Finding out the general requirements for electric fences in Australia as well as the different laws, rules and regulations can be a confusing task.
Finding out which electric fence laws and rules apply to you and your neighbours can vary depending on where you are, whereas the standards for electric fencing (we will call them regulations) remain the same no matter where you are.
Who can tell me the electric fence laws that apply to me?
Firstly you need to determine if the electric fence enquiry you have is a law, rule or a regulation.
Laws and rules about where and when an electric fence can be used are usually determined by local councils and are dependant on location. Rural councils vary greatly from suburban or commercially weighted councils and this variance is generally what results in electric fence disputes.
Regulations (Standards) set out by the Australia/New Zealand Standards Councils in the Electrical installations – Electric fences AS/NZS 3014:2003 document, are a set of standards and practices everyone should adhere to no matter what and regardless of circumstance as these standards outline the universal laws, rules and standards accepted for electric fencing within Australia and New Zealand. These standards do not change in relation to your location unless otherwise stated.
The Australia/New Zealand Standards for Electrical installations – Electric fences are kept consistent and up to date by the Joint Technical Committee EL/021 on behalf of the Council of Standards Australia and the Council of Standards New Zealand.
Where to find common electric fence rules and regulations
Most of the common rules and regulations associated with setting up an average electric fence for animal use, will generally be provided with the instruction manual or set up guides included with any reputable brand of electric fence energiser.
When purchasing new electric fence products, please take note of any safety instructions included with that product. Advice on the common electric fence rules and regulations are most often included via exterior packaging, instruction manuals, set up guides and advice cards included with power related electric fence products like energisers and high end electric fence testers.
Neighbourly Disputes, Council and Electric Fences
Sometimes the common electric fence rules and regulations may come into question via a dispute between neighbours, most commonly over a shared fence line.
If you find yourself needing to know the local laws for setting up an electric fence in your area, or if you or your neighbour are disputing the use of an electric fence along your shared fence line your first enquiries should be made to your local council but only after negotiations have failed.
Some people may feel the electric fence in question operates onto their property, impedes their actions or interferes with operations within their own property. These are common electric fence problems that can be overcome via communication and negotiation.
If there are no real safety concerns, interference and it is not a concern of legality in the operation of an electric fence the fist and best way to solve an electric fence dispute is to discuss with you neighbour both the concerns and benefits or purpose of the electric fence. More often than not a compromise or outright solution can be achieved that suits both parties.
If you are concerned about a neighbour using an electric fence near your fence line and feel it is unsafe, keep in mind a properly erected and operated electric fence that meets Australian Standards is not dangerous to a healthy person or animal and used correctly has far more safety benefits than safety issues that should cause concern. If your concern relates to sick, frail or venerable animals or people with heart conditions, greater steps should be made by both parties to deny access to any potential danger.
If all else fails your local council should be able to inform you of the local electric fence rules and regulations, your rights and responsibilities to and from your neighbours and to the public. They should also be able to answer general electric fence law questions like:
Can I put up an electric fence around my property?
Can I electrify my fence?
Are electric fences legal in residential areas?
Can my neighbour put an electric fence on our shared fence?
The following is general electric fence information only and does not cover all the rules, laws and recommendations of all Australian States and Territories or their councils including: Queensland, NSW, Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory or the ACT.
Every Local Council Is Different
Local councils differ greatly in what they constitute as the legal and safe use of an electric fence, but it more commonly relates to what zone classification you are in i.e. residential, commercial or rural, and what public areas directly surround the fence in question.
As an example the “recommendation” from the Brisbane City Council of Queensland Australia on electric fencing is as such:
In all areas of Brisbane electric fences must be separated from a publicly accessible area by a setback or physical barrier.
Brisbane City Council does not recommend the use of electric fences between privately owned properties. It may be considered a criminal offence to cause death or injury to people as a result of failing to maintain a safe environment on privately owned land.
A complaint regarding an electric fence located between two privately owned properties is a civil matter. It should be discussed with the adjoining property owner or your legal adviser.Brisbane City Council Website – https://www.brisbane.qld.gov.au/laws-and-permits/complaints-and-fines/fences-and-boundary-disputes. As of November 2020
The next major neighbouring area of the Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia takes this approach to local electric fence council laws.
an electric fence is dangerous fencing unless either of the following apply:
(i) the electric fence is separated from the boundary of a premises by a second fence which is not dangerous fencing and which is—
(A) at least 1.2 metres high; and
(B) constructed from material that is sufficient to prevent a person from climbing through the fence or reaching through the fence and touching the electric fence; or
(ii) the electric fence is separated from the boundary of a premises by a barrier which, in the opinion of an authorised person, is sufficient toCouncil of the City of Gold Coast
(A) prevent a person from inadvertently coming into contact with the electric fence; or
(B) significantly deter a person from intentionally coming into contact with the electric fence.
(c) a fence which involves broken glass or nails on the top surface of the fence is dangerous fencing.
Subordinate Local Law No. 8.1 (Public Health, Safety and Amenity) 2008 Part 2 Dangerous Fencing
Another local major council in this same area of South East Queensland that holds more spaced living areas is the Logan City Council.
Electric fences In some areas electric fences are considered dangerous and are not permitted. An electric fence is dangerous fencing if:
-it directly borders a park
-it is not properly installed or operated (in line with Australian Standard 3014: 2003 Electrical Installations – Electric Fences)
-it is on premises in a zone where electric fences are not allowed under our planning scheme.
In Logan City, electric fences are only allowed in these zones:
-Low Density Residential Zone
-Rural Residential Zone
-Cottage Rural Precinct or Park Living Precinct
An electric fence is not dangerous fencing if it is used for animal husbandry, crops or intensive animal management as defined in our planning scheme, unless the fence directly borders a park or is not properly installed and operated (in line with Australian Standard 3014: 2003 Electrical installations – Electric Fences)Logan City Council website – https://www.logan.qld.gov.au/fencing . As of Nov 2020
As you can see all three geographically close councils are different in their recommendations or laws and can be quite vague in regards to covering all kinds of disputes or considerations.
Many people who seek the basic information on electric fencing from their local council find it hard to gather detailed information or resolve their enquiry or issue outside of these basic parameters.
My local council says my electric fence problem it’s out of their hands
If your local council can not assist you in your electric fence enquiries you may need to turn to the Australia/New Zealand Standards for electric fencing. Their document covers more intricate specifications of where and when an electric fence should be used and what factors like powerlines, safety signage, public access areas and other safety considerations should be taken into account.
For Residential and Farm Electric Fence Standards and Regulations see
Australian and New Zealand Standards for “Installation Of Electric Fences”. You will need to purchase the document: Electrical installations – Electric fences AS/NZS 3014:2003
For Security and Commercial electric fence regulations see
Australian and New Zealand Standards for “Installing an electric fence for security purposes”. You will need the document: Electrical installations – Electric security fences – AS/NZS 3016:2002
HOT ELECTRIC FENCE TIP: Make sure the electric fence products you buy are designed for Australian conditions and meet Australian standards. Many items like energisers purchased on marketplaces including eBay and Amazon do not meet Australian Standards and could potentially become a danger to both people and animals alike. Not only that but you are getting what you pay for, which more often than not is a cheaply manufactured electric fence product.
All electric fence products sold by Big Red Fencing meet or exceed Australian standards.
General requirements for electric fences in Australia
As an example of the information that you might see packaged along with an electric fence energiser regarding laws, general recommendations or requirements in relation to the safe installation and operation of an electric fence in Australia, we have here an excerpt from Nemtek Australia’s Nemtek Instruction Manual
- Electric fences shall be installed and operated so that they cause no electrical hazard to persons, animals or their surroundings.
- Electric fence constructions which are likely to lead to the entanglement of animals or persons shall be avoided.
- An electric fence shall not be supplied from two different energizers or from independent fence circuits of the same energizer.
- For any two different electric fences, each supplied from a different energizer with independent timing, the distance between the wires of the two electric fences shall be at least 2.5m. If this gap is to be closed, this shall be affected by means of electrically non conductive material or an isolated metal barrier.
- Barbed wire or razor wire shall not be electrified by an energizer.
- Electric fences and their ancillary equipment shall be installed, operated and maintained in a manner that minimizes danger to persons, and reduces the risk of persons receiving an electric shock unless they attempt to penetrate the physical barrier, or are in a secure area without authority.
- Exposed conductive parts of the physical barrier shall be effectively earthed.
- A spacing of 2.5m shall be maintained between non insulated electric fence conductors or non insulated connecting leads supplied from different energizers. This spacing may be less where conductors or connecting leads are covered by insulating sleeving, or consist of insulated cables, rated to at least 10kV.
- This requirement need not apply where the separately energized conductors are separated by a physical barrier, which does not have any openings greater than 50mm.
- A vertical separation of not less than 2m shall be maintained between pulsed conductors fed from different energizers.
- Ensure that all ancillary equipment connected to the electric fence circuit provides a degree of isolation between the fence circuit and the supply mains equivalent to that provided by the energizer. Protection from the weather shall be provided to the ancillary equipment unless this equipment is certified by the manufacturer as being suitable for use outdoors, and is of a type with a minimum degree of protection IPx4.
- Connecting leads that are run inside buildings shall be effectively insulated from the earthed structural parts of the building. This may be achieved by using insulated high voltage cable.
- Connecting leads that are run underground shall be run in a conduit of insulating material or else insulated high voltage cable shall be used. Care shall be taken to avoid damage to the connecting leads due to external factors.
- Connecting leads shall not be installed in the same conduit as the mains supply wiring, communication cables or data cables.
- Connecting leads and electric fence wires shall not cross above overhead power or communication lines.
Electric Fence Warning Signs
- Any part of an electric fence which is installed along a public road or pathway shall be identified at frequent intervals by prominently placed warning signs securely fastened to the fence posts or firmly clamped to the fence wires.
- The size of the warning signs shall be at least 100mm x 200mm. The background colour of both sides of the warning plate shall be yellow.
- The inscription on the plate shall be in black.
- The warning sign shall typically appear as depicted in the figure below. The inscription shall be indelible, inscribed on both sides of the warning plate, and have a height of at least 25mm.
- Warning signs shall be placed at;
- each gate
- each access point
- intervals not exceeding 10m
- adjacent to each sign relating to chemical hazards for the information of emergency services.
- Gates in electric fences shall be capable of being opened without the person receiving an electric shock.
- Mains supply wiring shall not be installed in the same conduit as signalling leads associated with the electric fence installation.
- Where an electric fence passes below bare power line conductors, the highest metallic element shall be effectively earthed for a distance of not less than 5m on either side of the crossing point.
- Crossings with overhead power lines shall be avoided wherever possible. If such a crossing cannot be avoided, it shall be made underneath the power line and as nearly as possible at right angles to it.
- If connecting leads and electric fence wires are installed near an overhead power line, the clearances shall not be less than those shown in the table below.
- Power Line Voltage – Clearance
- Equal or less than 1kV – 3 meter
- Greater than 1kV, but equal or less than 33kV – 4 meter
- Greater than 33kV – 8 meter
- If connecting leads and electric fence wires are installed near an overhead power line, their height above the ground shall not exceed 3m.
- This height applies either side of the orthogonal projection of the outermost conductors of the power line on
the ground surface, for a distance of:
- 2m for power lines operating at a nominal voltage not exceeding 1kV
- 15m for power lines operating at a nominal voltage exceeding 1kV
- This height applies either side of the orthogonal projection of the outermost conductors of the power line on