Frequently asked questions
Below are some answers to commonly asked questions regarding the regulations and the obligations of Orion and tree owners with respect to trees near power lines.
Why do my trees need to be pruned?
Trees have to be pruned to keep branches and other vegetation from interfering with our power lines and equipment.
When tree branches contact a power line, they can cause a power outage, and they can also create a very dangerous situation. Vegetation can become electrically live, children can climb trees and touch power lines, fires can be started etc. This is why trees must be kept clear of power lines.
Who is responsible for the trimming of trees near power lines on private property?
The Electricity (Hazards from Trees) Regulations 2003 requires Orion, to be responsible for the first cut of trees near our power lines - where the first cut is on a property basis, not owner basis. Orion has met this obligation by completing a first cut on all of our lines. The Electricity (Hazards from Trees) Regulations 2003 also provides guidance on the tree owner’s responsibility. Owners are liable for the damage to the electricity network if their trees damage any lines or equipment. The word “trees” includes all types of vegetation including shrubs, hedges and climbing vines
Who is responsible for the trimming of trees near power lines on street road reserves?
The local authority – Christchurch City Council or Selwyn District Council.
How close can a tree get to a power line?
The Electricity (Hazards from Trees) Regulations 2003 sets out minimum distances allowed between trees and power lines. The distances allowed vary according to the voltage of the line. The graphic below summarises the distances prescribed in the regulations. The regulations refer to ‘Notice Zone’ distances and ‘Growth Limit’ distances, with each of these terms explained in further questions below.
While the regulations set out minimum distances, we strongly encourage tree owners to keep trees further away from power lines. The prescribed minimum distances may not stop trees touching power lines in windy conditions. We ask tree owners to remember that a power outage caused by your tree may not just affect you – it may impact many people.
To permit the safe repair or operation of an underground cable, the regulations also allow Orion to sever and remove any tree roots that are within 0.5 metres of a cable.
How much of a tree should be trimmed?
To obtain the required clearance from power lines, the amount of pruning required varies. Our tree contractors are trained to look at, and consider, such things as tree species, tree growth rate, tree health, the relative location to and the voltage of the power lines, before pruning. Arborists may remove entire branches that are growing towards the lines, and branches that, when cut, would re-sprout and grow towards the lines. Branches growing away from power lines are usually not trimmed.
Is pruning healthy for a tree?
Any time a tree is wounded, the tree is placed under stress. Orion contracts aborists who utilise techniques which are encouraged by the New Zealand Arboricultural Association Inc (NZAA).
What if I don’t want my trees trimmed as it will make them look unsightly and destroy the shape of the tree?
The requirement for a clear passage between power lines and tree(s) overrides considerations as to the look of a tree. However, often a tree can be trimmed in multiple ways and qualified arborists are able to advise on the best method to achieve both safety and aesthetic goals. Removal and re-planting with a more appropriate specimen may also be an alternative.
The Hazards from Trees Regulations 2003 identifies the tree owner as being responsible for ensuring clearances from power lines after the first cut. A dispensation can be requested, however the associated risk sits with a tree owner. Refer to Can I dispute the need to trim my tree? below.
When we are paying for the tree contractor to undertake the tree trimming, the tree contractor is directed to prune for clearance around power lines only - they will attempt to directionally prune branches to redirect future growth away from power lines. Any additional cost incurred to shape the tree to meet the wishes of the tree owner will be at the tree owner's cost.
Orion uses, and we recommend tree owners use, qualified arborists to perform all tree work.
Are there penalties for not trimming my trees?
Yes. Where a Cut or Trim Notice has been issued and the tree owner fails to undertake the work without a reasonable excuse or fails to advise Orion of the cut and trim, there could be fines imposed. The maximum fine is $10,000 and, if the offence is a continuing one, a further fine will apply of up to $500 for every day or part of a day during which the offence has continued.
In addition when Orion undertakes work to remove a source of immediate danger, the tree owner is liable for the direct costs of that work if the tree owner has failed to abide by the regulations.
Can I dispute the need to trim my tree?
A tree owner can apply to Orion for dispensation from cutting or trimming a tree – this application must be made no later than five working days from the date of the Orion cut or trim notice.
The tree owner can then apply to an arbitrator if dispensation is not granted or if they disagree with the terms of any dispensation – this application must be made no later than five working days from receipt of the notice regarding that dispensation. A list of arbitrators for the tree owner to contact can be obtained from Orion - 03 363 9898 or 0800 363 9898.
If a tree owner refuses Orion access onto the land to cut or trim a tree (in instances where no dispensation has been applied for/approved), the tree owner is responsible for the maintenance of the tree. If the tree owner fails to comply with the requirements of the regulations, they are liable to Orion for the costs of fixing any damage caused to a conductor.
Am I, as the land owner, allowed to cut the trees around the lines?
We recommend you hire professionals with the necessary expertise and safety procedures to competently carry out this work.
Any work within 4 metres of power lines requires a close approach consent from Orion before being carried out. To request a close approach consent, please go to our online services portal.
The cutting of trees near power lines is dangerous and not to be underestimated. For more information about working with qualified tree professionals, please call our contact centre on 03 363 9898 or 0800 363 9898.
Can Orion force me to cut my trees?
In accordance with the Electricity (Hazards from Trees) Regulations 2003 there is a formal notification process. Where vegetation affects power lines, Orion may enforce that the tree(s) is to be trimmed.
What rights do Orion’s tree contractors have to come on to my property?
Orion has a duty and obligation, as well as the right to enter private property to maintain our network to provide a safe and reliable electrical supply. This requires us to comply with all relevant codes of practices and other rules and regulations that govern our industry. However our tree contractors must respect your property and will leave it in the same condition as when they arrived, unless agreed otherwise with the landowner.
How will I know when tree crews will be in my neighbourhood?
The property owner will be contacted in a timely way, by Orion and or Orion’s tree contractor, prior to commencing work.
Can Orion tree contractors prune other trees while they are here?
Our tree contractors are instructed to clear only those parts of trees which are, or may, interfere with our lines. Other trees on your property that need attention are not part of our responsibility. This work may be carried out in conjunction with our work to make best use of resources but the cost associated with this will be direct to you. Please negotiate directly with the tree contractor.
When is tree removal the best option?
To maintain a safe distance from overhead power lines some trees require pruning more frequently than other trees, but if it is determined that pruning cannot satisfactorily meet the requirement then removing the tree is recommended. Other situations may require trees to be felled because they are at a distance that is considered to be a hazard due to falling during storms or being diseased.
What kind of trees can I plant near power lines?
Always consider the mature height and spread of the tree to ensure suitable space is available. This will help avoid future conflicts between trees and power lines. Also consider the ongoing maintenance required to ensure that the trees remain clear of the power lines. Fast growing species such as Willows, Eucalyptus, Acacia, Prunus to name a few, cause problems as they can easily grow 2m to 3m plus in a single growing season. A variety of trees which are suitable for planting near or adjacent to overhead power lines can be found on our Trees to plant page or please contact your local nursery.
Who is responsible for cleaning up the debris and will there be a cost to me?
Orion will clear debris caused by any cutting or trimming that we undertake, unless agreed otherwise with the landowner. If the landowner would like some debris left (eg felled trees for firewood) this can be negotiated directly with the tree contractor carrying out the work.
If a tree owner is required to have a tree cut or trimmed, the tree owner must remove or tidy any resulting debris in such a way that it does not affect the use or enjoyment of any adjoining land by its owner or occupier.
What happens when there is an immediate danger to persons or property from trees damaging lines?
Under the regulations Orion must undertake any necessary work on a tree (including the roots) if we become aware that there is immediate danger to persons or property from a line.
For the purposes of removing danger to persons or property, we may cut or trim the tree to the extent necessary to remove the danger.
When Orion undertakes any work to remove a source of immediate danger, the tree owner is liable for the direct costs of that work if the tree owner has failed to abide by the regulations.
What do I do if I have items stuck on branches near power lines?
Before climbing a tree to retrieve an item caught on a branch, check there are no power lines in the vicinity. If there are power lines in the vicinity, never try to remove the item yourself.
Please call Orion on 03 363 9898 or 0800 363 9898 to arrange for one of our service teams to come and remove the item.
What is the ‘Notice Zone’ and a ‘Hazard Warning Notice’?
When Orion becomes aware that a tree is getting dangerously close to a power line, we will in the first instance discuss the situation with the tree owner and seek to get the tree trimmed or removed.
If however the tree is already within the ’Notice Zone’ (see ‘Tree A’ in the diagram) we are required to issue the tree owner with a ‘Hazard Warning Notice’. A Hazard Warning Notice lets the tree owner know that if the tree encroaches the ‘Growth Limit Zone’ (see ‘Tree B’ in the diagram) a ‘Cut or Trim Notice’ may be immediately given to the tree owner.
What is a "Cut or Trim Notice"?
The Growth Limit Zone is the space around a power line where trees must not encroach even in windy or snow conditions. It is the minimum legal distance allowed between trees and power lines.
If Orion becomes aware of a tree encroaching the Growth Limit Zone, we will give a Cut or Trim Notice to the tree owner advising them that as soon as possible, or within 45 days the indicated tree(s) must be cut or trimmed to maintain the distances prescribed in the regulations.
What is a ‘No interest tree notice’?
The purpose of a No Interest Tree Notice is to notify Orion that for a qualifying tree, the tree owner wishes to relieve themselves of the tree owner responsibilities set in the Electricity (Hazards from Trees) Regulations 2003. Please note that the tree owner will still retain responsibilities under all other laws and regulations.
Having received a No Interest Tree Notice, Orion will then decide whether the tree will be trimmed or removed, if we first obtain permission to enter the land on which the tree is growing. If we receive a No Interest Tree Notice, and the owner or occupier who gave the notice refuses to allow the line owner to enter the land to trim or remove the tree, the No Interest Tree Notice is immediately rescinded.
My lines run through my neighbour’s property and are tangled in his/her trees. What can be done?
Contact Orion and we will inspect the tree(s) to determine who is responsible for the trimming of the trees.
My neighbours won’t cut their trees. Can Orion make them?
Contact Orion and an assessment will be made and then the most appropriate course of action undertaken.
Every time the wind blows the lines are pulled by the trees and I’m worried the lines will break or fall down. Will Orion trim them?
Once Orion is notified an assessment will be made and then the most appropriate course of action will be undertaken.
I have a protected tree – is Orion allowed to trim it?
Yes, under certain circumstances. For further information, contact your local authority – Christchurch City Council 03 941 8999, or Selwyn District Council 03 347 2800.
I want to build a tree hut in a tree near a power line. Is this ok?
A tree hut should not be built in a tree near to power lines. Coming into contact with power lines can cause serious injury or death.
Nowhere in the legislation does it state that I am unable to plant trees or shelterbelts near power lines but I understand that Orion will trim them anyway?
You can manage your property any way you wish, however you will be responsible for the ongoing maintenance of any trees you plant adjacent to an electricity network, as per the Electricity (Hazards from Trees) Regulations 2003.
I want more information on the Electricity (Hazards from Trees) Regulations 2003?
View a copy of the Regulations here or contact us on 03 363 9898 or 0800 363 9898.