The Government has agreed to streamline consenting rules to help speed up the installation of the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) rollout, as part of the first phase of its Land Access Reforms to reduce delays and frustrations with getting properties connected to UFB.
Announced by Communication Minister Amy Adams, the changes follow on from the Land Access for Telecommunications Discussion Document released last year.
“The demand for UFB is ramping up with over 18,700 orders in December alone,” Adams says. “New Zealanders want changes made to make it easier and quicker to connect to UFB.
“Around 13 per cent of all UFB orders require some form of permission for access to private property shared between neighbours, and around a quarter of these orders are cancelled due to problems obtaining permission.”
Under the changes, Adams says a tiered consent regime will provide two new categories of simplified approvals according to the impacts the fibre installation are considered to have on the property - those outside these two categories will continue to require consent of all affected owners as currently occurs.
“In making these decisions, the Government has endeavoured to strike the right balance between simplifying consent requirements, while still respecting the rights of property owners,” Adams adds.
“A neighbour at war standoff shouldn’t prevent the rollout of UFB.
"A modern, effective and fair land access framework will ensure that people are not prevented from realising the benefits of UFB in situations where their neighbours can’t be contacted, don’t take the time to complete the required paperwork or decline the request due to an unrelated conflict.”
At present, Adams says that at least 80 percent of orders which require consent could fall within one of the two new categories.
“For these installations, the average time to connect could be halved and issues with the non-response from neighbours resolved,” Adams adds.
“An alternate disputes resolution process will also be provided to consider any resulting disputes. The scheme will be similar to that which operates in respect of the electricity and gas industries.
“I’ve instructed the Parliamentary Counsel Office to start drafting legislation, which will include an expiry date of 1 January 2025 when the UFB build programme will be complete.”
Adams says phase two of the Land Access Reforms will look at additional proposals to help people living in multi-unit complexes connect to UFB and the proposal around using existing infrastructure to increase coverage into rural areas - announcements around phase two can be expected within a few months.
Category One Installations:
Adams says methods that have no lasting impacts on property, such as those that only disturb grass or other soft surfaces.
For these installations a statutory right will be provided for a network operator to get on with the install after providing five working days’ notice - this is estimated to cover about 37 percent of installations in shared driveways.
Category Two Installations:
Adams says methods that have some lasting impact on property, such as drilling a cable underground and leaving small pot holes to access the network every 10 metres or so.
For these installations neighbours will be provided with a high-level design and given 15 working days to object on a limited number of grounds. If they do not object, they will be deemed to have consented.
Adams says category two is estimated to cover off approximately 51 percent of installations in shared driveways rights of way.
Adams says the remaining 12 percent of installation methods that are more invasive than these new categories will continue to be subject the existing requirement whereby all parties need to provide their consent.