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New Measures To Protect Powerlines From Trees

Hon Simeon Brown
Minister for Energy

Energy Minister Simeon Brown has announced that the Government will make it easier for lines firms to take action to remove vegetation from obstructing local powerlines. The change will ensure greater security of electricity supply in local communities, particularly during severe weather events.

“Trees or parts of trees falling on power lines is one of our most common causes of electricity outages - particularly in high winds,” Mr Brown says.

“During Cyclone Gabrielle, out-of-zone tree outages interrupted electricity supply to 68,000 households. These interruptions and outages underscored how important it is to proactively manage risks to local electricity infrastructure. Many of the outages experienced during the cyclone could have been prevented if these proposed regulations were in place.”

Amendments to the Electricity (Hazards from Trees) Regulations 2003 will target trees directly surrounding existing Growth Limit Zone (GLZ) by creating a “clear to the sky” zone to prevent vegetation hanging over lines. The Regulations will also create a “notice zone” of one metre around the GLZ. If vegetation enters this zone, the lines owners will be able to alert tree owners about the risk of the encroaching vegetation.

“Under current regulations, trees and bushes can overhand or tunnel around lines, which creates a heightened risk of branches causing outages. The change will mean that lines will have a “clear to the sky” zone that will be unobstructed by trees,” Mr Brown says.

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“Repairing damages lines is a costly and time-consuming exercise. By introducing the “clear to the sky” zone and increasing the notification zone by one metre, we will both protect lines from damage, and reduce costs to lines companies.”

Electrifying large parts of the economy will require large investments in transmission and local lines. Protecting electricity lines from vegetation encroaching or trees falling is vital to ensure electricity supply remains reliable, and safe.

“It also means reducing the need for large investments in existing network strengthening by proactively removing risks, allowing us to focus investment on growing our transmission and distribution infrastructure.

“Strengthening the protection of our electricity lines by proactively removing risks is a strategic solution that will save New Zealand significant future investment in network repairs after weather events.

“Consultation will also begin shortly on further possible changes to reduce the risk to power lines from at risk trees outside the GLS falling onto powerlines,” Mr Brown says.

The amendments to the Electricity (Hazards from Trees) Regulations 2003 Regulations are expected to be Gazetted in September 2024.

Notes:

  • Electricity lines and transmission infrastructure are a critical part of the transition to a low emissions future, by ensure electricity is reliably transmitted where it needs to be.
  • The Electricity (Hazards from Trees) Regulation 2003 (‘the Trees Regulations’) cover the trimming of trees near power lines and aims to protect the security of New Zealand’s electricity supply and keep the public safe.
  • Under the current regulatory settings, the impact of interaction of vegetation with power lines is costly to both works and vegetation owners, which has been highlighted by Cyclone Gabrielle and other severe weather events.
  • MBIE reviewed the Trees Regulations in 2023 with the objective of finding improvements that would make implementation of the regulations more effective and efficient. Stakeholders in the two main affected groups – vegetation (tree) owners and works owners (transmission and distribution businesses) were consulted.
  • An extension to the hazard warning ‘notice zone’ where vegetation risks entering a GLZ by one metre has also been agreed, making it easier for landowners and arborists to trim vegetation while complying with safety regulations.

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