Kaimahi Waea Kawe Kōrero
Line mechanics install, repair and maintain overhead and underground power lines.
Line mechanics with up to five years’ experience usually earn
$34K-$60K per year
Line mechanics with five or more years' experience usually earn
$60K-$100K per year
Source: Connexis and Hard Hat Recruits, 2018.
Pay for line mechanics varies depending on skills and experience.
- Entry-level line mechanics usually earn minimum wage.
- Line mechanics with up to five years' experience usually earn between $40,000 and $60,000 a year.
- Senior line mechanics with five or more years' experience usually earn between $60,000 and $80,000.
- Line mechanics in team leader roles can earn up to $100,000.
Sources: Connexis, 2018; and Hard Hat Recruits, 2018.
- PAYE.net.nz website - use this calculator to convert pay and salary information
- Employment New Zealand website - information about minimum wage rates
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our pay information)
What you will do
Line mechanics may do some or all of the following:
- erect or replace power poles
- string cables between poles, pylons and buildings
- install underground cabling
- work on wind turbines
- test lines and circuits
- locate and repair faults
- repair and replace cables
- install electricity transformers
- connect equipment to an electric network
- carry out street light maintenance.
Skills and knowledge
Line mechanics need to have:
- knowledge of how electricity works, and the systems used in electrical networks
- technical and practical skills, including the ability to use and care for their equipment
- understanding of industry safety regulations
- knowledge of tree compliance regulations
- the ability to read plans and maps
- first aid skills, including how to perform cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR).
- usually work regular business hours, but may be required to work early mornings, evenings or do shift work and be on call
- work indoors or outdoors in a variety of locations
- work in most weather conditions including rain and snow, and may work at heights
- may have to travel locally for work.
What's the job really like?
What do you enjoy most about being a line mechanic?
“I like having a bit of an exciting job, having a bit of danger in there but being able to manage it properly. I never really get comfortable at work, it’s always challenging.”
What do you find most challenging about your work?
“The big power shutdowns when you’ve got to plan well ahead. Every situation is different and you’ve got to plan out how you’re going to do it and find the easiest way to do something. You’re always trying to think ahead.”
What skills are important to have as a line mechanic?
“You’ve definitely got to be into hard work. It’s also quite a dangerous work environment being around live powerlines all the time so you’ve got to be focused.”
What’s the proudest moment in your career so far?
“Getting a diploma. That’s why it’s so good to get into this kind of industry because all your training is paid for. When you get sent away to do your training everything is covered – your meals, your hotels and other expenses – it’s a bit like a holiday in some ways.”
Line mechanic video
Vai finds out about a career in electrical distribution – 8.06 mins. (Video courtesy of Just the Job)
Clinton: Training Manager Keith Ball will be guiding Vai through her first day.
Keith: Keith Ball from electrics, welcome.
Clinton: Substations are necessary in the electricity supply system to lower voltage for onward distribution into a town.
Clinton: This station drops the power from 110 thousand to 33 thousand volts.
Keith: Our job today Vai, is to carry out a service on the switch. We work in a hazardous environment, not a dangerous environment, because we manage our hazards.
Clinton: Substation trainees carry out inspections and servicing of transformers and a wide variety of high voltage circuit breakers. They might joint high voltage overhead conductors, carry out insulation and voltage breakdown tests, or help install substation earthing and safety bonding systems. At least two people will work on any job. Today’s operator is Tracey Farrel who is responsible for all preparation and safety procedures.
Keith: So you carry out any part of a switchyard maintenance procedure, the operator will go through and isolate and earth, which means putting earth safety precautions in place for us to be able to go near the thing and the operator will issue the person with a permit and it’s safe to work on it.
What we need to do Vi, these switches are very heavy because of the 2400 amps, and you need to be bale to stand with your feet apart, take a handle in both hands and use your whole body weight to open it with.
Clinton: The area is declared safe. Its time to head up to the job.
Keith: Use your brake clean and clean all the four faces with your rag.
Vai: So what can go wrong if I don’t clean it?
Keith: What can go wrong if they’re not cleaned? What actually happens is the switch won’t operate correctly.
Vai: Would you get sparks?
Keith: Yes you do – it’s known to us as “corona”.
Clinton: Regular attention minimises equipment failure and today there’s scheduled maintenance on the 110 thousand volt line into the substation.
Keith: So if you pop that on to the top of that, push it down and pump the handle.
Clinton: This large switch has three linkages that need greasing.
Vai: So what’s the red stuff?
Keith: The red stuff is grease – it’s a lubricant.
Vai: Oh yep.
Keith: And what happens there, this insulator turns, and you’ve now just greased the shaft that goes through, connecting this together – we’ve greased there, we’ve greased there, and up in the front.
Clinton: Job done. On the transmission lines connected to the substation, apprentice line mechanic Holly Murphy is working on a job.
Holly: It’s a good job, it’s a good job. You meet a lot of good people and stuff like that, and I really like it. I like the people that I work with as well.
Vai: So would you like more women in this industry?
Holly: Yeah I would love to see more women in this industry. There’s only three women in electrics that do transmission lines, which is high voltage, and the amount of time you get mistaken for a boy is kind of ridiculous.
Frances: Team work is extremely important and one of the things that we find for women who come into the technical trades in our sector is that they enhance the team, simply because women socialise men very differently and if we have all males in the team, testosterone levels are higher, attention to detail may be OK but many women who come into the industry are very safety conscious and they enhance the safety of the team.
Clinton: Well there’s a keen team waiting for Vai in South Auckland, getting ready to replace a power pole.
Phil: The pole across the way – number seven – to replace. We’ve already identified that it’s not safe to climb so obviously we’ll be using the bucket for it.
Clinton: Together with Phil Neil of Northpower, Vai’s now looking at the job of a line mechanic.
Phil: This is the pole that we’re going to be replacing, and it’s currently feeding the three houses in behind it here. We’ve got the crane truck coming up to hold the pole while the bucket truck will then come up there and tape the conductors off the insulator so we can pull the pole out and put a new one in.
Just be careful when you get too much off because it’s going to slip though like this.
Vai: Ok then.
Phil: Ready to come down?
The problem with powering is to keep the power on for the people. All the low voltage stuff – we’re looking after that. So service lines into the homes where there are power poles outside the properties, the street lighting, hot water systems – we do a little bit of everything really. We maybe up a pole one minute, and we could be down digging in a hole the next minute, but it’s all about keeping that power on.
Clinton: As the lines are pulled down, each is clearly identified and tested.
Vai: So what’s the worst that 240volts could do to you?
Phil: It could kill you, that’s the worst!
We’re wearing fire-retarding overalls, we’re wearing our hardhats, safety glasses at all times, and we’re starting now to be issued with wearing insulating rubber gloves from ground to ground.
Clinton: The new pole is up, Vai has helped dig it in, and its time to re-attach the original cables.
Phil: You need to want to work outside, and it’s not just on a beautiful day like this. You can be working outside in all conditions.
Vai: And then just leave the rest like that?
Phil: You can do the other one as well.
You need to be able to think for yourself, but in saying that, you also need to be able to ask if you don’t understand.
Phil: We’re outta here!
And maturity is a big one as well. Maturity doesn’t come with age – there’s a lot of young mature people out there as well that can identify when you have a good time and when to get stuck in to what they need to do.
Clinton: Once the area is cleared, the power can be turned on.
Phil: All alive!
Clinton: Last job is to run a test at the meter board of each property.
Phil: We know that the power is up to the bottom of the main switch so if we touch it onto the phase, it’s indicating that there are more than 230 volts there, so that’s all good. We then carry on through and we find out where the neutral comes down top the stud and check that, and as you can see there is no voltage on the meter, so the phase is going through the power like we want it to so we put it back together and turn the main switch on and the customer can use as much power as they like.
She wasn’t afraid to get in there and get down and get dirty. You couldn’t really ask for anymore than that. She did really well today.
Vai: From the beginning I thought it was just simple work but it seems to be more than just what it looks like. Anyone can do it really, it’s not just a man’s job. Girls can do it too.
Clinton: To become a line mechanic you will need to do on the job training. Maths, English and Science are useful subjects. To become a sub station trainee you need to be a qualified electrician first. Electricity is the largest sector of the energy industry. There is a shortage of skilled workers so it’s an excellent career option.
Women are seriously under-represented in the industry. Ultimit is an initiative to encourage more women to apply for apprenticeship training.
To become a line mechanic you need to complete an apprenticeship and one of the following qualifications:
- New Zealand Certificate in Electricity Supply (Line Mechanic Distribution) (Level 4)
- New Zealand Certificate in Electricity Supply (Transmission Line Maintenance) (Level 4).
These qualifications usually take two years to complete and are undertaken on the job. Once completed, line mechanics need to apply for registration with the Electrical Workers Registration Board.
Most employers require you to have a driver's licence and, when truck driving is required, a heavy vehicle licence.
- Connexis website - information on line mechanic qualifications
- New Zealand Transport Agency website - information on truck and other heavy vehicle licences
There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a line worker. However, maths, construction and mechanical technologies, and English to at least NCEA Level 2 are useful.
Additional requirements for specialist roles:
Most people train first as a line mechanic and then gain additional qualifications in cable jointing.
Cable jointers are required to have a New Zealand Certificate in Electricity Supply – Cable Jointer High Voltage, with an optional strand of up to 33KV (Level 4).
Cable jointers also need to register with the Electrical Workers Registration Board.
Line mechanics need to be:
- able to work well independently and as part of a team
- able to work well under pressure
- able to follow instructions.
Useful experience for line mechanics includes:
- work in the electrical industries
- work involving physical labour
- work using hand tools.
Line mechanics need to be fit and healthy, with good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses) and normal colour vision. They also need to be comfortable working at heights.
Line mechanics and cable jointers must be registered with the Electrical Workers Registration Board.
Find out more about training
- 0800 486 626 - email@example.com - connexis.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Shortage of line mechanics
Chances of getting a job as a line mechanic are good due to a shortage of workers to help with the ongoing growth and maintenance of the national power grid.
Line mechanic appears on Immigration New Zealand's long-term and Canterbury skill shortage lists. This means the Government is actively encouraging skilled line mechanics from overseas to work in New Zealand.
Shortage of people training as cable jointers
Many line mechanics are training in electric cable jointing to ensure they have relevant skills when overhead power lines are replaced by underground power cables. However, there is still a shortage of people training as cable jointers in New Zealand.
Most line mechanics work for electricity supply companies
Most line mechanics work for New Zealand's 18 electricity line supply companies.
- Borland, M, electrical supply industry manager, Connexis, careers.govt.nz interview, August 2018.
- Fournier, C, recruitment manager, Hard Hat Recruits, careers.govt.nz interview, August 2018.
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Canterbury Skill Shortage List', August 2017, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
- Immigration New Zealand, 'Long-term Skill Shortage List', February 2018, (www.immigration.govt.nz).
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the sources of our job opportunities information)
Progression and specialisations
Line mechanics may move into team leader or managerial roles.
Line mechanics can specialise as a:
- Cable Jointer
- Cable jointers install and join high voltage power lines.
Last updated 11 September 2018