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Improving utilities' access to road and rail

31 October 2006 Media Statement

Improving utilities' access to road and rail corridors

Better coordination of roadworks, along with reduced compliance costs for infrastructure providers, will be two of the main benefits arising from proposed changes to the regimes governing access to transport corridors, the Ministers of Transport, Economic Development and Energy announced today.

The proposed changes are outlined in a position paper released today which follows a government review around the use of road, motorway and rail corridors by utilities – such as electricity, gas and telecommunications companies, and how that access is managed.

"Ensuring New Zealand has a world-class infrastructure is a vital part of the government's work to transform New Zealand into a high wage, innovative, export-led economy. The package of measures outlined in the position paper we are releasing today is part of this important infrastructure work and aligns with other work already underway in the transport, telecommunications and energy sectors, including significant programmes of investment, " Economic Development Minister Trevor Mallard said.

“One of the main inefficiencies associated with the current regime is lack of coordination between the various utilities who need to access pipes and lines running underneath roads. The resulting traffic delays and damage to road surfaces, as roads are dug up repeatedly, cause ongoing frustration for motorists and road operators. By giving an explicit coordination role to road controlling authorities, we hope to reduce significantly the costs and inconvenience associated with poorly-planned access to road corridors.

"The changes will also see reductions in compliance costs through initiatives such as the introduction of national standards, reduced costs for local government through less damage to roads and drains, and also benefits to communities through fewer road accidents."

Energy Minister David Parker said that many of the planned changes outlined in the position paper addressed inconsistencies and gaps in existing statutes that were resulting in inefficiencies, and uncertainty, with associated higher costs and delays.

Specific changes include making key definitions, processes and timeframes consistent across all relevant utilities legislation; clarifying the governance role to represent the wider public interest; establishing enforceable nationwide standards for notification of affected parties, cost sharing, and dispute resolution; and providing for increased utility access to rail and motorway corridors, subject to transport safety goals.

Transport Minister Annette King said the changes would also help improve road safety and traffic management.

"For instance, poles are the fourth most hit roadside object and have the most severe consequences, especially on rural roads with 100 km/h speed limits. Road safety – specifically, the reduction of roadside hazards –will therefore be explicitly factored into the development of national codes and standards for the management of road corridors," Annette King said.

The development of the broad approach outlined in the paper released today has included wide consultation with a range of stakeholders, including utilities companies, transport groups and local government. The Ministry of Economic Development will now develop detailed policies to implement the broad approach, including the required changes to legislation. There will be ongoing consultation with stakeholders throughout this process.

Ends

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