Power lines and trees 

A large tree I planted several years ago is getting close to the overhead power lines in front of my house. Who is responsible?

Trees that are too close to power lines can be hazardous. If a tree on private property is close to a power line it is the responsibility of both the land owner and the lines owner to ensure the tree doesn’t become a safety hazard. 

If the lines owner notices that a tree is growing towards the power lines they can issue the land owner with: 

  • a hazard warning notice - which means the land owner needs to prevent the tree from growing any closer to the power lines by keeping it trimmed back or having it cut down or 
  • a cut or trim notice - which means the tree has already grown so close to the power lines that it needs to be cut down or trimmed.

If the lines owner has issued an initial cut or trim notice then the lines owner must meet the cost of the first cut or trim of a particular tree. The work could be done by the lines owner, provided you have granted access to the tree. If the lines owner does the work they must remove the resulting debris.
Any subsequent trimming to prevent your tree from growing too close to the powerlines will be your responsibility (as the tree owner) and at your cost.

If you don’t want to have any responsibility for the tree then you may be able to give a ‘no interest’ tree notice to the lines owner. This means that the lines owner can, at their own cost, remove or trim the tree as they wish, provided you grant access to the tree.

For more information see the summary on the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's website.  

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How do I find out who owns the power lines?

If you’ve been issued with a cut or trim notice, then the owner of the power lines will be named in the notice. Otherwise you can contact your electricity provider and ask them for this information.

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My tree is growing close to power lines - what do I need to know about getting it trimmed safely ?

You must call in an arborist to cut your tree if you have received a cut or trim notice, or if the tree growth is within four metres of a power line. Arborists are specially qualified to do this work close to power lines. If you need recommendations you can ask the lines owner (who issued you with the notice).

You may need to tell your power company and/or lines owner in advance when you have arranged to have this work done. This applies if the work is being done within four metres of the power lines - six metres from lines above 110kV.

Worksafe has information on safety measures when working near power lines.

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I want to plant a tree in my front yard but am not sure if there are underground power cables there. What is the best way to check?

Never start digging without first locating underground cables and services such as water and sewer lines.

If you’re not sure where power cables run you can check with the power companies in your area. They should be able to locate and mark the position of the cables.

You should also check whether there are any other underground services in the area you want to dig. Your local council can tell you about any local utilities such as water, storm water and sewerage drains.

A location service contractor will, for a fee, locate underground cables and other services for you.
Another service that may be useful is called beforeUdig (0800 248 344). This is an online service, where you register your planned work and they will pass this onto each organisation which has cables which could potentially be damaged by your work, so that they can contact you directly with any concerns or safety instructions.

If you suspect there has been damage to an electrical cable you should contact the owner power company right away.

More information about excavation safety is on the Worksafe website.