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Building near the electricity network

Staying safe when building near the electricity network

Safe access to electricity is important for all new developments, not only to get the job done without a hitch, but also for those who will occupy the premises later on.

That’s why we have clearance zones in place. It details how close you can build near powerlines and cables without needing an assessment. Distances vary depending on the voltage of electrical infrastructure.

Buildings and structures built too close can affect our ability to properly maintain the network and keep workers safe (OSH Reg 3.64).  

The following information will help you decide if your proposed construction falls within the clearance zone, and what you can do to stay safe.

Safety of buildings near electrical assets

We’ve worked with the Department of Building and Energy to develop guidelines that outline safe clearances from network operator infrastructure when designing and planning buildings, signs and other structures.

View guidelines

What’s a clearance zone?

A clearance zone is an area of land that shows the safe distance between the electricity source and where you can build. Sticking to the clearance zone, ensures we’re able to safely access and maintain electrical infrastructure when needed, including any tradespeople who will carry out work on the premises in the future.

Diagram showing the clearance zone with acceptable and safe separation

Clearance zone with acceptable and safe separation

Diagram showing the clearance zone with unacceptable and unsafe separation

Clearance zone with unacceptable and unsafe separation

Building restrictions

Because of the sheer size of our network, powerlines and structures are often located on or near private property. This is usually as a result of rapid urban development and increasing change in land use.

The following construction limitations have been developed with the safety of the landowner in mind. They include restrictions on:

  • changing or disturbing the current ground level
  • constructing or erecting any building or structure
  • construction of fencing greater than 2m in height
  • constructing, erecting, improving, enlarging or altering any storm water drain, basin or dam
  • growing, cultivating or maintaining any vegetation exceeding 1.5m in height
  • stacking or storing any material or garbage
  • using machinery or vehicles exceeding 4.5m in height
  • parking any vehicle or machinery exceeding 2.5m in height.

What’s the difference between a clearance zone and a danger zone?

While they might sound similar, a clearance zone and danger zone are two different things. Let’s explain.

The clearance zone sets the boundaries of where construction can safely occur in relation to powerlines or cables . Building inside the clearance zone may cause problems and put future workers at risk, by forcing them to work within the danger zone.

The danger zone is a specific area surrounding live electricity that no ordinary persons should enter with their equipment. The size of the danger zone is determined by the voltage of the electrical apparatus.

If you’re overseeing the work area, it's your responsibility to make sure work can be carried out safely outside of the danger zone, and that no one enters it. For example aerial visual covers (tiger tails) can be installed to improve the visual awareness of overhead powerlines - they do not provide insulation or reduce the danger zone.

As the developer or construction company, you have a duty of care to ensure your project is carried out with maximum safety and minimal risk for any current and future works (OSH Reg 3.140).

Calculating the clearance zone for your development

It’s important to check whether your proposed development will encroach on the clearance zone as early as possible. This will allow for a more thorough assessment of the proposed works, and give you time to make adjustments if necessary.

Clearance zone is calculated from the outermost conductor and is to be applied to both sides of the asset you are building near:

Diagram showing the clearance zonwe

Please contact our Design Consultancy team or a suitably qualified professional (engineer, licensed surveyor or electrical consultant) when a building or structure is planned within the following clearance zones:

Voltage (kV)

Clearance Zone (m) *measured from either side of outermost conductor

Less than 66

3

66 - 132

6

220

10

330

20

Measurements listed above are indicative only. Due to different asset configurations we can provide you with detailed clearance zone measurements if you think you may be building too close.

The clearance assessment mapping tool can be used as a pre-planning tool to review the clearance zone for a proposed development. If you would like to know the specific voltage of the powerline in proximity to your work area, contact Dial Before You Dig.

How to use the tool

Enter the address of the proposed development in the search box to find out the clearance zone, which is based on the voltage of the asset in proximity to the site. To measure the setback of the proposed construction use the measurement tool located below the search box.  If your development falls within the zone, further investigation needs to be carried out. 

Clearance assessment mapping tool

Check if your development will encroach on the clearance zone

Launch the clearance tool

Further testing of  the clearance zone

If your proposed development is within the clearance zone, you should complete a detailed clearance study. You will need to get in touch with a suitably qualified professional such as an engineer, licensed surveyor or electrical consultant.

We also offer this service through our electrical engineering and design consultants, who can provide a detailed assessment for you.

If your development doesn’t meet the clearance zone requirements, there are a number of network options available to help get your project off the ground.

Existing buildings in breach of the clearance zone

If we find an existing building or structure has been built too closely to electrical infrastructure, we’ll carry out a risk assessment. If we find it to be unsafe, we’ll notify the owner of the property to determine a safe solution (on a case by case basis).

If your development is currently under construction and too close to the electricity network, we’ll work with you to identify ways to make the structure safe.