Outrage over tree trim

May 25th, 2024Outrage over tree trim

Extremely p…… off barely comes close to what Lyonville’s Suzi Donovan felt when she discovered her beloved silver birch trees had been “butchered” by a contractor acting for Powercor in recent days.

Extremely p…… off barely comes close to what Lyonville’s Suzi Donovan felt when she discovered her beloved silver birch trees had been “butchered” by a contractor acting for Powercor in recent days.

The eight silver birch trees are on Suzi and husband Tony Donovan’s Lyonville property, inside an established hedge where Suzi had lovingly planted them about five years ago as semi-mature saplings that cost $150- $200 at that time.

The local artist says she had been out, and very busy with a new exhibition, on April 10 when she returned home to find the treasured trees had been “butchered” that morning.

It was only after the act that she and Tony learned that a notice had been placed in their mail box at 8.30am the day before, informing them that some “light trimming” would be carried out on the trees due to their proximity to power lines.

“I was out (on April 10) and Tony heard a knock on the door that morning and when he answered the door a young man at the door said ‘can we do a light trim on the trees?’.

Tony had given the OK to the “light trim”.

“Tony went back inside and had a shower and by the time he came out the damage was done,” Suzi said.

“It was not a light trim.”

Following the incident, the Donovans became aware of the notice that had been left in their letter box at 8.30am the previous day.

“But we don’t get mail every day here in the country and we had no idea the notice had been left,” Suzi said.

She says several of the trees were cut in half and she now fears they will never achieve the correct and desired form for their species.

“The trees were not close enough to any powerlines to pose a risk, or to be rated as requiring “urgent” cutting in my opinion,” she said.

However that was how they had been rated according to a box that had been checked on the notice left the prior day.

And this rating, according to the notice, meant that a standard default 14-60 day period from the date of notice being given prior to any work being carried out, had been summarily axed, Suzi said.

“It’s a huge upset. A hack job by someone who was not a qualified arborist.

“If they’d just given us the chance to respond to the notification we could have told them we have a gardener booked in to carefully trim the trees later this month.

“I understand that you have to have trees away from powerlines but these were nowhere near the lines. There was no danger to the power lines.

Suzi says her subsequent calls to Powercor have not been answered or returned and, after contacting their local councillor, they are now considering contacting the Ombudsman’s office to file a formal complaint.

“There are eight to nine trees and some have been cut in half vertically and three have been cut in half horizontally. This was not a light trim as the letter stated and the diagram, accompanying it, indicated.

“This was major destruction. I think we’ve been treated very badly and I am told this kind of thing is all too common. I think Powercor should be held accountable. I feel as though I’ve been physically attacked.

A Powercor spokesman contacted for comment said: “vegetation cutting is an important part of how we keep our power network safe and reliable”.

“We inspect 100% of our network each year and we cut back trees and branches from around 50,000 powerlines spans annually,” he said.

“In this case, our team visited the address the day before, provided notification of works and spoke with a resident, who approved cutting to take place.

“This location is in a Hazardous Bushfire Risk Area, so all precautions were taken to ensure compliance of at least two meters, plus allowing for at least two years’ growth.

“We’ll continue to work with our contractors and cutting teams to ensure they remain sensitive to aesthetics and neighbourhood character wherever they can, while ensuring that we remain compliant with regulations.”

The spokesman also provided background information stating the following:

“Our trained cutting teams can enter private property to cut trees back from power lines, and also work on public land across our network.

“Our teams need to meet clearance requirements that are regulated by Victoria’s energy safety regulator, Energy Safe Victoria (ESV).

“Larger clearance areas are required in areas of higher bushfire risk. For private property, our teams notify customers of cutting required at their address, complete the required pruning work then return to remove debris.

“When urgent cutting is identified, we aren’t always able to provide advance notice.”

But Suzi says the incident has served to highlight a widespread need for landholders to be better informed, and more proactively advised, about the guidelines around how close they can safely plant new trees to power lines.

“I think all landholders, for example when they buy a property, need to be provided with basic information about how close they can plant to powerlines.”

Words & Image: Eve Lamb

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