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The New Context

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1 November 2006

The New Context

Government announces its decisions on the future legal framework for utilities in the road corridor.

MED position paper and Minister's joint press release

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 has a world-class infrastructure is a vital part of the government's
work to transform 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.

The position paper, regulatory impact statement, and business compliance cost statement can be found on www.med.govt.nz/infrastructure/utilities/

Current issue Proposed policy in positions paper
Inconsistency of current legislation affecting utilities, including the definition of 'road’Key definitions, processes and timeframes harmonised throughout utility and local government legislation.  All utilities, including those operated by Local Authorities, have the same privileges and responsibilities.
Notification of affected parties - legislative requirements vary A consistent regime for all utilities and locations.
Cost sharing - inconsistent legislation creates confusion and leads to unbudgeted costs Ability to establish nationally consistent and enforceable standards and codes of practice - including cost allocation
Definition and application of 'reasonable conditions'- wide support for the approach in the Telecommunications Act 2001, with some strengthening. Ministers establish nationally consistent standards by 'adopting'codes and standards, for incorporation by road controlling authorities as part of 'reasonable conditions’.
Consistent statutory criteria established for conditions set by road controlling authorities.
Ability to utilise nationally consistent and enforceable standards and codes of practice.
Utilities no longer able to set conditions on competitors.
Party subject to reasonable conditions is obliged to take 'all practicable steps'to comply.
Ability to negotiate local 'partnering agreements'retained.
Dispute resolution - current processes have not proven effective or timely Consistent mediation step added to all relevant legislation, incorporating timeframes.
Access to rail and motorway corridors - no statutory right of access Access rights to roads maintained.
Access to rail and motorway corridors enhanced, with high level of protection for transport safety and sustainability goals (Transit NZ and ONTRACK able to say 'no'to utilities proposing to cross the carriageway/rail track). 
Consideration of applications from utilities would be subject to statutory time limits.
Technical interference between co-located utilities - no ability to place conditions on electrical characteristics of works Nationally consistent and enforceable standards and codes of practice can
include technical issues such as interference and hazard management.
Planning and coordination of utility works within roads - 'first up, best dressed'prevails, little ability for strategic planning of use of
corridors
An explicit governance role given to road controlling authorities, along with statutory responsibility for managing and coordinating sustainable multipurpose use.  Supported by ability to set 'reasonable conditions'that reference the nationally consistent and enforceable standards and codes of practice. Ministry of Economic Development to maintain watching brief on development of private sector systems to enhance notification and information sharing