Pruning could trim profits
MACADAMIA farmers and other orchardists across the Northern Rivers have been disturbed to learn of Essential Energy's plans to enforce laws that allow savage pruning of their trees.
They fear the move – to protect power lines and reduce fire and other safety hazards – could result in the destruction of tens of thousands of trees, many of them mature and at the height of productivity.
David and Ann Anderson have cultivated 2650 macadamia trees over a 22ha block in Rosebank since 2003. The trees are 30 years old and were planted by the grower they bought the property off – well before any power lines were installed.
Ever since they bought the block, the then electricity provider, Country Energy, had only insisted on a 3m clearance on each side and above the trees, Mr Anderson said.
But he had been told recently by an inspector that a 7m zone would now be required, which Mr Anderson said would make about a tenth of his trees so unproductive they would have to be dug out.
Mr Anderson and the Australian Macadamia Society communications officer Chris Papas believe the move is a knee-jerk reaction by Essential Energy to the Victorian Black Saturday fires of 2009.
They would like to see a vegetation feasibility study carried out to compare the two localities, as they believe the two situations are very different and that no such fire threat exists in this region.
Mr Papas said he thought it was important to determine to what extent the pruning would mean a risk mitigation for “our sort” of forest.
But Essential Energy regional director Richard Wake said fire hazard was only one part of the need to keep trees well clear of power lines.
Public safety, such as reducing the risk of electrocution of farm workers, as well as protection of the lines from falling branches, were also part of the picture, he said.
The 7m figure quoted by Mr Anderson would not necessarily apply to every affected tree.
“There is no one-size-fits-all solution,” he said.
Essential Energy was willing to consult with individual growers and come to an agreement, which could even involve moving power lines or moving trees, he said.
Growers whose crops had been in before the power lines “must come and talk to us”, Mr Wake said.