Pole re­pair row flares

TasNet­works may have wrong­fully forced landown­ers to pay

Sunday Tasmanian - - News - CHRIS PIPPOS

THOU­SANDS of Tas­ma­nian landown­ers have po­ten­tially been un­law­fully charged for ex­pen­sive safety and re­pair work on their prop­er­ties, ex­pos­ing the State Gov­ern­ment to claims for com­pen­sa­tion, leaked le­gal ad­vice re­veals.

The Gov­ern­ment and TasNet­works are now scram­bling to re­solve the un­cer­tainty sur­round­ing costly main­te­nance and re­pairs in­volv­ing about 65,000 power poles, wires and other elec­tric­ity as­sets on pri­vate prop­erty.

They have been warned to check whether it has been law­ful to-date to be charg­ing landown­ers for work such as bush­fire preven­tion, flood re­pairs and other elec­tri­cal work.

Re­cent le­gal ad­vice to the Gov­ern­ment, and a min­is­te­rial brief­ing note — both sighted by the Sun­day Tas­ma­nian — re­veal such as­set own­er­ship and re­spon­si­bil­ity ac­tu­ally be­longs to TasNet­works un­less there is a con­trary agree­ment with the prop­erty owner.

The am­bi­gu­ity in­volv­ing $250 mil­lion-plus worth of pri­vate power poles first sur­faced last year when some landown­ers, in­clud­ing a Nubeena farmer with a $10,000 flood­repair bill for a pole and wire, dis­puted they owned and were re­spon­si­ble for the as­sets.

It is un­clear how many landown­ers might be af­fected by the sit­u­a­tion and how much they have spent on up­keep.

Fig­ures re­leased to the Sun­day Tas­ma­nian show TasNet­works, af­ter iden­ti­fy­ing a con­cern, has no­ti­fied Consumer Build­ing and Oc­cu­pa­tional Ser­vices, part of the Jus­tice Depart­ment, of an in­fra­struc­ture is­sue on pri­vate land that has been for­warded to landown­ers and then “rec- ti­fied” 4170 times since 2012.

CBOS records also show “480 is­sues are cur­rently be­ing pro­gressed”.

A Jus­tice spokes­woman said the depart­ment was con­tin­u­ing to ex­am­ine the is­sue.

“TasNet­works main­tain a pro­gram of on­go­ing in­spec­tion of all in­fra­struc­ture which is part of or con­nected to its net­work, this in­cludes the pri­vate in­fra­struc­ture,” the Jus­tice Depart­ment spokes­woman said.

“Where TasNet­works iden­tify an is­sue with in­fra­struc­ture they do not own, they ad­vise Consumer Build­ing and Oc­cu­pa­tional Ser­vices who then con­tact the owner to ad­vise them of the need to un­der­take main­te­nance.

“Where the is­sue is a crit­i­cal safety is­sue and the owner does not ad­dress it, CBOS has the au­thor­ity to di­rect TasNet­works to dis­con­nect the in­fra­struc­ture to en­sure safety.”

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