All Queensland orchard owners are being put on notice that they’re now responsible for the cost of keeping trees at least three metres away from powerlines.
- Energex and Ergon Energy Network is enforcing changes to its vegetation management strategy
- It used to pay to trim trees away from powerlines in orchards
- Corridors are being cleared and will now have to be maintained by farmers
The merged Energex and Ergon Energy Network changed its vegetation management strategy in late 2019 and is now cutting down productive trees to create powerline corridors on private property without compensating growers.
Australian Macadamia Society chief executive Jolyon Burnett described the strategy’s implementation as “a heavy-handed approach which has caused anxiety and hostility”.
In contrast, New South Wales government-owned Essential Energy negotiated with the AMS, paying farmers up to $150 for every macadamia tree removed.
Essential Energy continues to provide scheduled vegetation maintenance for agribusinesses in NSW and parts of Southern Queensland.
Last week Energex contractors cut down 60 trees and halved dozens more to create a vegetation-free powerline corridor on Bruce Maguire’s small macadamia farm at Como north-east of Noosa.
He estimated it would cost him $12,000 a year in lost production and pruning.
Mr Burnett said growers understood that electricity was an essential service, and the risk profile had changed after wildfires were sparked by vegetation coming into contact with powerlines.
“But energy utilities have over many years allowed growers to plant trees under their lines without any requirement that they leave a corridor free, so the energy utility has been partly responsible for creating this issue.
“I think it’s only reasonable to expect them to work in partnership with growers to resolve it.”
Energex and Ergon Energy Network confirmed that all commercial orchards and plantations have a responsibility to comply with the Queensland Electrical Safety Act 2002 and Electrical Safety Regulation 2013.
Including “ensuring three metres clearance from all electrical assets”.
“It’s quite a dramatic change in policy from one where Energex was happy to wear the cost of trimming these trees, now to being totally up to growers,” Growcom’s Richard Shannon said.
Energex and Ergon Network met with macadamia growers in Gympie early last year to discuss the changes.
Mr Maguire said the company ignored his suggestion to cut costs by using mechanical pruners instead of hand pruning from cherry pickers.
“I don’t know the law, but I think the morality of it is horrific, that they’ve decided they’re going to walk away from all responsibility.”
Posted , updated