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We ensure all electric power lines installed in South Canterbury meet rigid safety standards, but the lines can still be a danger if you don't take sensible safety precautions. If you are concerned about the safety of any power lines near you, please call our free emergency 24 hour hotline on 0800 66 11 77.

Accident prevention near power lines

Follow these rules to avoid accidents when working or playing near power lines:

  • Treat all lines as alive
  • Never go near or touch a downed line
  • Never ever climb any power pole or pylon
  • Never fly kites, model aircraft or play with fishing poles near lines
  • Look out above when handling long objects or using mechanical plant
  • High voltage electricity can jump across gaps - you don't need to touch the lines to get killed
  • Take care trimming trees so that they don't fall into the lines
  • Avoid lighting fires under lines - discuss with us before you do this
  • Look above and keep well clear when handling a boat mast near power lines.

Working near power lines

If you want to work near power lines, a written application must be made. You will be issued with a permit seting out minimum approach distances and any other safety measures.

The New Zealand Electrical Code of Practice 34 - Safety Distances requires any person who carries out any work near power lines to maintain safe distances. The minimum safe approach distance for any mechanical plant or scaffolding is four metres. We may permit a lesser distance where we are satisfied that safety will not be compromised.

Excavating near power poles

Any excavations near power poles need to be made with special care to ensure that poles don't fall.

Power poles have strains placed on them by virtue of the weight of the overhead conductors. Any lowering of the depth of the ground around a pole causes the ground mass to become unstable, thereby weakening the support of the pole. Often the load strain is not through the centre of the pole, so any change in loading can cause the pole to fall.

The New Zealand Electrical Code of Practice 34 - Safety Distances requires that where any work is to be done within 2.2 metres of a pole and at a depth of greater than 300 mm, we must provide consent in writing before any excavation is carried out.

Temporary support of the pole may be required during excavation.

Construction of buildings near overhead lines

The New Zealand Electrical Code of Practice 34 - Safety Distances (NZECP:34) prescribes minimum distances for buildings from overhead power lines.

  • The particular distance depends on the line voltage. For voltages up to 66 000 the structure must be no closer than four metres from the lines.
  • Detailed dimensions can be found in NZECP:34 table 2. Some lines connecting premises to our network consist of two or more plastic-covered wires. The plastic is for weatherproofing only and is not an insulating material. Other lines consist of a single cable (about 20mm in diameter), referred to as "neutral-screened". These are fully insulated. NZECP:34 provides different clearances for each type of line.
  • Overhead lines installed from 1 January 2003 must be at least 5.5 metres above the ground.
  • Where lines cross above a building, such as a garage built on to the front of a house or a deck, the minimum height of the lines above the structure must comply with NZECP:34 table 2.
  • We advise that if you are doing any building, under or near any power lines, seek advice from us or your electrician as early as possible.
  • If you are erecting a building, including decking, under or near any power lines, seek advice from your electrician or us.
  • If there is a need to alter the lines, consider having them placed underground. This will be much safer for you and will also improve the aesthetics of the property.
  • If the use of the land changes, for example a former residence becomes a doctor's surgery and the land under the lines becomes a car park or driveway, the lines must be raised to 5.5 metres.

Power Pole Ownership

High voltage

We own and maintain all 33kV, 22kV and 11kV poles and wires including assets at those voltages on private land.

Low voltage

The ownership of all low voltage poles and wires is as per the provisions of the Electricity Amendment Act 2001 Section 7, subsection (3) “Point of Supply” and as shown in the picture. The qualification is that no customer or landowner will be responsible for any wire or pole not on or over land owned by them.

All low voltage wires, poles and fittings that form part of a customer’s service mains, and/or supply multiple buildings on privately owned land, are owned by that land owner and therefore the landowner’s responsibility.

In examples 2 and 6 the first pole in private land is owned and maintained by us as it is supporting a road crossing span. Conversely the first pole in private land in example 1 is owned by the landowner as it is not supporting a road crossing span.

Similar diagrams for underground cables are being prepared and will be published when complete. In the meantime, if you have any questions about underground cable, please call us on 03 687 4300 or free phone 0800 66 11 77.