Scramble for clarity on poles
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.