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Your Safety

Damaged Network

You can help us keep our network safe by reporting damaged equipment, power lines or cable exposure, damage or signs of defects - call 03 577 7007.

Broken power lines or damaged poles
Treat all power lines as live at all times and keep everyone, especially children, well clear of the area. Do NOT touch or attempt to move a downed line or any tree branches or other objects that are on or close to a downed line.  We recommend that you stay at least 10m away from any damaged equipment.  Be aware that damaged poles may fall and bring the lines down with them.

Lines clashing
In high winds, power lines can clash together, making bright flashes, loud bangs and possibly power surges and outages. If you see this occurring please let us know so we can investigate and remedy the problem.

If you hit an underground cable
Any damage to the outer covering or denting of a cable can seriously impact the cable’s integrity, or shorten its lifespan. Call us immediately and keep all people well away from the area. Never cover up a damaged cable and don’t try to make repairs yourself.

Lines on vehicles
If a vehicle has hit a pole and brought down the power lines, the vehicle may be alive and anyone touching it could be electrocuted.   The safest way to avoid electric shock is to stay in the vehicle until help arrives.

The occupants should only try to get out of the vehicle if another urgent situation, such as a fire, forces them to. If they must leave the vehicle before help arrives, they need to jump clear, being careful not to touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time.  NEVER touch the ground and the vehicle at the same time.

Items on lines
If you tangle an item on a power line, call us and we'll come and remove it. Never try to remove it yourself.

Parents and teachers
Teach children in your care not to go anywhere near any lines lying on the ground or hanging off poles. Advise them to notify an adult and to call the police on 111 or Marlborough Lines on (03) 577 7007.

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Overhead lines

Electric power lines are installed to rigid safety standards, but can still be a danger if you don't take sensible precautions. If you‘re concerned about the safety of any power lines near you, please call us on (03) 577 7007 anytime.

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 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, stay at least 4m away at all times.
  • Take care trimming trees to ensure they don't fall into the lines.
  • Avoid lighting fires under lines – call us to discuss this first.
  • Look above and keep well clear when handling a boat mast or moving a  yacht  near power lines.
Working near power lines
If you want to work within 4m of power lines, a written application must be made to our Duty Faultman,  phone 03 577 7007 for details. We will issue you with a permit that sets 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 safety will not be compromised.

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

Power poles have strains placed on them because 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, 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, Marlborough Lines must provide consent in writing before any excavation is carried out.

Temporary support of the pole may be required during excavation.

Earth-wires are an important part of an installation and must not be cut or interfered with.

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 onto 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 Marlborough Lines.
  • 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 doctors’ surgery and the land under the lines becomes a car park or driveway, the lines must be raised to 5.5 metres.

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Underground cables

How to dig safely
The OSH publication 'guide for safety with underground services' can assist you to work safely around buried services.

  • Don't take chances - buried cables can kill.
  • Before digging, check for buried power cables.
  • Before driving stakes longer than 500mm into the ground, consider whether there are any underground cables present. If in doubt, check.
  • There are numerous underground cables in the street and on private property - many utilities (electricity, telephone, gas, water and sewer) all share the same road space.
  • Buried water pipes and power cables can look the same.

Cable Location
We maintain records of many buried underground cables and can provide these records free of charge, however where records are not available our ‘Cable Location Service’ can be used.

Marlborough Lines Contracting provides a ‘Cable Location Service’ for all underground cabling within roadways or on private property. Using an electronic cable locator our staff can identify and mark on site the location of any buried cables. There is a charge for this service. Please call us on 03 577 7007 to arrange a cable location. Alternatively you can download, complete and return our Request for Cable Location form here.
Once cable locations have been identified, we recommend you use the methods outlined in the OSH publication 'guide for safety with underground services' to positively locate the actual cables.

If new underground mains are being installed at your premises, or to an outbuilding, you should ensure you get a position record from the electrician showing where the buried cables lie.  If you supply this to us, we’ll store it and make it available to you or any future owners of your property.

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Home owners/DIY

Fixing electrical problems around your home or installing additional outlets may save on costs - but a lack of knowledge could cost someone’s life.

Electrical work at home
New Zealand law allows a homeowner to do certain electrical work if they comply with set standards.

These standards are produced by the Energy Safety Service of the Ministry of Economic Development and are available for free download in PDF Adobe Acrobat format. 
Safety Disconnections
Painting, water-blasting, tree trimming, erection of scaffolding and repairs to roofing or spouting can be dangerous if carried out close to overhead service lines. In the interests of safety we recommend you arrange for the power to be disconnected while working close to the overhead service lines.

If you require a Temporary Safety Disconnection, contact us and we’ll organise it for you. In the central areas (Blenheim, Havelock, Picton, Wairau Valley township, Seddon) provided this can be undertaken during normal working hours and only requires a fuse to be removed, there will be no charge. We need at least 48 hours notice. The more notice provided, the more likely the work will be undertaken when it best suits you.  You will need to be present or available by phone when the power is to be reconnected.

If you’re located in a remote area you will be charged for our costs for travelling to and from your location, and while waiting for your work to be done (if required). The actual disconnection/ reconnection will be done at no charge. 

Please contact us for more details of the costs if you live in a remote area.

Repair of appliances
Many home appliances are complicated and require specialised knowledge to repair. In the interests of safety and reliability, you should consider leaving these repairs to specialised service companies.

Repairing appliances safely
If you feel you can repair an appliance yourself, there are a few points you should know: 
  • You can only repair appliances that you own yourself.
  • The appliance must not be connected to a power supply.
  • You must do the work safely and carry out proper safety tests.
  • You must work in accordance with NZECP:50 (PDF).
  • Repairs should be done in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Not all appliances are designed to be repaired and when they fail to work, should be replaced.
  • Obtaining spare parts can often be difficult and they may have to be ordered from outside New Zealand.
  • Attempting to modify appliances or fit non-standard parts is not advised as it can leave the appliance in a dangerous condition.
Installing or altering wiring
You can only install or alter wiring in the home that you own or occupy. If you own a set of flats you rent out, you cannot do your own electrical work.

Installing your own wiring is not as simple as it seems. Wrongly installed wiring places you at risk of causing a fire or electric shock. Unless you know what you are doing, we advise you use a licensed electrician.

Installing or altering wiring safely
If you feel confident you can install or alter wiring yourself, here are a few points you should know:
  • Changing a plug on an extension cord appears simple but several people have died when plugs are wrongly connected.
  • You are allowed to install new circuits and alter or extend existing circuits as long as the new and existing wiring is of the plastic sheathed variety and not rubber, or enclosed in conduit or wooden casing.
  • Typical work  you can do, is to install additional outlets, lights and heaters, shift an outlet to a new position or wire up a garage.
  • You can also replace broken or damaged electrical fittings, replace fuses and connect and reconnect permanently connected fittings.
  • Before you do any work, there are a few safety precautions you must be aware of:
    • Make sure the power is turned off.
    • Never work where there are live terminals, such as inside a switchboard.
    • Carry out the work in accordance with NZECP:51 (PDF).
    • Ensure the work is done safely.
    • Carry out proper safety tests.
    • You may not connect the wiring yourself - this must be done by an electrical inspector.
    • You may not work on mains or main switchboards - a licensed electrician must do this.
Be aware wiring not properly undertaken can cause electrocution and/or fire, and if not properly and lawfully installed – can devalue your property.

Ignorance in electricity matters can affect not only your own safety – but the lives of others.

Building a new house?
If you’re building a new house, you’ll need to get an electrician to install the wiring from the street and the main switchboard. You can do the rest of the wiring in the house but you can’t connect it to the main switchboard. You’ll need to get an inspector to check your wiring and then to connect and liven it.  

You should be aware that when an electrician wires a house they issue a certificate of compliance. Purchasers of a property often ask to see this certificate. We have seen examples of properties devalued because of unsatisfactory electrical work.

When provided, we do keep records of customer underground mains cables, so to ensure this is easily available to you and future owners of your property, make sure you get your electrician to give us a record of all buried cables.

Getting your premises connected to Marlborough Lines' network
If you’re building new premises, either you or your electrician will need to apply to connect your new building to our network.

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Farming and Horticulture

Working on the farm, vineyard or orchard is fulfilling, but sadly can also be dangerous.  Each year there is at least one fatality resulting from accidental contact with overhead power lines on these types of properties. Overhead lines can become just another feature of the landscape, but disregarding them can be deadly. 

Follow some simple rules to keep yourself safe: 

Watch that line
  • Keep four metres away from any lines - equipment does not actually need to touch the lines, as electricity can 'arc' over in a high voltage system.
  • Treat every electric wire as a 'hot' wire.

Underground cables

  • Determine their location accurately.
  • Take care when excavating around them.
  • Do not drive stakes or metal into the ground in their vicinity.

Working off trucks

  • Park away from overhead lines, and work as much as possible away from the lines and poles.
  • Keep clear of power lines when working on the upper levels of stock trucks or high loads.
  • Don't load or unload metal irrigation pipes close to power lines.

Moving equipment around lines

  • When moving tall machinery, choose the route where power lines are high enough to give adequate clearance.
  • Always have lifting equipment in a lowered position before moving it under electrical lines.
  • Make sure you know where power lines are when moving vehicles with raised apparatus, such as grain augers, ladders, drills, dump truck beds and post drivers. 


  • Don’t erect fence wire or training vines along the same path as overhead power lines, or strain wire where, if it releases or breaks, could contact lines. A broken wire flicking upwards which contacts power lines can be deadly. Similarly driving a waratah or standard into a cable can be deadly.

Irrigation equipment

  • Keep jet irrigators and the booms of rotary irrigators clear of all power lines.
  • Make sure the tips of rotary irrigators are kept four metres from power lines when operating and moving down a paddock, and when being shifted along bumpy roads or across bumpy paddocks.

Working with power tools

  • When working with power tools, use a safety switch (RCD) which can trip the power before any harm occurs. 

Working near power poles

  • Take care working around the guide wires on electrical poles - bumping these wires can cause the lines to sag.

If power lines are down

  • Downed power lines are extremely dangerous. If you see lines down, call us immediately and make sure people and stock keep well away.
  • If power lines hit your vehicle while you are in it, stay still until help arrives. If you must get out of the vehicle, do so without touching metal and ground at the same time. Jump as far as you can. 

Learn CPR and first aid

If there's an accident, you could save a life with some basic first aid knowledge and training. Information on CPR and first aid can be found on the St John website.

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Marlborough Lines doesn’t currently have any underwater cables, however the Transpower DC cables run from Fighting Bay across to the North Island.

For more information on the Cook Strait cables, please contact Transpower.

Look up
Watch out for overhead lines around boat ramps, mast-heads or when towing your boat on land. If a boat mast has brought down the power lines around a vehicle, the safest way to avoid electric shock is for occupants to stay in the vehicle until help arrives. They should only try to get away from the vehicle if another urgent situation, such as a fire in the car, forces them to evacuate.

Electric shock
In the event of an electrical shock, don’t touch the victim until you are certain the source of electricity has been removed. Call 111.

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During a power cut, or when we have to turn the power off to work on the power lines, generators can be used to run lights and appliances until power is restored. In general they're very safe, but you should follow a few rules when you use a generator.

There are three main types of generators:
  • Portable generators (motors/caravans).
  • Standby generators.
  • Distributed generation (e.g. Solar or Wind).

Portable generators
Portable generators are designed to be moved from site-to-site. They're not intended to be connected directly to your electrical system. Normally they're single-phase units and you should only use them to supply appliances through flexible cords.

You should:
  • Never attempt to connect your generator to a wall outlet supply or by altering your house wiring. This would feed electricity back into our lines and risk the lives of line workers who may be working some distance from your home, and/or damage your generator through overload.
  • Never connect loads that exceed the generator's maximum output rating. Most generators have a maximum rating in watts, for example 2000 watts (two kilowatts).
  • Never use a generator indoors. You risk carbon monoxide poisoning from the fumes and also risk causing a fire.
  • Never add fuel while the generator is running.
  • Never use damaged leads or appliances. You should also use a safety switch designed especially for generators.
  • Never connect all appliances at the same time. Start with the largest and progressively add successive ones up to the generator's maximum output.
  • Never 'piggy back' cords - always use a multiple-outlet box with built in load limiters.

Using a portable generator with your caravan
If you want to run your caravan from a generator, get your electrician to make a special lead that couples to the 16 amp inlet socket. To avoid overloading the generator, make sure the generator has a cut-out switch limited to the maximum output of the generator.

Most appliances are rated in watts, but some are rated in amperes. To find the wattage of an appliance, multiply the amperes by 230 volts (watts = amps x volts). For example, an appliance rated at 7.5 amps has a power rating of 1725 watts. Use of a generator requires a rating greater than this value.

Electric motors
The label on the name plate of a motor lists the output power in watts. To correctly match the generator's output, an allowance must be made for losses within the motor. As a rule, add about 20 per cent to the motor rating to allow for losses.

Electric motors require about four to seven time’s normal running current to start. Therefore, a 1000 watt motor, with assumed input of 1200 watts, will take 5.22 amperes normal running. To start the motor, the generator may need to provide anything from 20 to 32 amps. If the starting current is too high for the generator, it will stall. In this example, a generator of about 7.5 kW would be required just to start the motor.

Once running, the generator output drops back and additional loads can be added.

Stand-by generators
A standby generator is designed to provide electricity in the event grid supply is lost. Their capacity varies considerably and they can be connected to the installation wiring. Standby generators are installed either as fixed units or through a special inlet plug (usually for mobile generators).
  • Installations have either an automatic or manual change-over switch that disconnects the incoming mains and couples the generator to the installation wiring.
  • Connected loads must not exceed the maximum rating of the generator. To limit the load to the maximum load rating of the generator, the installation wiring is split into essential and non-essential sections so only the essential loads are supplied by the generator.
  • If you want to connect a generator to the house wiring, you must comply with the Australian/New Zealand Standard AS/NZS 3000 : 2007 Wiring Rules (section 7.3 – Electrical Generation Systems) available from Standards New Zealand.
  • A licensed electrician must install the generator and alter the wiring as necessary. If you plan to install a generator, first talk to your electrician.
  • One point to note is that the generator connection must be on the installation side of the energy meter - otherwise you’ll be billed for using your own power.
  • Generators designed to start automatically and connect to the installation should be test-run on load at periodic intervals - usually once a month.
  • Some units have special test switches for this testing, but the best way to ensure the generator will start and change over when the mains fails, is to turn off the building main switch.
  • We recommend you ensure the generator is regularly serviced by a company that specialises in that type of work.

Distributed generation
This generation may be connected to your installation and may be capable of supplying power back into our network.  It may be solar or wind or diesel used for load management.  Because it may be capable of supplying power back into Network, it will require additional protection and safety features to ensure people working on our network are safe. For more information please see Getting Connected – Distributed Generation.

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