Starting this week, Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) has the power to issue fines to Victorian electricity companies and councils that do not keep trees safely clear of powerlines.
Contact between trees and powerlines can result in fires, electrocutions and power outages, which can result in serious property damage, network outages and in serious cases injury and even loss of life.
To avoid risk, electricity companies (responsible for powerlines on private land and regional public land) and councils (urban public land) are responsible for maintaining trees within safe distances under the Electricity Safety (Electric Line Clearance) Regulations 2020.
ESV’s previous powers to take enforcement action against electricity companies and councils for line clearance breaches was limited to issuing warnings or notices to take corrective action or prosecution through the court system.
However, as of Friday, 1 July, ESV has the power to issue a fine worth 25 penalty units or $4,623 for each line clearance breach.
In applying this new enforcement tool, ESV’s focus will be risk based with fines being issued in situations where a line clearance breach is seriously impacting the safety of people or property.
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.
More than 1,100 power outages are caused by trees touching powerlines occur in Victoria each year, affecting 400,000 residences and businesses.
ESV Commissioner and Chairperson Marnie Williams
“The safety of the lives of Victorians and their property will always be our highest priority.” “These new powers will provide faster resolution while reducing the time taken to prosecute offenders through the courts. “It will also lead to a stronger deterrant to organisations that are not meeting this important safety requirement.”
“While the aesthetic, social and environmental importance of trees will never be overlooked, community safety and the prevention of power outages, fires and in some cases, death by electrocution, is ESV’s highest priority.”
Reviewed 24 January 2023