At least 1000 accidents involving power lines and electricity supply equipment in the past five years have Northland line companies telling people to sharpen up.

Many of the incidents, including people hitting live powerlines with machinery, could have resulted in serious injury or death. Most caused power failures.

The ongoing number of accidents and outages has prompted Northpower and Top Energy to launch a winter public safety campaign.

Over the past five years, Northpower recorded over 460 known incidents where damage was caused to its electricity network resulting in power outages. Those are only the cases Northpower knows about it, as it is not always made aware of incidents.


Top Energy, the Far North's electricity lines company, which has recorded 530 'third party interference incidents'' on its network in the same period, also expects there to be more incidents it doesn't know about.

Northpower Network General Manager Josie Boyd said more than 100 of the incidents in Kaipara and Whangārei districts involved vehicles or machinery, usually hitting power poles, taking out overhead lines or digging through underground cables. More than 300 involved trees striking powerlines or power poles.

Top Energy recorded 100 car versus pole incidents, 60 where third parties damaged the network, and 370 tree events cutting electricity supply.

"The message we want to get out there is for people to take a good look around them and be really careful because we don't want people getting hurt," Boyd said.

"Before you excavate or move loads around lines please call our Fault line for advice – as it is not worth taking a risk around electricity. And if you have to think 'is it too close' it probably is."

Russell Shaw, Top Energy chief executive, said despite safety campaigns encouraging people to contact their lines company for advice on 'how close is too close', people still take too many risks, like putting containers, buildings and other structures too close to powerlines.

"Like Northpower, our concern is that someone will get electrocuted by getting too close to powerlines or by accidentally making contact with them.''

Northpower and Top Energy both collaborate with the Northland forestry sector on safety measures around powerlines.