2014 street tree pruning by Augrid in Marrickville

2014 street tree pruning by Augrid in Marrickville.  This was an attractive tree.  It was left with barely any canopy to speak of and no amenity.

“The state’s electricity distributor has been accused of wilful vandalism by one of several Sydney councils frustrated by what they say is excessive pruning of street trees.”   See – http://bit.ly/1NkD6dV

That’s a pretty strong start to a recent article in the Sydney Morning Herald about the new pruning techniques used by Ausgrid that are causing considerable shock to the Sydney community.

It is interesting to read the comments of the Mayors of Sutherland Shire Council, Marrickville Council & Woollahra Municipal Council.

Ausgrid said, “Contractors were trained to prune to Australian standards to protect the health of the tree and to allow for annual regrowth, as part of a vegetation management that cost Ausgrid about $40 million a year.”  And here is the threat – “Trimming trees more frequently would be inefficient and would add significantly to customers’ bills.”

From my observations Energy Australia came to my area to prune street trees every 7-8 years.  When Ausgrid took over the reigns, pruning of street trees seemed to be happening every 18-months, though since last year, it appears that they do not prune every tree in the street.  Thankfully, this stops the whole street looking like a war zone.

When Ausgrid started pruning street trees I thought this may just be a local problem. Lately I have been traveling around Sydney & have noticed that there are butchered street trees everywhere.

Part of the problem is inappropriate trees planted under power lines & the Councils are responsible for this.  Ausgrid appear to be addressing the problem by making trees so ugly or unstable that they are unviable.

Many of our street trees are decades old & therefore valuable infrastructure. They should be managed with care until they need to be removed because of natural causes or some other reason, but not because they have been rendered unsafe or unviable because of Ausgrid pruning practices.

Many local councils are aiming to increase the urban forest because of the threats to livability caused by climate change.  How are they going to get ahead when a large percentage of their street trees need to be removed or are rendered little more than poles with an insubstantial canopy?  The community is paying the energy supplier to destroy their street trees & decrease their quality of life.

Ausgrid says they have to prune like this for our safety.  Observation of the previous company‘s pruning practices is proof that such brutal & frequent pruning is not necessary.

When I talked to a pruning contractor & asked what he suggested as replacements, he said, “Shrubs or nothing.”

If you go to the suburbs of Port Macquarie you will see what streets look like when there are no street trees under power lines.  I wonder whether the Port Macquarie community receives a discount in their energy bills because very little pruning of street trees is needed for this community?  It would only seem reasonable.

Yes Councils can stop planting tall-growing trees under power lines, BUT a skilled pruner can prune taller trees making them safe without destroying the tree.  You only need to go through the streets of Sydney CBD to know that this is achievable.   Street trees of 3-4 storeys throughout the city streets have power lines going through or past the canopy, but the trees remain intact, tall & beautiful.

Ausgrid has a responsibility to the community to prune in a way that does not destroy their valuable infrastructure, their amenity & future livability with climate change. I have not even addressed the impact on wildlife.

One question which I have not had answered is why pruning of branches needs to be 1-metre below the telecommunications cable.

Two branches left after pruning by Ausgrid in 2014.

Two branches left after pruning by Ausgrid in 2014.  This was not an isolated incident in Marrickville municipality.