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20 August 2003


There is nothing that infuriates motorists, pedestrians and utility providers more than the incessant digging up of the streets in our towns and cities.

No sooner has one operator dug up a street, and then a different company comes along and digs it up again. Drivers and pedestrian are driven to increasing levels of road rage as they face constant disruption to their day. Pristine main routes begin to look like patchwork quilts as contractors reinstate the road with little forward planning, and driven by time, resulting in substandard outcomes.

Utility providers and consumers are also frustrated when damage by third parties to the pipes and lines in the road disrupts services causing considerable cost, not to mention inconvenience to businesses and households alike.

All this may soon be a thing of the past as the New Zealand Utilities Advisory Group's (NZUAG) Project Road Share projects come on stream.

NZUAG was formed nearly two years ago to look at issues related to utilities working in the road corridor. This voluntary forum of network utility service providers, territorial authorities, Transit and industry bodies seeks solutions that optimise use of the road corridor.

The outcome has been the development of a number of projects that have produced best practice guidelines and tools for all aspects of road corridor management. These collectively aim to deliver compliance, competence and credibility. In other words, a more cost-effective and efficient outcome.

The guidelines will be tied together by a Partnership Agreement that sets out the rights and responsibilities of utilities working in the road. The group hopes that road controlling authorities and utility companies throughout New Zealand will sign the agreements in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration to achieve an efficient and well managed roading network.

Tim Davin, Chairman of NZUAG, is confident that all stakeholders will come to the table, sign the agreements and become part of Project Road Share.

"We have devised a framework within which utility services and road controlling authorities can come together in a partnership that will make a real difference to the management of utilities in the road across New Zealand," he says.

"For the first time local government, network utility providers and contractors will have access to national guidelines that will provide consistent standards for working in the road," he said.

One of the first projects to be completed under the Project Road Share banner is a new handbook SNZ HB 2002: 2003 Code of practice for working in the road recently published by Standards New Zealand (SNZ). SNZ developed the handbook in association with NZUAG and key stakeholders.

The new code of practice, outlined in the handbook, will encourage a co-ordinated approach and a quality outcome, which at the same time aims to be fair and equitable to all stakeholders. The document focuses on co-ordinating the technical operation of utilities in the road corridor and includes reference to excavation, backfill, surface reinstatement, materials, quality assurance, safety of works, traffic management and the management of the environmental effects of construction.

The Code of Practice, when it is implemented, will provide all utility providers with a set of principles that ultimately will help protect all the stakeholders' interests and assets.

Other projects grouped under the Project Road Share banner include:

· the National Certificate in Road Opening developed by Infratrain, formally the New Zealand Contracting ITO. The aim of this qualification is to ensure all contractors working in the road are competent to do so.

· the development of Resource Management Guidelines that will provide a model set of district plan objectives and rules for management of network utilities in the road corridor. These guidelines address the amenity values in the district plans. By promoting consistency in all district plans they hope to minimise the local differences.

· the development of a best practice guide for lifeline utilities, produced by the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management to ensure utilities have robust contingency and continuity plans in the event of a civil defence emergency.

· the development of a GIS Streetworks portal and Bureau Service where the location of utility infrastructure information can be accessed, as well as road opening guidelines and other related data-e-business@work for infrastructures.

The gas industry has been well represented in NZUAG through Stephen Parker, the National Manager of GANZ.

Stephen says that the work NZUAG is doing through Project Road Share is exciting not just because of the progress this voluntary group has made in a very short time but because of the relationships formed and the linkages made between public and private organisations.

"NZUAG has started the ball rolling with Project Road Share," he says.

"However, this is just the start of a robust relationship between territorial authorities and network utility providers. It can only benefit the gas industry to be involved.

"The forum provides a platform for issues to be discussed and solutions to be found that will benefit all parties in a new era of civic cooperation," he said.

Project Road Share will be launched next March 2004.