Trimming trees near power lines

In wind storms, around 80% of power outages are caused by trees colliding with power lines. In July, falling trees and branches damaged power lines throughout the Selwyn District. Thousands of households were left without power for hours, some through the night. Strong nor’westers and violent southerly changes are common in winter and spring.

To help keep the power on for your community, it’s time to maintain your trees.

How close is too close?

Trim early – keep branches at least 1.5 metres away from low voltage lines and for high voltage lines please see the Notice zone distances listed below. 

Cut down – consider removing tall trees that could fall through power lines.

Tree graphics

Growth limit table

Where do I start?

Stay safe
Before you begin, remember to keep yourself, and those around you, safe.  We do recommend you hire professionals to safely carry out any work that is close to power lines.

If you or someone working for you intends to work within 4 metres of power lines, a close approach consent is required from Orion before you start. As a tree owner, you may be liable for any damage caused by carrying out trimming or felling of trees.

Checking your trees:

  • Pop outside to visually check your trees and vegetation near the power lines. Please do not put any measurement tools near power lines
  • Do they look like they're approximately within the Notice or Growth limit zone?
  • No – you're all good for now, keep an eye on them over the next few months, especially if you have a fast growing tree
  • Yes – time to organise your trees to be trimmed

Trimming your trees:

  • Are your trees within 4 metres of overhead power lines?
  • Yes - Apply for a close approach consent
  • No  - Great, no close approach consent needed
  • We recommend calling the professionals who can safely get the job done, especially for large trees and vegetation
  • Last step – keep an eye on your trees to make sure they stay out of the notice and growth zone limits
  • Have a fast growing tree near power lines? Consider removing and planting a slower growing tree
  • Thank you for helping to reduce power outages for you and your neighbours

Wind and snow storms are often the cause of trees and branches coming into contact with overhead lines and poles. If you have a tree that could impact on power lines, please remember that a power outage caused by your tree may not just affect you – it may have an impact on many people. 

Also, trees can become electrically live if touching a power line, children climb trees and touch power lines, and fires can be started. 

Rural image for web

Will I be fined if I don't comply?

If a cut or trim notice is given to you and you fail to have the tree trimmed and/or advise us of the time and location of the trim without a reasonable excuse, this is an offence. This will make you liable for a fine not exceeding $10,000. If the offence continues, you will be liable for a further fine of not more than $500 for every day or part day during which the offence continues.

The Law - the Electricity (Hazards from Trees) Regulations 2003 sets out the responsibilities of electricity line companies and tree owners. The purpose of the regulations is to protect the safety of the public and help to ensure a secure supply of electricity.  

How Orion manages trees near power lines

Orion's tree management programme is largely governed by the Electricity (Hazards from Trees) Regulations 2003 and involves the monitoring and pruning or removal of trees that threaten to come into contact with power lines. Through this programme we work with tree owners to minimise the risk of their trees touching power lines. We are responsible for the first cut of trees near power lines, where the first cut is on a property basis. We have met this obligation by completing a first cut of vegetation on all our lines.

We undertake periodic pruning of trees within the notice zone. The intent of this pruning is to support safety and reduce the risk of power outages. The pruning done by us does not remove the tree owners responsibilities and in the case of fast growing species may not be sufficient to ensure that trees remain outside of the growth limit zone. You will be notified prior to any periodic pruning being carried out and the work will be completed by arborists carrying Orion identification.  

Contact us if in any doubt about your tree

We aim to work with tree owners to ensure safety is maintained and power outages are minimised. We will actively work with tree owners to see trees are trimmed or cut before regulatory powers are applied. However, as we wish to ensure the safety and security of the public, we will use the regulations where necessary.

Related information: 

If you have a question that isn't covered here, see our frequently asked questions