Scram­ble for clar­ity on poles

Tasmanian Country - - CROSSWORD | WEATHER -

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 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 re­veal such as­set own­er­ship and re­spon­si­bil­ity 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 wiring, dis­puted they owned and were re­spon­si­ble for the as­sets.

It is un­clear how many landown­ers might be af­fected and how much they have spent.

TasNet­works 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 “rec­ti­fied” 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.

She said TasNet­works had a pro­gram of in­spec­tion of all in­fra­struc­ture that forms part or is con­nected to its net­work, in­clud­ing pri­vate in­fra­struc­ture.

She said if TasNet­works iden­ti­fied an is­sue with in­fra­struc­ture it did not own it ad­vised CBOS, which then con­tacted the owner to ad­vise them of the need for main­te­nance. If an owner does not ad­dress a crit­i­cal safety is­sue CBOS can di­rect TasNet­works to dis­con­nect the in­fra­struc­ture.

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