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YOUR TREES, THE COUNCIL & POWER LINES

You may have heard about the plight of a South Island family who are unable to get their power back on unless they pay the power company approximately $10,000 to repair damage to power lines caused by trees on their property.  With the recent windy weather around the country, it is timely to be aware of your responsibilities and obligations in respect of trees on your property.

Responsibility for Trees generally

Trees on your private land are your responsibility. Your trees can create a potential nuisance, or danger to your neighbours and other members of the public by:

  • Branches overhanging roads or footpaths;
  • Roots creating an uneven surface on footpaths; and
  • A risk of branches falling off or the tree toppling onto public land.

Your responsibility means you pay for any damage caused by your trees. 

If the Council requires you to trim or cut down your trees to reduce nuisance or a hazard you must pay for this. If you don't the Council may do the work and seek to recover the cost from you. 

Trees under or near power lines

Trees on your property that grow under or near power lines can be a real hazard. The Electricity (Hazards from Trees) Regulations 2003 set out separation distances trees must be from power lines. This means that you must keep the trees trimmed so that there is adequate clearance (as specified in the regulations) between the tree and the power lines. The greater the voltage in the power lines the greater the separation distance required.

If you are issued with a notice from the 'works owner' (i.e the company that owns the power lines) requiring you to cut or trim your trees and you fail to comply, you are liable for a fine not exceeding $10,000. If your non-compliance continues, you may be liable for a further fine of up to $500 for every day that you don't comply.  More importantly, if you have not trimmed your trees and your tree does cause damage to power lines, aside from potentially resulting in loss of power and significant cost to clean up, you are also liable to replace the damage done to the power lines.  As the South Island family has found out, this can cost in the thousands.  

*Disclaimer:  This article should be considered a guide only. It does not constitute, and should not be relied on, as legal advice.

MPREC

- Michelle Paddison and Rebecca Catley

Written by Michelle Paddison, Rebecca Catley at 09:00
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