ActewAGL set to clear trees from powerlines in national parks, private land
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ActewAGL set to clear trees from powerlines in national parks, private land

ActewAGL will be able to legally clear vegetation growing too close to powerlines on private lands and in national parks, if a draft bill passes the ACT Legislative Assembly.

The utility will also be required to inspect private electricity poles on rural land, and can issue rectification notices under the draft legislation.

ActewAGL inspects powerlines in Greenway, Canberra, during their trial of drone technology

ActewAGL inspects powerlines in Greenway, Canberra, during their trial of drone technologyCredit:Clare Ross

Sustainability minister Shane Rattenbury said the amendments would make it clear that ActewAGL was responsible for clearing vegetation on all land in the ACT other than urban backyards and Commonwealth land, unless a deal had been made with the National Capital Authority.

Before, there was some ambiguity about whether it was the responsibility of the landholder or the utility to manage overgrown trees near powerlines.

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"This means the utility is responsible for making sure trees near powerlines on rural leased land are safe and will not cause a bushfire," Mr Rattenbury said.

"The clause also makes the utility responsible for maintaining adequate vegetation clearances in national sparks and nature reserves.

"This will give effect an activity the utility currently undertakes to high standard without any legislative basis and provides consistency across the Emergency Services declared Bushfire Prone Area and Bushfire Abatement Zone."

ActewAGL will have to give affected owners or occupiers seven days' notice if it wants to access their property to clear vegetation or inspect electrical poles and wires, unless it is urgent.

In non-emergency situations, the utility will have to lay out when it wants to come onto the property, how long for and what it intends to do.

Owners issued a rectification notice will have the right to negotiate with ActewAGL about the types of repairs required and the period they have to do them in.

If it is an emergency, ActewAGL can fix the poles and wires themselves.

The legislation would also make ActewAGL responsible for clearing vegetation on unleased urban land.

This was previously the responsibility of Transport Canberra and City Services but ActewAGL had been doing it on their behalf.

However, Mr Rattenbury said ActewAGL were limited in the work they could do as they had to wait until government funding became available or arrange reimbursement.

"In the urban area there has been a history of outages and ignitions due to incomplete tree clearing," Mr Rattenbury said.

"In the storm that occurred in January this year 23,000 customers experienced outages.

"All outages were found to have occurred in areas where trees had not been pruned due to lack of resources."

The bill will be debated when the ACT's parliament next sits.

Katie Burgess is a reporter for the Canberra Times, covering ACT politics.

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