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DIY Electrical Work: Are Aussies DUMBER than Kiwis?

Did you know that it if you want to paint a wall and need to unscrew a power outlet or light switch, you cannot do it legally in any Australian state? Nor can you replace a light switch or power outlet, install a dimmer or ceiling fan. Nor anything else which involves any form of electrical installation, repair or modification. But you can in New Zealand!

By Ross Tester

In fact, in NSW (and probably other states), at the very moment there are radio commercials saying how dangerous it is to attempt your own electrical repairs. It was these commercials which in part prompted this feature. The same commercials, incidentally, state that one in five "handymen" do exactly that. Naughty, naughty.

Click for larger image

Like all other states, Queensland law says that you have to call a licenced electrical contractor to do any electrical work involving fixed wiring. Unlike most other states, in Queensland you cannot even repair plug-in appliances (such as jug elements, etc). But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

Now let’s suppose that a handyman, unlicensed, does some electrical work. It may be absolutely exemplary but by definition (and law!) such work is declared "dangerous" and cannot even be tested and certified after the event by an electrical contractor! There have been prosecutions, for example in the Northern Territory where a contractor did certify work done by an unlicensed person. The contractor was fined and lost his own licence.

It doesn’t matter that work may have been done to a higher standard than the electrical contractor would have done it. At the risk of earning the wrath of every sparkie in the land, they are normally working at the maximum speed to the minimum acceptable standards, simply so they can earn a buck.

But even the very best quality unlicenced work can never be "legal".

Now, if you were across the pond in New Zealand, such actions are quite legal. In fact, in New Zealand you can not only change a power outlet or light fitting, you can add additional power outlets, even rewire your entire home if you want to right back to (but not including) the switchboard. The NZ power authorities actually publish information to help the do-it-yourselfer do it him (or her) self.

If you don’t believe us, have a look at
www.consumeraffairs.govt.nz/mediacentre/wordofadvice/2004/ECP5051.html or www.energysafety.govt.nz/templates/Page____17682.aspx.

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