Power company wants to poison trees to cut bushfire risks

Power company wants to poison trees to cut bushfire risks

24 January 2015

published by www.adelaidenow.com.au

Australia — POISONING trees to stunt their growth, pulling out trees before they get too big and increasing undergrounding of electricity cables have been put forward by SA Power Networks as alternatives to the controversial regime of tree pruning.

A document published by SA Power Networks says using growth retardants, injected into the trunks of trees, could be used to delay tree growth in high rainfall areas of the Mount Lofty Ranges.

The draft report Protocol for Vegetation Management Near Powerlines also recommends more frequent pruning of trees in main streets or high traffic areas or replacing trees with a more suitable species.

SAPN said vegetation reduction in the country and metropolitan areas aimed to reduce the risk of bushfire and supply disruptions.

“The long-term aim is to reduce the amount of trimming required, improve the visual impact for consumers and reduce costs over time, while ­ensuring community safety and network reliability obligations are met,” SAPN spokesman Paul Roberts said.

As reported on www.theadvertiser.com.au in November, SAPN has applied to the national regulator to charge customers an extra $32 million in vegetation clearance costs in the next five years.

It is also seeking local council funding for some initiatives it proposes for this period.

The proposals outlined in SAPN vegetationprotocol also include:

TREE removal and replacement program in bushfire and non-bushfire risk areas in the 2015-2020 regulatory period.

REMOVING saplings before theymaturity “is significantly less than the cost of repeatedtrimming or removing mature tree’’.

GROWTH retardant which “includes stump poisoning and chemically treating stumps to prevent, manage regrowth’’.

UNDERGROUNDING up to 135km of powerlines “in bushfire risk areas’’.

POWERLINE relocation and “at some locations, rebuilding a section of the asset with insulated conductors.’’

Gardening expert and critic of SAPN’s pruning policy Michael Keelan has welcomed the company’s decision to seek community, council and tree experts feedback.

“My gut feel is SAPN was sick of the bad publicity and wanted to do something long term (regarding vegetation management),’’ Mr Keelan, who is also an announcer on radio station FiveAA.

“The way they are pruning they are slowly killing the trees — there’s no consideration for the health of the tree.’’

Mr Keelan is part of a working group which is consulting with SAPN on vegetation management.

LGA President Mayor David O’Loughlin said vegetation management around power infrastructure has “caused community concern for a number of years’’.

“The partnership between Local Government and SA Power Networks will seek to address the long standing issue of tree maintenance around power lines,’’ he said.

The LGA and SA Power Networks are currently conducting workshops for councils to gain input into the draft protocol. Submissions close on Friday, March 27.

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