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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 02 Hansard (Thursday, 17 February 2005 2005) . . Page.. 552 ..


The territory’s streetlight and stormwater networks are important pieces of infrastructure which provide vital services to the community. There are numerous places around Canberra where the streetlight and stormwater networks are not on public land. There is nothing unusual about that. Stormwater drains generally have to follow the lie of the land and in some suburbs the electricity power lines, to which the streetlights are connected, run along the rear or side boundaries of properties. To effectively maintain the streetlight and stormwater networks, territory officials and those contracted to provide maintenance services need to be able to conduct appropriate inspections, undertake maintenance and enforce requirements to prevent potentially damaging and dangerous interference with the networks. The right of the territory to access private land is currently derived from three sources. In some instances the right is governed by access easements. In other instances it is governed by a reservation contained in the crown lease for the property, and in other instances access is obtained following negotiation and agreement with the relevant landholder.

Other utilities, such as electricity, gas and water and sewerage, are already governed by the Utilities Act 2000. The government believes that it is appropriate for the operation and maintenance arrangements for streetlight and stormwater networks to be consistent with existing arrangements for the other utility networks. Accordingly, this bill substantially mirrors parts 7 and 8 of the Utilities Act 2000. This bill amends the Utilities Act 2000 to ensure there is a clear and consistent legal basis for authorised persons to enter onto private land to undertake inspections, maintenance, repair and replacement of streetlighting and stormwater drainage equipment.

The bill requires the territory to provide affected landholders with a minimum of seven days notice of its intention to access their property, except in urgent situations where it is necessary to protect the integrity of the network or other public or private property, to protect the health and safety of people or protect the environment. Landholders can waive the requirement for seven days notice, should they wish to. The bill makes it clear that there is an obligation on the territory in undertaking work on the infrastructure to cause minimum disruption, to remove waste and, where the land has been disturbed, to restore it to the state it was in prior to the work. The bill also reinforces that we all have an obligation to ensure that structures and vegetation on our land do not interfere with the networks.

The most common issues encountered by maintenance staff are branches reaching into cabling, causing streetlights to go out or, worse, potentially starting fires, and tree roots blocking and damaging stormwater pipes and potentially causing flooding. Unfortunately there are sometimes also more deliberate acts of interference, such as the erection of sheds or other structures directly over stormwater access holes or very close to streetlight power lines. There have been instances of stormwater drain openings being boarded up to prevent pets from entering drains. The bill makes it an offence for a person to interfere with streetlight or stormwater network infrastructure, and allows a landholder to be given notice to remove sources of interference with such infrastructure. I commend the bill to the Assembly.

Debate (on motion by Mr Stefaniak) adjourned to the next sitting.


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