power downtown.

John’s production coordinator Henry Crallan had previously offered to loan the city extra generators that he intended to have flown in when he misunderstood the blackout situation and thought the whole city was without power.

In fact, about 120 square blocks of the commercial heart of the city are blacked out or experiencing power shortages daily, but only about 5,000 of the 1.2 million people in the urban region live downtown.

The loan offer had to be withdrawn after a truck driver in the United States rammed the cargo plane the generators were being loaded on, putting it out of service.

A generator company that promised a month ago to provide two 800-kilowatt generators for the shows said Show Power, the concert managers, threatened to sue it for leasing them instead to Auckland Hospital during the blackout.

Andrew Crawford, the general manager of Power Hire of Onehunga, an Auckland suburb, told The Associated Press that the company pulled a generator off the central city power grid and used it for the concert.

``The legal action is now halted,″ he said, and added that Show Power concert management was pleased with the arrangement.

The generator taken off the city supply was not needed over the weekend, when most downtown businesses are closed and power demand drops.

The generator will be put back on the main downtown substation by Monday morning, when demand will shoot up again.

Downtown Auckland went dark Feb. 20, when the last of four underground power cables supplying electricity to the central city failed under the heat and humidity of the New Zealand summer.

Power has been out for two weeks now. The power company says it may be as long as five to 10 weeks before it is restored to the hard-hit downtown blocks of this city.

When the strained cables started failing, the city power utility, Mercury Energy had no backup system.

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