Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) has stepped up its focus on council tree-clearance processes, increasing inspections to reduce safety risks associated with trees touching power lines.

ESV said while it understands the need to protect Victoria’s iconic tree-lined streets, inspections are necessary to reduce the risk of fire and power supply interruptions.

Almost 12,000 electric line span (the distance between two power poles) inspections have taken place since March 2019 with about 4,000, or 34 per cent, not meeting safety requirements.

About 1,900, or 18 per cent, were classified as safety critical, meaning trees were touching or very close to touching power lines.

ESV Commissioner and Chairperson, Marnie Williams, said, “Trees and powerlines need to co-exist and that means sometimes trees need to be pruned to ensure community safety.

“As a keen gardener and nature lover, I enjoy nothing more than a tree-lined street. But allowing trees to get too close to powerlines creates electricity safety risks that can result in power outages, electric shocks or fires.

“We are not talking about a wholesale regime where healthy trees are cut down to a stump, but rather a system whereby councils put regular tree pruning processes in place. Victorians have a right to the environmental and social benefits provided by Victoria’s urban forest.”

As a result of this increased focus, three Melbourne councils have made significant progress to improve tree clearance compliance rates and are working to achieve further improvements.

The City of Boroondara, starting from a low base, improved its compliance by almost 40 per cent during this period.

While Maribyrnong City Council and the City of Whittlesea’s initial compliance was comparatively better, both have seen compliance improvements of 26 per cent and 15 per cent respectively.

About 1,100 Victorian power outages are caused by trees each year affecting 400,000 residences or businesses.

ESV said while the social and environmental importance of trees will never be overlooked, community safety and the prevention of power outages, fires and in some cases, death by electrocution, is its highest priority.

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