PowerNet’s responsibilities

All electricity network companies, including PowerNet, are required under the Regulations to ensure trees do not grow too close to the electricity lines or equipment.

PowerNet is responsible for:

  • Inspecting the PowerNet managed networks to identify trees inside the ‘Growth Limit Zone’.
  • Providing the First Cut or Trim free of charge for trees inside the ‘Growth Limit Zone’, unless the tree is covered by a previous arrangement with PowerNet.
  • Notifying tree owners with a Cut/Trim Notice when a tree is too close to power lines, and
  • Ensuring the tree owner complies with the Cut/Trim Notice and the Regulations.

Click on this link for information about the ‘Growth Limit Zone’ (PDF).

PowerNet employs Asplundh and Bruce Dickens Tree Topping in the Southland area and our own arborist team in Otago to complete the vegetation management work on our networks. Click here for a list of PowerNet vegetation contractors.

Qualified arborists employed by Powernet or approved PowerNet contractors work their way through every street and road and check every power line on our networks. Contractors try to visit each property where a tree or trees need to be cut or trimmed and where possible speak directly with the residents. Where no one is available, written information such as a Cut/Trim Notice will be left in the letterbox or posted to the address.

This section offers information on the following topics:

  • Who is entitled to a free trim?
  • What is a Cut/Trim Notice?
  • What is a second Cut/Trim Notice?
  • What is a hazard warning notice and its purpose?
  • What are no interest trees?
  • Protected or heritage trees
  • Notable trees
  • Dangerous trees
  • What are the penalties for not complying with the Regulations?
  • How do I request dispensation for a tree trim?
  • How do I apply for arbitration?
  • Who removes tree debris?

Who is entitled to a free trim?

Trees found to be growing too close to power lines on the PowerNet network receive the first cut or trim free of charge unless the tree(s) is subject to an existing agreement.

Click here to download a full copy of the Electricity (Hazards from Trees) Regulations 2003 from the Energy Safety Service website (PDF 120KB).

If the tree is not trimmed to the required distance and the tree is likely to cause an immediate danger to people or property, PowerNet is required to cut/trim the tree to remove the danger. In this instance the owner will be invoiced for all costs including removal of debris.

In most cases the tree owner grants permission and the contractor will cut or trim the tree(s) as required.

What is a Cut/Trim Notice?

A Cut/Trim Notice is a legal document issued by PowerNet’s tree trimming contractors to advise tree owners they need to trim trees to ensure they comply with the Electricity (Hazards from Trees) Regulations.

The Cut/Trim Notice identifies the tree owner and their address details. If you receive a Cut/Trim Notice that does not have your name and address completed on the form, or if the Notice has an * beside a blank space please complete the necessary details and return the Notice in the supplied envelope.

The Cut/Trim Notice also includes some or all of the following information…the location of the tree(s), the nearest power pole number/s (for accurate GIS traces), the tree species, clearance required and the approximate number of trees requiring attention.

The Cut/Trim Notice will also include a recommendation of work to be completed, i.e. the tree(s) are trimmed or felled. The recommendation indicates what we believe will be the most beneficial outcome for both the tree owner and PowerNet.

The Cut/Trim Notice should be signed and dated by the tree owner agreeing to allow the necessary work to commence and agreeing to be responsible for the tree(s) after this point.

Tree owners are encouraged to contact either PowerNet or our contractor if they do not agree with the recommendation. The person to contact will leave their name, company and contact details on the Cut/Trim Notice for this reason. Please feel free to contact them if you have any questions.

What is a second Cut/Trim Notice?

If a tree has already had its first cut or trim, and is found to be growing too close to power lines, it is the tree owner’s responsibility to keep the tree away from the power lines in accordance with the Regulations.

PowerNet tries to notify tree owners as early as possible and issue a Cut/Trim Notice when their tree is encroaching on the ‘Growth Limit Zone’. The Cut/Trim Notice is a legal document and the tree owner must organise the cut or trim in the time frame stated in the notice (generally 45 days). PowerNet or our contractor will provide a quote for this work.

You are not obliged to use PowerNet or our contractor; however they provide a competitive quote to give tree owners at least one option.

Click on this link for information about the ‘Growth Limit Zone’ (PDF).

Either the tree owner grants permission for PowerNet (or our contractor) to complete the work and accepts the cost of the work, OR the tree owner takes responsibility for the trees and arranges for the cut or trim to be completed by a professional vegetation maintenance contractor at their own cost in accordance with the Regulations.

Click on this link for a list of approved PowerNet vegetation contractors.

If the tree owner chooses their own contractor, the contractor must supply PowerNet with information about the work required so that we know what is happening on/near the PowerNet network. A PowerNet representative will inspect completed work and if not compliant will specify any additional work required to be completed within a set timeframe.

In some cases the tree owner elects to have the tree(s) removed at their own cost in order to avoid future costs.

If the quote is not accepted or we do not hear back from the tree owner about work completed, PowerNet will advise the tree owner that a notice to cut or trim a tree cannot legally be ignored and remind them of their obligations in accordance with the Regulations and the resulting financial penalties that may occur if they fail to comply.

Financial penalties can include a fine up to $10,000 and and a further fine up to $500 for every day the offence continues. They could also be liable for additional costs if power lines or equipment are damaged by a tree or trees or if the trees cause a fault.

What is a Hazard Warning notice and its purpose?

The purpose of a Hazard Warning Notice is to warn a tree owner that a tree has encroached into the notice zone and must not be allowed to encroach into the ‘Growth limit zone’.

If the tree has already had a free trim and PowerNet identifies the tree has grown back within the ‘Notice Zone’ but has not yet reached the ‘Growth Limit Zone’, the tree owner may be issued with a Hazard Warning Notice. This Notice identifies the trees that need attention before they grow into the ‘Growth Limit Zone’. If the tree owner does nothing about the trees and PowerNet later finds that they have grown into the ‘Growth Limit Zone’ the owner will be issued with a Cut/Trim Notice.

Click on this link for information about the ‘Growth Limit Zone’ (PDF).

If the tree owner has already been issued with a Hazard Warning Notice and subsequently been issued a Cut/Trim Notice, they may only be given 10 days to have the necessary work completed.

If the trees are deemed to be an immediate danger or if they have caused a fault we will organise for the trees to be trimmed and will send out an invoice for the work and damage.

What are No Interest trees?

Tree owners that do not want to be responsible for keeping their tree(s) trimmed to outside the ‘Growth Limit Zone’ can declare ‘No Interest’ in the tree provided:

  • The tree was naturally sown and the power line is on the land the tree is growing on; or
  • At the time of planting the tree the owner (current or previous) believed on reasonable grounds that the tree when fully grown would not interfere with any power lines.

To declare ‘No Interest’, the tree owner must notify PowerNet in writing or trees@powernet.co.nz within 10 working days of receipt of a notice.

If the tree(s) meets the ‘No Interest’ criteria, PowerNet will take responsibility for keeping the tree clear of power lines. Please be aware that PowerNet may decide to remove a ‘No Interest’ tree completely if it is likely to cause an ongoing problem on the network.

If the tree(s) doesn’t meet the criteria, the ‘No Interest’ request may be rejected and PowerNet will trim the tree rather than remove it.

In some cases PowerNet may see benefit in having the tree removed and in these cases we may classify the tree as a ‘Voluntary No Interest’ tree. In this instance, PowerNet or our contractor would advise the property owner on site or give the owner the option to sign the notice in the ‘No Interest’ section and the tree would be removed. PowerNet pays for the felling or dismantling of the trees but the owner is responsible for removing the debris of ‘Voluntary No Interest‘ trees.

Protected or heritage trees

Some local Councils have granted significant trees and bush stands special protection because of their significant historical, cultural, botanical or amenity value. To check what trees or bush stands are protected, contact the local Council or check the Council’s District Plan.

Tree owners are responsible for immediately informing PowerNet’s contractors if a tree or trees appear on the local Council’s Protected or Heritage tree lists if a Cut/Trim Notice has been issued. If a tree owner signs the Cut/Trim Notice approving work to commence without advising PowerNet that the tree or trees have been granted protection, PowerNet or PowerNet’s contractors cannot be held responsible for completing the work in the usual manner.

Notable trees

A register of Notable Trees is held by some Councils. These trees have not been afforded any special consideration or protection but are registered because they may be of interest to the public. In 1997 Environment Southland published the list in a small booklet which is available to the public. There is also the Notable Trees Register online.

Dangerous trees

If a tree poses an immediate danger to public safety or the power supply, PowerNet may cut or trim the tree as required without first notifying the tree owner. If PowerNet has advised the tree owner the tree needs trimmed at their cost and the work has not been completed, the tree owner will be charged for all costs to remove the danger including removal of any debris.

What are the penalties for not complying with the Regulations?

Electricity networks and tree owners must comply with the requirements of the Regulations and are both liable for financial penalties if they fail to comply.

Please note that a notice to cut or trim a tree cannot be ignored.

Tree owners must comply with the Cut/Trim Notice in the time stated or they could be fined up to $10,000 and a further fine up to $500 for every day the offence continues. They could also be liable for additional costs if power lines or equipment are damaged by a tree or trees or if the trees cause a fault.

How do I request a dispensation for tree trimming?

Tree owners who have received a notice to cut or trim a tree or trees are entitled to request dispensation but must do so within five working days of receiving the notice.

Application for dispensation not to cut trees in the Notice Zone must be made to PowerNet in writing. When a dispensation is received, PowerNet will inspect or arrange for our contractor to check the trees and to consider the other safety issues required by the Regulations. Under the Electricity (Hazards from Trees) Regulations 2003, trees must be kept clear of the ‘Growth Limit Zone’ and a dispensation cannot be granted for a tree or trees that are inside that area.

PowerNet considers the request and if we believe the trees do not pose a significant risk to our network, a dispensation will be granted and a response is sent.

Dispensation cannot exceed five years. If the dispensation is granted, the owner will be advised of the new distance allowable between the tree(s) and power line or equipment. The owner is also advised they can be liable for repairs if the tree(s) cause damage to the network. The dispensation can be revoked if the tree encroaches on the new dispensation zone or breaches any conditions that may have been imposed.

How do I apply for arbitration?

The Minister of Economic Development is responsible for appointing arbitrators to hear and determine disputes between tree owners and network owners.

A tree owner can apply for arbitration if:

  • The network owner has refused to grant a dispensation which the tree owner believes should have been granted; or
  • A dispensation has been granted but the tree owner does not agree with its terms.

Applications must be made in writing to one of the appointed arbiters within five working days of the PowerNet response.

The government has appointed arbitrators to hear and determine dispensation disputes under these Regulations.

Click here to view the contact details for appointed tree arbitrators from the Energy Safety website.

Who removes tree debris?

When PowerNet pays for a tree to be cut or trimmed we remove any resulting debris that falls onto adjoining land, or we ensure that debris that falls on adjoining land is tidied or dealt with in such a way it doesn’t affect the use or enjoyment of the land by its owner or occupier.

For valid ‘No Interest‘ trees we remove the debris if requested. It is common practice however to leave trees and branches on site as they may be of value as timber or firewood.

For ‘Voluntary No Interest’ trees debris removal is the responsibility of the tree owner.

Tree owners, who arrange tree trimming with PowerNet approved contractors are responsible for their own debris removal.

For more information about tree trimming around power lines contact PowerNet on telephone 03 211 1899 or email  trees@powernet.co.nz.