Tree trimming and powerlines

The safety of our electricity network is our key priority

Ausgrid trims trees around the electricity network to keep the community and our staff safe and to help make sure we are providing a reliable electricity supply to our customers.

Removing branches from around powerlines and power poles helps prevent blackouts, bushfires and accidental electrocution.

Trial of new tree trimming guidelines

In consultation with customers we have made changes to the way we trim trees. New tree trimming guidelines have been developed which will improve the aesthetic impact of its vegetation management program in Sydney, the Central Coast and the Hunter region. Find out more

How we trim trees

We know that trimming large trees planted under powerlines can look harsh and while trimmers try to balance the amenity of local street trees, we have a responsibility to keep the power supply to our customers’ homes and businesses safe.

The safety clearance distances are determined by statewide industry guidelines. The amount trimmed depends on the species of tree, the type of powerlines or poles, and whether it’s in a bushfire prone area.

Generally, in residential areas the clearance around bare low voltage powerlines is 1 metre.  Once crews have cleared to the minimum clearance distance, they provide an allowance for regrowth so the branches won’t enter the clearance distances before the next annual visit. To protect the health of the tree, the branches are then trimmed at their nearest growth point or collar. This protects the tree from infection and disease and is in line with the Australian Standard for amenity pruning AS4373.

Trimming trials
In response to community concerns about the visual impact of tree trimming, Ausgrid has been working with councils to trial different cutting methods and approaches to managing the safety risks.

In March 2016, we initiated a trial with City of Sydney to reduce the amount trimmed for regrowth in some locations to a fixed amount of half a metre. At the request of the Inner West Council, and in response to concerns raised by the community, this trial was extended to parts of Sydney's inner west from September 2016 for a 12-month period.

Our arborists and contractors are monitoring trees in these trial areas to see how quickly they grow back inside safety clearances.

In addition to the trials, we are currently reviewing our standards and policies for how we manage the safety and reliability of the electricity network in urban areas when impacted by vegetation. You can learn more about how we are working to improve our tree trimming services through our community and stakeholder engagement program.

Who trims the trees

Trimming is carried out by contractors trained to work in close proximity to the electricity network.  In addition Ausgrid and the contractors each employ a horticulturalist and arborist to make sure the trimming is done to standard and the trees remain healthy.

Removing vegetation near powerlines can be dangerous. If you have trees on your property that are growing near powerlines do not attempt to trim them yourself.

If you would like tress trimmed within three metres of Ausgrid powerlines, it must be carried out by suitably qualified vegetation management workers. The distance between the tree and the electricity network will determine who can complete any trimming work. Chapter 3 of the WorkCover Code of Practice for Work Near Overhead Powerlines outlines the clearance distances for ordinary persons, accredited persons and the No Go Zone.

Clearing vegetation within the No Go Zone can only be carried out by companies contracted to Ausgrid. If you are unsure and would like us to assess a tree growing close to powerlines, please report it and we will send someone to inspect and arrange for trimming if needed.

If you have any questions, please contact us on 13 13 65.

Alternatives for maintaining a safe electricity network

When assessing the options available there are a few things that need consideration, including cost. Keeping the existing overhead powerlines and trimming the trees around them is the most economic option for the community, ie it is free to residents and councils.

In some areas Aerial Bundled Cable (ABC) has been installed, usually at the request and cost of the local council. ABC wraps the four low voltage wires into one insulated cable. This insulation reduces the likelihood of a power interruption, caused by branches coming into contact with the lines and creating a short circuit. Replacing bare low voltage powerlines with ABC reduces the clearances for trimming, but it is likely that some sort of trimming will still be required. Installing ABC is usually funded by local councils or the resident who requests it.

Powerlines or cables are also placed underground in some areas, like all new urban residential developments and some commercial areas. While this removes the need to trim any tree branches, underground cables can still be affected by roots, so it remains important to think about what sorts of vegetation is being planted and what may lay beneath the ground.

Undergrounding electricity cables is the most expensive option. Costs vary depending on a range of technical and environment factors and Ausgrid considers all requests for undergrounding on a case by case basis in accordance with the "Network Undergrounding Policy Guidelines”. Like installing ABC, undergrounding is usually funded by the beneficiary.

Planting near powerlines

Avoiding planting large trees near powerlines is the best way to minimise the need for trimming  and protect your local electricity supply from blackouts or potential safety hazards. Lean about suitable and unsuitable species in the downloadable files below.

Trees and the electricity network

See the key facts about how we look after trees growing near the electricity network.

Suitable species

Download a list of trees and shrubs that are generally suitable for planting near the network.

Unsuitable species

Download a list of trees and shrubs that are unsuitable for planting near the electricity network.