Trees and Power Lines
TREES AND POWER LINES
Trees growing into power lines can damage equipment and cause unnecessary faults and vegetation management outages. Vegetation that gets too close to power lines can create a fire hazard. Managing trees is a community responsibility. Working together, we can keep trees clear of powerlines, reduce the number of unexpected power outages, and keep everyone safe.
PROPERTY OWNERS RESPONSIBILITIES
As a property owner you are responsible for keeping the trees growing on your property clear of overhead power lines and underground cables. The Electricity (Hazards from Trees) Regulations 2003 (Tree Regulations) set out your obligations as a tree owner and prescribe the minimum safe distances for trees growing near network power lines.
We provide a general summary here on your responsibilities as a tree owner, how to keep safe when clearing trees near powerlines, and where to go for help in managing trees.
If you see a tree or other vegetation growing into Buller Electricity power lines, please contact us to report it and we will send someone out to inspect it.
KEEPING YOUR TREES AWAY FROM LINES
As a tree owner, you are responsible for keeping trees clear of power lines. Where Buller Electricity identifies trees growing close to our power lines, we are required, by law, to take action to ensure trees are kept clear of the required clearance by either trimming them, or notifying the tree owner that they are required to trim their trees.
We suggest that you keep trees well outside the Growth Limit Zone distances to allow for tree growth and severe weather conditions, as wind and snow can cause branches to come into contact with overhead power lines. We inspect our lines and let tree owners know when their trees are encroaching the Growth Limit Zone. If your tree encroaches inside the Notice Zone, Buller Electricity will send you a Hazard Warning Notice advising you that the tree is about to reach the Growth Limit Zone and the options you have.
The notice gives you the opportunity to return to us a No-interest Notice which means that you have no objection to the tree being removed at Buller Electricity’s cost. The notice will also advise you of your rights to object to the tree being trimmed, for example where the tree is of amenity value and/or has historical or cultural importance.
CUT OR TRIM NOTICE
If your tree encroaches inside the Growth Limit Zone, Buller Electricity will send you a Cut or Trim Notice, which will advise that the tree must be cut or trimmed within a prescribed timeframe (between 10 and 45 working days depending on the circumstances). You can arrange for Buller Electricity to do the work, or for some other properly qualified party to do so.
The notice also gives you the opportunity to return to us a No-interest Notice, or to express your interest in the tree and objection to having it trimmed or removed. If you have not removed the hazard or lodged an objection within the time limit, Buller Electricity may arrange for the tree to be trimmed or removed at your cost.
THE FIRST CUT IS FREE
With one exception, the cost of keeping your trees clear of Buller Electricity’s power equipment is yours. The exception is the first free trim provided for by the Tree Regulations. Where there is no record of a previous free trim, then Buller Electricity will pay for the first trim, or for the tree to be removed. We will require your signature on the Cut or Trim Notice approving access to your property before we carry out the work.
The first free trim does not apply to:
- Private service lines (usually the power line connecting your premise to the street if it is overhead). We provide a free temporary disconnection service so you can safely trim trees from the service lines on your property.
- Shelter belts or plantation forests
In some cases, proper tree trimming techniques may require that the tree is cut back further than the Notice Zone in order to protect the health of the tree. Our qualified arborists will talk to you about this before starting work. To organise a first trim contact us.
SUBSEQUENT TRIMMING IS AT TREE OWNERS COST
After the first cut, the tree owner is responsible for any subsequent trimming and for the cost of that work. If you are required to trim a tree on your property, you must:
- arrange for the tree to be trimmed within the prescribed timeframe specified in the Cut or Trim Notice
- employ an approved utility arborist to carry out the work
- provide Buller Electricity with at least three working days’ notice of the work and advise us of the time and location of the works so we can ensure that the activity is adequately monitored and safe
NON-COMPLIANCE WIITH A CUT OR TRIM NOTICE
If you do not comply with a Cut or Trim Notice within the time period specified, then you could be fined up to $10,000. You could also be held liable for costs of repairs if our lines or equipment are damaged by your tree and for damage caused by broken power lines and/or by any resulting power surges affecting third parties.
DECLARING ‘NO INTEREST’ IN TREES ON YOUR PROPERTY
If you do not want to be responsible for keeping a tree on your property trimmed in accordance with the Tree Regulations, you can declare ‘no interest’ in the tree at any time. To declare ‘no interest’, the tree has to be naturally sown or, at the time of planting, the current or previous property owner must have reasonably believed that the tree, when fully grown, would not interfere with any power lines or electricity conductor.
To declare ‘no interest’ in a tree, you must notify us in writing. If you have already received a Cut or Trim Notice in respect of a tree that you wish to declare ‘no interest’ in, then you must provide notice to us within 10 working days.
If we receive a ‘no interest’ tree notice, we may remove or trim the tree to an extent determined by us. Please note that the tree may be removed rather than trimmed if it is likely to cause a continuing problem.
If the tree does not meet the criteria set out in the Tree Regulations then the ‘no interest’ tree notice will have no effect and your obligations as a tree owner will continue to apply.
PLAN BEFORE YOU PLANT
Before you plant trees, it is important to check that their mature growth height will not encroach on overhead power lines. Carefully planning your garden, shelter belt or forest layout will avoid trees having to be trimmed or removed prior to maturity, saving you future maintenance costs, and avoiding safety risks.
Make sure you know exactly where all underground cables are, and do not dig holes or plant trees within 4 metres of them.
If you plan to plant a tree near power lines, consider low-growing species that are below 4 metres in maximum height. Trees planted directly under lines should be below 2 metres maximum in height.
Where trees have been removed, you can stop regrowth or sprouting by applying environmentally-friendly herbicides to the stumps. It may then be possible to plant other power line friendly shrubs in their place.