Access to Land: Access to Power Lines

The story in the Daily News last week about the power cuts in Auckland (where a farmer refused to let Transpower onto his land to fix a fault) set Farmer Freddy thinking.

After all, Transpower lines cross his land and while Freddy has never had any problems with Transpower, he wonders what the legal situation is.

His daughter Pebbles is a lawyer so he rings her up at work to ask about it.

Post 1993 lines

"Well dad, just quickly, it really depends on when the pylons and lines were put in," she explains. "For lines put in after 1 January 1993, Transpower (or a lines company - the same laws apply) would probably have negotiated an easement with the landowner. This would cover both pylons on your land (if any) and lines running above or through it, after all, your interest in your land includes the ground below and airspace above it."

Pebbles explains that an easement is a right to use land that runs with the land, that is, the person granted the easement (here Transpower) will hold it against future owners of the land. Easements are registered on the land title.

"Transpower would most likely have paid the original landowner a one-off amount for the easement. The conditions of use, including access, will be set out in the easement agreement."

"But the lines have been across this farm for years" says Freddy. "What's the story with them?"

Pre-1993 lines

"For some lines, installed before 1993, there will be an easement agreement, but in other cases, the lines would have been installed under some statutory authority. The Electricity Act 1992 provides Transpower (and other lines companies) a statutory easement to access land to maintain those pre-1993 power lines and pylons" says Pebbles.

"In that case, can Transpower come on whenever it likes?" asks Freddy.

"The Electricity Act says it can if there is probable danger to life or property, or if it needs to take immediate action to maintain the supply of electricity. But for routine maintenance or inspection, it's supposed to give at least two weeks' notice" Pebbles replies.

"As land owner, you can set reasonable conditions on Transpower's access - e.g. you can specify when it may access your land, and what route its contractors must take across your land. But you can't require them to pay you to access your land, and you can't unreasonably delay them."

"Well," murmurs Freddy, "I must admit, that doesn't sound too unreasonable."

"Yeah, and don't forget dad" says Pebbles, "you get your electricity from the network too."



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