National MP Simeon Brown's Bill to give lines companies right of way in electrical emergencies 'could save lives'

Simeon Brown has drafted the Bill.
Simeon Brown has drafted the Bill. Photo credit: Newshub / Getty.

National Party MP Simeon Brown wants lines companies to be able to use flashing lights when responding to "electrical emergencies", requiring other drivers to give way.

Brown, the MP for the Auckland electorate of Pakuranga, has drafted a Members Bill that would require the Minister of Transport to introduce rules which would force drivers to give way to vehicles responding to electrical emergencies. 

Electrical emergencies are defined in the Bill as situations that are the result of damage to the electricity networks or situations which pose a risk to public safety. Brown gives the example of a power line coming down.

"When power lines are brought down by a car crash, Fire and Ambulance responders often arrive in a hurry but can't assist until the lines company shows up to disconnect the power," the MP said.

"Lines company workers are often stuck on the motorway or in traffic caused by the crash. In Auckland, a car crash involving a power pole takes place every day, on average.

"There are also cases where people are dependent on electrical machines to keep them alive, and if the power is cut off then any delays getting it reconnected can be the difference between life and death."

The vehicles responding to the electrical emergencies would have to be operating beacons prescribed by the Minister.

Brown's Bill says there are few countries currently allowing for the changes he is wanting to make, but notes that France does require drivers to "facilitate the passage of vehicles which are responding to electrical or gas emergencies when their blue lights are flashing".

The MP hopes for support from Transport Minister Phil Twyford but the Bill has already been welcomed by lines company Vector. Head of field services, Marko Simunac, says allowing lines mechanics to respond quickly "could save lives". 

"If our lines mechanics have flashing lights on their response vehicles, they will be able to move through traffic more quickly and better support emergency services in situations where electrical equipment is implicated," he said.

"Furthermore, the use of flashing lights will allow lines companies to improve response times in situations where a power outage is affecting people who are medically dependent on electricity."

Vector would also like flashing lights on lines companies' vehicles in all response situations - emergency or not.

"Consumers constantly tell us their lives and businesses are becoming increasingly dependent on an uninterrupted supply of electricity," said Simunac.

"If response crews had access to flashing lights in every situation where congestion is a problem we could reduce response times and speed up power restoration considerably."

The 2018 TomTom Traffic Index found that Auckland had the second-worst level of congestion in Australia/Oceania, behind Sydney.

A spokesperson for Twyford said he had only been contacted on Wednesday morning about the draft Bill and would respond to Brown in due course after receiving advice.

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