The public have been urged to take care around power supply - both underground and overhead- following a sharp increase in damage to lines.

Unison Networks reminded the public to take care around its electricity network following a significant increase in the number of third-parties making inadvertent contact with lines.

Since April this year Unison crews have been sent to 46 faults across Rotorua, Taupo, and Hawke's Bay to make safe and carry out repairs to both overhead and underground electricity lines damaged by the public.

This compares with 16 incidents at the same time in 2016.

Incidents included motor vehicle accidents, high loads contacting overhead wires, trees being felled though lines and a number of near misses involving metal stakes being driven into the ground, narrowly missing high voltage cabling.

Unison's General Manager Networks and Operations, Jaun Park, said last month they had six motor accidents, two high loads contacting overhead lines, and a handyman who felled a tree through lines.

"We want to reiterate to the community the importance of being aware and vigilant about their own safety, and the safety of the community when around powerlines and cables.

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"Whether it's working in the vicinity of our poles and lines, trimming trees or digging, safety is paramount and we need to work together to eliminate these types of incidents.

"If you see a damaged pole, downed lines or exposed wires you should always treat them as live and the area as a potential electrical hazard, stay well away and contact Unison immediately. Likewise, when digging or driving stakes, you should always have cables located first which is a free service," Park said.

Last month's incidents resulted in 4331 customers experiencing power interruptions which caused considerable disruption.

Unison's ongoing safety campaign continued this month, encouraging residential customers to contact Unison before they begin digging or staking this summer or before they attempted trimming or felling trees near power lines.

The company also offered free electricity programmes for non-electrical contracting businesses working near electricity as well as a free award-winning safety education programme for schools in its network region.

Park said Unison hoped that increasing awareness of these incidents, and the impact they have on both customers and the community, would reduce the number of accidents.

If you come across an accident involving the electricity network, call 111 for emergency services from a safe distance, then contact Unison on 0800 2 UNISON (0800 2 86476) to secure the area.