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15 November 2003


Road users in two of our largest cities can soon breathe easy. The days of numerous complaints about road works in Wellington and Christchurch are numbered.

The Councils in these two cities are working with their area's major utility companies to adopt national best practice guidelines for working in the road.

Christchurch's agreement went into effect on 1 November 2003 and Wellington plans to follow early next year.

The guidelines, SNZ HB 2002:2003 Code of Practice for Working in the Road were developed by Standards New Zealand in association with the New Zealand Utilities Advisory Group (NZUAG). The code represents the first completed project of the group. It was developed by representatives of local government and utility service companies. They built upon work cooperatively undertaken by local authorities and utility companies in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington.

The code promotes national consistency for working in the road corridor. It sets out the roles and responsibilities of RCA's, principal utility providers and contractors. Included in the handbook are guidelines for road works notifications, and a provision of a Road Opening Notice process

There is also reference to excavation, backfill, surface reinstatement, materials, quality assurance, safety of works, traffic management and the management of the environmental effects of construction.

Christchurch City Council Asset Policy Engineer, Weng- Kei Chen, spearheaded the effort to get the utility companies in Christchurch to come together. He said that Christchurch's performance based culture meant that it was easy for the utility companies to take ownership of the issues and be part of the agreement.

The new code is part of NZUAG's Roadshare project. It's all about working together,” says Chen.

Chen says the new code is transparent. Everyone knows their rights and responsibilities when working in the road. For instance, contractors are left in no doubt as to what standards they need to comply with when reinstating the road.

"If they do not put back the road to the required standard they foot the bill not the ratepayers,” he says.

He hopes this will result in consistently good road quality across Christchurch and this will mean less complaints and happier road users.

Ed Beattie, Telecom's Development Manager, South agrees. "We welcome a process that will deliver better co-ordination of road works," he says.

"Trench sharing means cost sharing. We are for anything that reduces our costs as this means we can deliver a more efficient service to our customers."

In Christchurch parties to the agreement are Telecom, TelstraClear, Transit, Orion, Rock Gas, Petroltac and Vodaphone.

Wellington City Council is also looking at adopting the new handbook.

Neil Johnstone heads the council's Road Protection Unit. He says that Wellington has had a comprehensive code of practice since 1996.

"Wellington has made a lot of headway in getting contractors to work together” he says.

"However, we are willing to adopt a national Code of Practice for Working in the Road because we see value in having consistent standards throughout New Zealand.

Johnstone says that councils can add a schedule of their own regional requirements to the national guidelines.

"Each district has local variations which will need to be taken into account when adopting the national Code of Practice.

"However, having utility companies, road owners and contractors all talking the same language throughout the country will help address the issues relating to utilities working in the road," he said.

Tim Davin, Chairman of the New Zealand Utilities Advisory Group (NZUAG) agrees.

He says that NZUAG was formed to look at issues relating to utilities working in the road corridor.

One of the most pressing issues the group had to address was the quality of the road asset and the varying standards of road excavation and reinstatement.

"Invariably this led to frustrated road owners, frustrated utility companies and disrupted road users," he said.

"We are hoping a national Code of Practice will address these issues.

"Having Wellington and Christchurch on board will hopefully start the ball rolling.

"The more councils and utility companies that sign on to the code the smoother the roads will flow," he said.

The Code of Practice for Working in the Road can be purchased on line at or contact Standards New Zealand on 0800 735 656