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Electricity safety

Electricity is distributed at high voltages and all lines should be treated as live at all times. Care also needs to be taken around power poles, transformers, and switchgear.

If you’re trimming or removing trees, cleaning or replacing spoutings, painting, repairing roofs or chimneys, or making alterations, be careful when you’re working near overhead power lines or underground cables where they enter your house. These lines are not safe to touch.

The risks when using, or being in contact with, electricity are electric shock, burns, fire, serious injury and death.

Make sure you look up and look out, watch those overheads, and watch where you dig.

Safety tips

  • Before starting on any repair or maintenance jobs outside, make sure you locate power lines or underground cables. If you’re going to be working near these lines, ask us or your retailer to temporarily disconnect your power supply.

  • If you’re handling tall objects near power lines (like scaffolding or ladders), keep an eye on what’s above — don’t let it come into contact with power lines. Keep at least 4 metres away.

  • Watch out for what’s below — make sure you check for any underground gas, power or water services before you dig.

  • Plant trees well away from power lines and keep branches trimmed before they get too close.

  • Before installing or repairing a clothesline, TV antenna or other high structures, check for clearance of power lines.

  • If you’re operating electrical equipment outdoors, always use a Residual Current Device (RCD) or an isolating transformer.

  • Use a licensed electrical worker for all electrical repairs.

  • Please don’t go near power lines that have been brought down by a storm or any other cause.

Staying safe

Safety is one of our core values

It’s important to keep the public and independent contractors safe when they work on or near our network.

Without an awareness of overhead lines or underground cables, there’s a real risk of electrocution, explosion, flashover or fire.

Here’s how to safely work near overhead lines, transport high loads and locate electricity cables before digging.

Above Ground

If you’re going to be working closer than four metres to lines, poles or power boxes, you’ll need a Close Approach Consent, for which we’ll need two business days to process your application.

This is a legal requirement set down by New Zealand Electrical Code of Practice – NZECP 34:2001 Electrical Safe Distances.

high loads

Getting too close to overhead lines is dangerous, especially when moving over height items such as a house, boat or heavy equipment.

You’ll need a permit and should apply 10 working days before moving date. We can give you more information about the different requirements for different-sized loads.

Building near lines

If building or extending your house, you may need to put the power underground if it’s too close to overhead lines.

The minimum distance between the building and the lines depends on the voltage and can be found under NZECP 34:2001.

Below Ground

To avoid damage and risk of electrocution, it’s important to know where power or fibre cables are before you dig.

If they’re hit or damaged, it can knock out vital power and communications supplies.

We can help with free help and advice on safe working practices and locating cables.

Safety at home

Always treat lines as live at all times.

Electricity is clean, efficient and instantly available to use, but it can’t be seen or heard and has no smell. You can’t see the danger.

At Home

Switch power off at the mains if you smell smoke or if your power is surging (e.g. your lights or appliances are turning on and off).

Turn off all electronic appliances when:

  • Your power is surging
  • There is a blown fuse
  • An appliance comes into contact with water
  • Your home is struck by lightning.

Treat all power lines as if they’re live, even if you’ve turned off the mains switch.

Be prepared

Electricity faults can happen at any time, with no warning. It’s a good idea to keep the following items handy and know how to find them in the dark:

  • A torch and spare batteries
  • Candles and matches
  • Battery operated radio
  • A phone that doesn’t require power (all cordless phones need power)
  • Bottled water if you rely on power to pump water into your home.

Keep fridge and freezer doors closed to stop food spoiling.

Tree safety and responsibilities

Trees near power lines are dangerous.

Touching fallen lines or while climbing or pruning trees can mean serious injury or death.

Trees and branches too close to power lines are dangerous to people and livestock, as well as cause interruptions to our power supply, especially during high winds and storms.

Poor tree maintenance also costs our customers millions of dollars each year.

Responsibilities

If you own the land the tree is growing on, then generally you’re responsible for keeping trees trimmed and away from the lines. In some cases, it may be too dangerous for you to do the work yourself and you’ll need to arrange for us or an approved contractor to do it.

In certain situations, for example, a self-sown tree, you can declare ‘no interest’ in the tree and we’ll take responsibility for keeping it clear of the lines. Usually, we’ll fell the tree to save further maintenance costs.

We do regular tree surveys and line inspections and do our best to let you know if your tree is getting too close to the lines. However, we also need you to keep an eye out.

Download our brochure on Trees and safety for more information.

Regulations

The Electricity (Hazards from Trees) Regulations 2003 outline legal minimum distances trees should be kept from power lines. Tree owners can be fined up to $10,000 for not complying with these regulations.

Tree safe distance zones

Electrcity safety near trees diagram

The Growth Limit Zone

This extends 2.5 metres out from power lines and conductors. This is the legal minimum space that must be kept clear of trees, and may vary depending on the voltage of the power lines.

No person or piece of equipment is permitted within 4 metres of our lines.

For safety reasons, trees and vegetation in the Growth Limit Zone can only be trimmed by us or one of our approved contractors. We’ll provide the first tree trimming free of charge but after that there’s a charge.

It’s important you don’t trim the trees in the Growth Limit Zone yourself due to the risk of electrocution.

The Notice Zone

This extends 3.5 metres out from power lines and conductors.

You can trim any trees in the Notice Zone provided we’ve given you written permission.

For safety reasons please contact us about the tree’s location and when the work will be done – at least three working days before you want to carry out the work as we may need to switch the power off.

If your tree is growing in the Notice Zone, we may send you a Hazard Warning Notice advising that the tree needs trimming.