Private poles and overhead powerlines - frequently asked questions

What will Ausgrid inspect?

Ausgrid's contractors regularly patrol private poles and overhead powerlines in bushfire-prone areas to help reduce the risk of bushfires and keep the community and your property safe. Your private poles and powerlines (or ‘poles and wires’) may also be referred to as overhead private and shared mains or as aerial consumers’ mains. Your consumers’ mains include pole-top fittings such as cross-arms and insulators. 

Bushfire safety inspections are carried out using aerial helicopter patrols and through ground-based patrols which require inspectors to come onto your property. To prepare for the bushfire danger period, Ausgrid is conducting detailed inspections of private poles and overhead powerlines in bushfire-prone areas as a priority. Ausgrid will generally not be inspecting privately-owned sub-mains – these are the low voltage overhead powerlines that extend beyond your main switchboard or metering unit. We may inspect some sub-mains beyond the main switchboard or metering unit that are in a continuous overhead line from Ausgrid’s service mains and are visually obvious to the inspector. 


What do the patrols involve?

We will visually inspect your consumers’ mains, including poles, wires and pole-top fittings for potential bush-fire hazards. We will not inspect sub-mains (the powerlines that extend beyond your main switchboard) unless they are in a continuous overhead line from Ausgrid's service mains and are visually obvious to the inspector.

Why is Ausgrid inspecting private poles and overhead powerlines?

Our officers carry out regular inspections across Ausgrid’s electricity network to ensure the safety of customers, the community and our own staff.  Ausgrid is also checking private poles and powerlines in bushfire-prone areas  to check that they do not pose a bushfire risk. Poles and overhead powerlines that aren’t inspected and properly maintained can become a serious bushfire hazard.

Why do you need access to my private property?

We can complete some above-ground inspections from the property boundary. For private poles and overhead powerlines that can’t be seen easily from the boundary we need to enter your property.

Do I need to be at the property for the inspection to take place?

You don’t need to be present for the patrol. However, if our inspectors are restricted from accessing your property - for example by locked gates, livestock or dogs - please let us know and we will work with you to complete our patrol.

Do I have to give Ausgrid access?

Ausgrid works with the community and authorities such as the Rural Fire Service to reduce the risk of bushfires across our network area. We’re carrying out these patrols to help protect your safety, your property and the community. The Electricity Supply Act 1995 authorises Ausgrid to enter private property to carry out inspections after providing a written notice. In situations where inspectors may need to enter the property we will write to you before the patrol and ask about any special access conditions that we need to observe.

How will I know if you have been at my property?

We will leave a letter or defect notice at your property after we finish the bushfire safety patrol. If we identify any bushfire hazards around your private poles or overhead powerlines we will leave you a defect notice outlining what work is required and the timeframe in which it must be done. The property owner will need to arrange and pay for any work required. If we do not identify any defects we will leave you a letter and information about maintaining your private poles and powerlines.

What identification will Ausgrid or its contractors have?

Ausgrid staff and contractors carry photo identification cards. They will show you their identification if you are at your property at the time of the inspection and you can ask to see it.

Why is this necessary now?

The NSW Government has updated legislation that aims to reduce the risk of bushfires starting from the electricity supply network. Ausgrid checks its own network as well as private poles and overhead powerlines for any bushfire hazards. This is set out in our Bushfire Risk Management Plan which outlines our programs to mitigate the risk of bushfires and keep the community safe.

I have only recently installed my pole or powerlines. Will you still need to inspect them?

Yes, these patrols are part of an  ongoing program to reduce the risk of bushfires starting from the electricity network.

Will I need to pay for the inspection?

These bushfire safety patrols are carried out by Ausgrid free of charge to help keep the community safe. We will not charge you to inspect your consumers’ mains. However, Ausgrid expects property owners to organise their own regular inspections before each bushfire season, after major storms or if they suspect any damage. This includes any sub-mains on the property that may provide power supply to a pump or shed. We will not inspect sub-mains beyond the main switchboard or metering unit unless they are in a continuous overhead line from Ausgrid’s service mains and are visually obvious to the inspector.

I have animals on my property - how do I make special arrangements with you for the inspection?

To discuss your individual circumstances please phone our inspections team using the contact details on the letter we sent to you.

What happens after the inspection?

If we find any defects we will leave you a defect notice outlining the work that is required and the timeframe in which it must be done. It will be your responsibility to arrange and pay for a qualified contractor to carry out the work in the required timeframe. If electrical equipment is damaged you will need to arrange repairs by a licensed electrician. It is dangerous and illegal to attempt to carry out any electrical repairs yourself. Find out more in our Do it yourself and home renovation section. If vegetation needs to be cleared around your private poles or powerlines you will need to engage a qualified tree trimming contractor to remove it safely. If we do not identify any defects we will leave you a letter and more information explaining your responsibilities for maintaining your private poles and powerlines.


Does this mean I don’t have to organise my own inspection?

No – Ausgrid expects you will continue to ensure your private poles and overhead powerlines are safe by arranging an annual bushfire inspection as well as a regular detailed inspection of your power poles.  We will not inspect sub-mains beyond the main switchboard or metering unit unless they are in a continuous overhead line from Ausgrid’s service mains and are visually obvious to the inspector.

How much will it cost to fix defects?

The cost of repairing a defect will vary depending on the extent of the damage and other factors such as access to your property and powerlines. You can find more information here.

Will Ausgrid do the repairs?

If you receive a defect notice, you are responsible for arranging for the required work to be done by a licensed electrician or qualified tree trimming contractor. However, if Ausgrid’s inspectors identify an immediate risk to life or property from your private poles and powerlines we may need to disconnect your power supply until the immediate safety risk is removed. If you ask Ausgrid to do these emergency repairs we will liaise with you to recover the cost of the repairs. If you are having difficulty meeting the costs of the required work, Ausgrid has a hardship policy and payment plans that may apply in some cases. You can find more information here or telephone us on 13 13 65 to discuss your individual circumstances.

What do I need to inspect?

Please refer to our Private Poles and Powerlines guide for more information about what should be inspected and the steps to take if you notice defects. 

Why are you making me inspect my electricity equipment now?

It has always been the property owner’s responsibility to maintain their own private poles and powerlines, along with all electrical equipment on their property beyond the point of attachment to Ausgrid’s network. We are providing additional information to property owners to help them meet these obligations and reduce the risk of bushfires to private property and the community.

How can I check my pole-top fittings?

A qualified inspector can check your poles and pole-top fittings and powerlines for any bushfire hazards. Please refer to our Private Poles and Powerlines guide or phone 13 13 65 for more information.

Why have I been given a defect notice?

Ausgrid will issue a defect notice if its inspection determines there is a bushfire risk. This may be due to trees or branches growing too close to powerlines, frayed wires, damaged poles or other faults on your installation. In the interests of public safety, connections to Ausgrid’s electricity network must comply with all relevant safety standards. This includes the Electricity Supply Act 1995, the Electricity (Consumer Safety) Regulation 2006 and Australian Standards and guidelines. 


What should I do now?

You must ensure all your poles and overhead powerlines are free from any defects that may cause a bushfire. Broken poles and fittings and powerlines brought down by strong winds, trees and branches can all pose serious safety risks for you and the community. Any work on electrical equipment, including power poles and lines and fittings, must be carried out by a licensed electrical contractor. Vegetation must only be cleared by a tree trimmer qualified to work around the electricity network.

Recent amendments to the NSW Electricity Supply Act 1995 require property owners to respond to defect notices within 30 days. You must contact Ausgrid within 30 days of receiving the notice. You will need to tell us that the work has been done or will be done within 60 days of the date the notice was issued. As an alternative, you may request that the property is disconnected within 30 days of the defect notice being issued. 


What happens if it’s not fixed in time?

If Ausgrid hasn’t received a response to a bushfire defect notice within 30 days, we may either enter the property to do any required rectification works or disconnect the property’s power supply to remove any safety risk. If we carry out the work we will recover the reasonable cost of doing the work from the property owner.

Any defects not repaired within the required period may result in electricity supply to the property being disconnected until repairs are safely completed. This is always a last resort, but may be necessary to protect the safety of the community and our staff. 


What if I can’t get the work done in the time you’ve allowed?

It may be possible to negotiate an extension on the period for repairs, depending on the severity of the defect. You should contact us on 13 13 65 to discuss your options.

My electrical connection has been the same for years. Why have I been given this notice now?

Ausgrid identifies defects through bushfire safety patrols and it is important that they are addressed promptly. These patrols are part of a coordinated program to reduce the risk of bushfires posing a threat to the community, homes and property, livestock and native flora and fauna. Some problems are not immediately apparent and can only be identified by qualified inspectors and contractors.

What typically results in a defect notice?

Defect notices for aerial consumers’ mains often relate to trees or branches growing too close to your private poles and powerlines, or alterations or additions to existing connections which do not meet the necessary safety standards. Poles in poor condition and at risk of collapse may also be identified in a defect notice. Common maintenance issues are outlined in our Private Poles and Powerlines guide .

How long will I have to respond to a defect notice?

If you have received a bushfire defect notice you will have 30 days to respond. You will need to tell us that the work has been done or will be done within 60 days of the date the notice was issued. Alternatively, you may ask that the property is disconnected within 30 days of the defect notice being issued.

What if I can’t afford to do the work?

Ausgrid will work with you if you have difficulty completing the rectification work required under a defect notice. Please talk to us if you are concerned about completing the work within the specified time. Ausgrid also has a financial hardship policy and payment plans that may apply in some cases. You can find more information here  or telephone us on 13 13 65.

Why am I responsible? It’s Ausgrid’s network, after all.

As a community, we share responsibility for reducing the risk of bushfires. Ausgrid has responsibility for maintaining and repairing its electricity network in the street. Property owners are responsible for the safe maintenance and operation of electrical installations on their premises. This may include organising a licenced electrician to maintain electricity equipment including power poles, wires and pole-top fittings on their property or engaging a qualified tree trimming contractor to maintain safety clearances between trees and power lines or power poles. All power poles and powerlines between the first point of connection on the property to the switchboard or meter and those that extend into your property are part of your electrical installation and you must ensure they are safe and properly maintained. Please refer to our Private Poles and Powerlines guide for further information.

I am only renting. How is it my responsibility?

Both property owners and tenants are responsible for the safe maintenance and operation of electrical installations located on their premises. If you have received a letter or defect notice it is because the letter is sent to or left at the property address. It is the property owner's responsibility to comply with any direction included in a defect notice. If you are a tenant, you should forward the letter or notice to the property owner or your landlord as soon as possible, and follow up until the matter is resolved.  Please contact us on 13 13 65 if you are unable to contact the property owner or your landlord.

I am a landlord. What are my responsibilities?

Property owners and occupiers are responsible for the safe maintenance and operation of electrical installations located on their premises. Ausgrid expects that this includes the ongoing maintenance and inspection of their private poles, powerlines and related fittings, and the removal of vegetation growing too close to powerlines. If you or your tenant has received a defect notice relating to your premises, it is your responsibility as the property owner to comply with the direction. 

My property is supplied by a shared private pole - how do I organise maintenance and repairs?

If you are having difficulty agreeing on arrangements with your neighbour, Ausgrid will work with you to help you resolve any issues. Please contact us on 13 13 65 if you require assistance.

Why do I need to arrange tree trimming when I have never done it before?

You have always been responsible for maintaining a safe clearance between your private poles,  overhead powerlines and any vegetation on your property. Tree trimming reduces the risk of fires caused by electricity, accidental electrocution and power interruptions caused by branches touching overhead wires

Do I need a permit from my local council or other authority to remove trees or vegetation?

Depending on the type and size of vegetation on your property that needs to be removed you may need to seek permission from your local council. As the defect notice will cover work required under the NSW Electricity Supply Act 1995, a qualified contractor is able to trim trees and shrubs to provide a safe clearance around powerlines and power poles, including an allowance for regrowth, without approval from a local council. However, the Ausgrid defect notice does not exempt you from local tree preservation orders. You may need council permission to remove trees. You may also need permission to trim trees if your property is subject to heritage controls or has threatened species and endangered vegetation. The defect notice does not authorise you to have a qualified tree contractor clear more broadly on your property. Please talk to us about your specific property if you need to clarify what vegetation is covered by the defect notice. 


I want to keep a special tree on my property near my power supply. What are my options?

You may need to modify your power supply if the tree poses a bushfire hazard. For example, you may prefer to install your power supply underground. Please call us on 13 13 65 if you wish to discuss these options further.

Why can’t I trim the trees near my powerlines myself?

Live powerlines are extremely dangerous and contact with them can be fatal. Electricity can also jump, so you don’t have to be touching powerlines to receive an electric shock. Tree trimmers qualified to work around the electricity network have special training and equipment to help keep themselves and the community safe. Please do not attempt this work yourself.

What if my power pole needs to be replaced?

Termites, wood rot and rust can all cause serious structural damage to your private power poles. We recommend all termite-infested poles are treated by a registered pest controller. Any unsafe poles must be replaced by a licensed electrical contractor.