Ongoing problem

Imagine coming home to find trees you planted on your property or marvelled at over the years for their natural beauty had been butchered.
How would you feel if the historic trees lining your town’s main street were cut almost to the trunk?
These are the situations confronting locals across the Hills with ETSA Utilities contractors working in the region to clear vegetation around powerlines.
It must be galling for property owners to watch on as the chainsaws cut away, as has happened in some cases, almost half of a tree on their land leaving it lopsided and disfigured.
There is a sense of powerlessness for landowners at being unable to stop or influence the works that leads to heightened emotions, made worse by a lack of understanding of the regulations  by which ETSA Utilities must abide.
Those rules were set down after the deadly 1983 Ash Wednesday bushfires, some of which were sparked by vegetation coming into contact with powerlines.
While the memory of that tragedy may have faded, many would remember the devastation wrought by the Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria in 2009.
More than 170 people died in that inferno – and some of those fires were also started by vegetation clashing with powerlines.
Vegetation clearance under and around powerlines is vital in an environment such as the Hills where every summer we face the very real threat of bushfires.
Few would argue with the importance of protecting the public’s safety in that way.
But many feel the regulations do not provide a balance between public safety and respect for private property and trees, whether remnant native vegetation, new plantings or historic specimens.
ETSA Utilities has acknowledged its function is to prune to the letter of the law – not to preserve aesthetics.
Perhaps it is time the regulations were revisited, especially for trees in towns where the bushfire risk must be lower, in an effort to strike a better balance between safety and tree protection.
Until that occurs this ongoing dissent between landowners, councils and ETSA Utilities and its contractors is a problem that is not going to go away.

Olympic glory

The Olympics are over and Australia, once again, has punched well above its weight on the world stage.
All the athletes from every nation deserve our congratulations for competing in the true Olympic spirit … except for the shot putter from Belarus who failed a drug test.

For the full report, see the print issue of The Courier.