Nelson linesman Ken Allen has retired after 44 years of keeping Nelson’s power pumping. Photo: Evan Barnes.

Powering Nelson for four decades


He’s kept our power running for the last 44 years, but Nelson linesman Ken Allen has officially decided to put down his tools.

Friday night marked retirement for Ken, who has worked in the power industry in Nelson since 1974.

Ken moved here from Wellington when he was 21, and his brother showed him the job ad in the paper.

“I like the outdoors, so I decided to apply,” he says.

“When I started out it was called the Waimea Electric Power Board, but it was contracted to different companies over the years – Tasman Energy, Tasman Electrical, Mainpower – and now, Delta.”

For most of his career, he did on-call fault work, and has attended a whopping 450 callouts since 1981, under every circumstance imaginable.

“You’re the first response,” he says.

“There were many many times I was called out in the middle of the night, during huge storms, and sometimes you’d be working all night, and the family would worry about me coming home.

“Basically, my job was to get the power back on – a lot of that was just replacing fuses, but the linesmen were called out to the major events, when lines and poles were down.”

Ken says he also worked alone in these events – something that many people are surprised to hear.

“You’re by yourself, even in the middle of the night,” he says.

“But, the job was so varied. You’re always moving around, going out into the country and seeing places you’d never normally see.”

The father of three says, before 1981 his job was to help maintain the power lines, because back then all the fault work was done by the line mechanics.

He has also worked outside of Nelson, attending several call outs in North Canterbury and he was once called down to help during a big storm that hit Ashburton.

Ken says there have been a few changes in the industry since 1974.

“As a whole it has become more regulated, that’s the biggest thing – there are more safe working practices.”

Ken says he had a “fantastic” send off at McCashins Brewery on Friday night, and is looking forward to a three-and-a-half month trip to Europe, which he leaves for this week.

“I’m keen to move on, but I’ve had lifelong friendships through my career. A lot of people these days go from job to job – but for me it was the people who worked there.”