Contact between trees and powerlines can result in fires, electrocutions and power outages, which can lead to serious property damage, network outages and, in serious cases, injury and even loss of life.
Councils (responsible for keeping trees clear of powerlines on urban public land) and electricity companies (private land and regional public land) are responsible for maintaining trees at safe distances under the Electricity Safety (Electric Line Clearance) Regulations 2020. Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) has increased its oversight of councils and major electricity companies through its inspection programs.
This is being done to ensure trees are being managed to standards that meet the community’s expectations for safety.
The Shire of Mitchell has recorded the state’s best council compliance standard with 95 per cent of sites inspected by ESV meeting the required standard. This was followed by the Shire of Nillumbik (92 per cent), City of Melton (84 per cent), Shire of Wellington (84 per cent) and the City of Moreland (82 per cent).
However, the average compliance standard across Victoria’s 67 councils is 70 per cent.
Councils have improved their compliance in recent years through better funding and resources, additional training for council staff and improved auditing processes.
During field inspections, ESV line clearance compliance officers review each span – the length of powerline between two power poles – to ensure vegetation is outside the required minimum distance.
As of 27 June this year, ESV has also been granted powers to issue infringement notices to councils and major electricity companies that fail to maintain the minimum clearances with fines of up to $4,623 able to be issued to those that do not meet their responsibilities.
For situations of widespread non-compliance or where serious harm or property damage has occurred ESV may still seek to prosecute in accordance with its Compliance and Enforcement Policy and Prosecution Guidelines.
To highlight the dangers of trees being too close to powerlines, ESV has produced a short animation, which also alerts the community to the line clearance responsibilities across Victoria. You can view the animation here. More than 1,100 power outages are caused by trees touching powerlines in Victoria each year, affecting 400,000 residences and businesses.
ESV CEO Leanne Hughson
“ESV is focused on ensuring trees remain clear of our electricity network while protecting the natural aesthetic of streets in both metropolitan and regional areas.” “We’re pleased to see councils improve their attention on their power line clearance responsibilities, however we require all councils to keep their attention on managing vegetation around powerlines in order to protect people, property and the electricity network.”
Reviewed 24 January 2023