Regulation review and its potential impact on landowners

September 4, 2015

Recently we became aware of a regulation review by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (Mbie) that is due to take place between 2017-2019 that may have a relevant significance to many landowners and landlords.

The regulation under the microscope is that of the Electricity (Hazards from Trees) Regulations 2003, and as you can deduct from the regulation, it is related to the hazard that trees and vegetation can cause in regards to the provision and supply of electricity. The purpose of the regulation is the management of trees close to power lines and related equipment. “They are meant to protect people from harm, and maintain security of supply to consumers.”[1]

The regulation reviews seek to clarify a landowner’s responsibility for the trimming back of trees and vegetation that surround/overhang power lines.[2]

It means that landowners could face fines of up to $10,000 for not maintaining vegetation away from power lines (as it currently does now). The current regulations dictate the ‘growth limit zones’ around power lines for vegetation and trees – ranging from 50cm to 2.5m; this dictates how much trimming is required on the property. Under the microscope will be these growth limit zones as these currently fail to take into account the risks of trees falling on lines during storms.

And the importance of this review is not lost on the line companies. Vector claims that 25% of all power outages on its network is caused by trees. “Trees growing too close to power lines increase the risk of people being electrocuted by live lines brought down by trees. They also increase risks to workers trying to restore power after storms, cause forest fires, interrupt power supplies, and increase maintenance costs for lines companies, meaning higher power prices.”[3]

The regulation review is likely to also take into account future process and rules around the planning and planting of new trees close to power lines and the potential impact and maintenance requirements.

While on the face of it, this seems like ‘just another cost’ to the landowner, it is important to note that the first cut will be at the cost of the line company – this is because it requires the use of a contracted arborist due to the potential safety and risks involved. Only after this initial work is completed, does the responsibility of trimming fall back on the landowner in the form of maintenance.

 

So how do I know if I need to trim or cut my trees?
You’ll first be notified through the provision of a cut or trim notice. The resulting action will then be carried out by contracted arborist on behalf of the lines company.

At this point, the responsibility for maintenance is transferred to the landowner. Any cost required to maintain vegetation and trees outside of the growth limit zones will be that of the landowner.

Non-compliance with a notice can lead to a fine, as well as costs if network lines or equipment are damaged by trees.

 

Current Obligations
Though the review is due to take place, there are current obligations that fall on both the tenant and the landlord when it comes to maintenance of the grounds of a property.

An in depth look at these obligations can be found on the Tenancy Services website.

In summary:

The responsibility of keeping the property clean and tidy lies with the tenant – this includes mowing the lawns and weeding the gardens, unless the landlord has agreed to do this through the tenancy agreement.

  • At the end of the tenancy, the property grounds must be left clean and tidy by the tenant.
  • All pruning and maintaining of trees, shrubs and hedges must be completed by the landlord. This is due to safety and the notion that some pruning requires specialist skills that the landlord will source to complete works. If a tenant was to chop down a tree, shrub or hedge they are liable for a replacement.
  • Trees, shrubs or hedges that are dangerous (damaged or growing towards power lines) must be fixed by the landlord.

As noted previously, the review of the regulations are not due to start till early 2017. Rest assured, First Avenue will be keeping an eye on any developments and we’ll report back any changes as they become apparent.

 

Image:

Arborists at Work 2, by anoldent, CC BY 2.0


Citations:
[1] http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU1508/S00713/electricity-industry-welcomes-review-of-tree-regulations.htm
[2] http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=11500901
[3] http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU1508/S00713/electricity-industry-welcomes-review-of-tree-regulations.htm

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