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Expert Guidance in the Face of New Dam Regulations

Survey technician standing on the banks of Opuha Dam

This article was featured in Business Rural Autumn 2023. 

With new dam legislation coming into effect next year, landowners with significant water bodies or structures on their property will need to be prepared. These regulations aim to prevent dam failures, which could have devastating consequences for communities downstream.

New dam legislation requires landowners to take action – are you prepared?

By May 13, 2024, all landowners with classifiable dams must outline the potential risks associated with their dam, prepare an appropriate dam safety assurance programme, and prove yearly compliance with the programme.

Classifiable dams may consist of assets such as lakes, ponds, and functional irrigation ponds or canals. These will need to have regular monitoring and surveillance measures put in place to ensure their safety and prevent any potential risks.

While larger infrastructure owners are likely aware of these requirements, some private landowners could be unaware or have not started the process. Enter Fox & Associates, a surveying company based in Christchurch with a proven track record in dam-related projects. Having recently collaborated with Opuha Water on a project involving the Opuha Dam, Fox and Associates has acquired specialised expertise in this field.

“Expertise will be required to prepare the necessary documentation,” managing director Carl Fox explains. “At Fox and Associates our expertise relates to the mapping and monitoring of the dam support structures and, if required, mapping of the water body beds up and down stream of the dam.”

Innovative Technology is Helping Landowners Meet New Dam Safety Regulations

The award-winning surveying firm has a wide range of advanced technology for mapping and monitoring not only structures but also the associated water bodies. This includes aerial technology such as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles to scan objects from the air, equipped with high-end sensors like LiDAR, high-resolution cameras, and thermal cameras.

They also employ ground-based instruments such as scanners, total stations, precise levels and GPS, and water-based technology using remote-controlled survey catamarans to measure the beds of water bodies “if we are not able to measure from the sky”.

The company monitors and displays changes through specialist analytic software presenting the data in a concise and easy-to-read way. For example, using an instrument to observe the condition of the concrete in a structure, or thermal cameras that detect leaks.

Creating Legacies with Land

Fox and Associates uses the strengths of all the different technologies to provide the best solutions for their clients, Carl says. “It was our wide range of services, our experience working on lakes, canals, irrigation ponds, and our industry reputation that led Opuha Water to engage Fox and Associates.”

“There are not many survey and measurement specialists in this space able to provide the full suite of services, so we have been fortunate to be involved with a range of very interesting projects up and down the Country from Wellington to Southland, and of small to large scale,” says Carl.

In addition to their dam-related projects, Fox and Associates work across a broad range of land projects including rural, urban, hillside, and commercial developments. The company has won several awards for thinking outside the box and using existing technology in new and innovative ways.


If you have a classifiable dam (which could include lakes, ponds, and functional irrigation ponds or canals) on your land, and need help to develop your safety assurance programme, get in touch today.


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