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Safer power lines work for Counties

14 December 2016

Counties Power has made some important changes to the way its staff and contractors undertake high risk work on its electricity network.   Live line work on the company’s high voltage networks will now only occur when it is considered to be less hazardous than any alternative method of work available to crews.

The power supply will now be shut down to a specific work area before crews begin work on affected lines.  This includes planned maintenance, construction and replacement work.

Counties Power Chief Executive Sheridan Broadbent says the proactive change is in line with good practice across the electricity supply industry in New Zealand, Australia and the UK and has been implemented to keep the public and lines crews safe.  “This reverses a change made in the 1990’s that allowed live line work on high voltage networks.  While it does mean an increase in the number and duration of power outages, this move has only been made to improve safety while working on or around the electricity network.”

“As a locally-owned lines company we have three simple goals – safe, reliable and cost effective supply of power.  Maintaining a reliable power supply is of utmost importance to us but we make no apologies for implementing additional safety precautions.  Our number one priority is safety for our staff, our contractors and for the communities in which we operate our network,” Ms Broadbent says.

Chief Executive of the Electricity Networks Association, Graeme Peters, says the new approach represents a significant change for electricity companies.

“The new safety guidelines are an important industry-wide initiative that has been developed in conjunction with the Electricity Networks Association and participating power lines companies, who collectively deliver power to two million homes around New Zealand.”

The guidelines provide flexibility that allows for live-line work in certain circumstances where it is unreasonable for the lines to be de-energised, and only when all suitable safety precautions have been undertaken.

Counties Power General Manager of Field Operations, Dale Carline, has a timely reminder for drivers across the district.

“As we approach the festive season, we’ve seen a marked increase in car vs power pole accidents and we urge all residents to drive safely and to arrange a sober driver to get them home after a night out. Unfortunately, this time of the year has always had a large number of call-outs for our lines crews as they deal with poor decision making by drivers.  In the last six weeks we have responded to 17 car vs power line incidents, affecting not only the families of those injured but thousands of houses and businesses affected by outages.”

Another important change to how the network is operated is that full patrols of power lines located in areas where people are likely to come into contact with downed lines will be undertaken before any attempt is made to re-energise the affected area, and that this will always be undertaken in urban areas.  This is to ensure that there are no hazards to the public such as downed power lines and will also lead to a safer site for emergency crews responding to accidents involving power supply.  In rural areas, some circuits have auto reclose capability which allows the circuit to be re-energised automatically after some fault types such as bird strikes or debris from trees, which will continue to operate.

Call Counties Power on 0800 100 202 to report low hanging or downed lines or register any safety concerns online at


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