If your question isn't covered here, please contact us for advice.
For trees on private property within 4 metres of power lines, Wellington Electricity takes responsibility for the first cut or trim. After this, the landowner/occupier is responsible for maintaining them.
If the trees are on the road reserve, the local council (or Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency for state highways) is responsible for looking after them. The road reserve is defined as the area from the property boundary on one side of the road to the property boundary on the other side of the road and includes the berm (grass verge), the footpath and the road.
Note that we aren’t responsible for checking or trimming trees around private service lines (that connect properties to our network), or for notifying property owners when trees are too close to these lines.
You shouldn't attempt to prune any trees growing within 4 metres of a power line. Only specially trained arborists should work around live power lines.
If you want to trim trees near the service line on your property that connects your home or business to our network, you can contact your electricity retailer to arrange for a temporary disconnection of power while you complete the work.
Wellington Electricity will generally carry out the first cut or trim free of charge. After that, it’s the tree owner's responsibility to make sure the tree(s) are kept to a minimum distance from the electricity network.
The Electricity (Hazards from Trees) Regulations 2003 has clear guidelines on how far away trees have to be from power lines. This information is printed on the back of the cut or trim notice if you’ve received one, or you can download our tree maintenance brochure. The amount of pruning required depends on the species of tree, its health, exposure to wind, and ground conditions.
Our contractors will consider these factors before pruning and discuss with you how often you want the job to be done (bearing in mind that Wellington Electricity only pays for the first trim).
Arborists may remove entire branches growing towards lines and branches that, when cut, would re-sprout and grow towards the lines. They generally don't trim branches growing away from power lines. When a tree is cut or trimmed under the Regulations, it will be cut clear of the notice zone, and sometimes further if proper tree trimming techniques require it.
In addition, we may sever and remove any tree roots that are within 0.5 metres of one of our underground cables.
There must be sufficient clear space around the lines, so the visual appearance of the tree might be affected in the short term. Our arborist will in most cases form a cutting plan which aims to minimise any visual impact on developing trees. Removal of the tree and replanting with a more appropriate specimen may be a better alternative, which you can discuss with the arborist.
Any time a tree is wounded, the tree is placed under stress. However, our qualified arborists use techniques encouraged by the New Zealand Arboriculture Association (NZ Arb) which avoid interference with a tree’s natural ability to seal wounds. This allows its defence system to discourage pests and decay.
Wellington Electricity’s contractor, Treescape, will clear away the debris following a first cut or trim. Thereafter, it is the responsibility of the tree owner to remove any resulting debris (although in practice, arborists will usually do this as part of the service they provide).
Contact us – we’ll inspect the tree(s) and determine who’s responsible for trimming and maintaining them. Note that in many cases, these situations fall outside the jurisdiction of the Electricity (Hazards from Trees) Regulations 2003 and we might therefore be limited in any assistance we can provide. Property owners are responsible for the maintenance and repair of private electrical lines and equipment on their property.
Yes, under most circumstances – contact your local council for advice. Note that different rules apply for trees on public conservation land, but these too need to be cut or trimmed if they’re encroaching on power lines.
To avoid incurring the costs of regular tree trimming, we recommend that you choose low-growing plants and shrubs as an alternative to trees. If you do decide to plant a tree, always consider the height and spread of it when mature. Note that, when you buy a tree from a nursery, the information they provide on mature size is based on a tree being eight years old, but some trees can grow to over twice that size.
In addition, you should determine the location of underground utility assets before planting trees – both to prevent striking a pipe or cable while digging and to check that the roots of the tree aren’t likely to grow any closer than half a metre away from electricity cables. Find out more about locating underground utility assets here.
Treescape has produced some more detailed guidance on planting, which is available on their website.
Treescape is the qualified tree contractor we use. They are authorised to legally work within 4 metres of our overhead power lines. A list of other authorised arborists can be found here.
In most cases, work will be carried out from the road reserve and we won’t need to enter private property. However, where trees extend over boundaries or lines cross private land, it may be necessary to enter a property to trim trees, which requires consent of the landowner.
Under all circumstances, Wellington Electricity and its contractors are required to comply with the relevant rules, regulations and codes of practice. Find out more here.
To maintain a safe distance from overhead power lines, some trees need pruning more often than others. In such cases, you may decide to avoid future costs by removing the tree(s) completely.
Other situations might require trees to be felled – for example, if they’re susceptible to falling onto power lines due to disease or during storms.
Although our contractor is only instructed to trim or clear trees which are or may interfere with our electricity lines, you can arrange separately for other work to be done at the same time. The contract and charges for this extra work will be between you and the contractor.
If a tree is encroaching or may encroach the notice zone or growth limit zone (see our brochure for details), a tree owner can issue a ‘no-interest tree notice’ to us in writing.
This must be sent within 10 working days of receiving a cut or trim notice (if applicable), and we can only accept this if it can be determined that:
- the tree was naturally seeded (self-sown); or
- it could not have been reasonably foreseen at the time of planting that the tree would encroach on or interfere with power lines.
If accepted and the landowner consents to us entering onto their land, we will, at our discretion, either remove the tree or take over its maintenance. In the case of council-owned trees along the road, we might permit another party within 50 metres of the tree to maintain it if they declare an interest in doing so.
If any part of a tree is in contact with overhead lines, or if it looks like someone could touch the lines by climbing the tree, please phone us straight away on 0800 248 148.
We’ll attend as quickly as possible, but please stay well clear of the tree (and keep others away, if you’re able to) in the meantime.
If a tree poses an immediate risk to persons or property in relation to its proximity to power lines or cables, our authorised contractor will trim the tree without delay (but only to the extent necessary to remove any danger). This is known as a ‘section 14 cut’, the cost of which may be billed to the tree owner.
I've received a cut or trim notice, hazard warning notice or risk tree notice – what does this mean?
The Electricity (Hazards from Trees) Regulations 2003 prescribes distances from electrical lines within which trees must not encroach. Under the Regulations, we might issue tree owners with either:
- a cut or trim notice, if we’ve identified that tree(s) encroach the growth limit zone around our lines and must be trimmed for electrical safety and reliability; or
- a hazard warning notice, to let the tree owner know that their tree(s) encroach the slightly wider notice zone and must not enter the growth limit zone.
For cut or trim notices, compliance is required within the timeframes set out in the Regulations. Failure to do so could result in a fine of up to $10,000, along with $500 per day for ongoing offences.
From time-to-time, we also issue ‘risk tree’ notices for trees that we’ve observed as being a risk to our electricity network but which are currently compliant with the Regulations. This most commonly relates to overhanging branches that might be susceptible to falling onto power lines.
Upon receipt of a cut or trim notice or hazard warning notice, you can apply for dispensation to us in writing (by email or post) within the timeframes set out in the Regulations.
However, we can only grant dispensation if we’re able to determine that the tree is unlikely to be hazardous in any way, which probably isn’t the case if we’ve already issued a notice for it.
Tree owners can refer any unresolved tree-related complaints to Utilities Disputes, and/or refer any disputes to the government-appointed tree arbitrator (details of which can be found on WorkSafe’s website).
It’s also possible to declare ‘no interest’ in a tree, regardless of whether or not you’ve received a notice.
In the case of risk tree notices, tree owners are not legally obliged to take action, but we recommend that they do to assist us in maintaining a safe and reliable power supply.