Passing the Buck – When is an Issue a Lane Cove Council Issue?

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In January this year, a concerned resident contacted the Lane Cove Council to report a group of dead trees located on Lane Cove Council land near the Lane Cove Golf Course. The concerned resident was of the view that  the dead trees were dangerous. They were located  near a footpath, close to the road and near power lines. No action was taken by the Lane Cove Council to remove the trees. Predictably, during the June big storm,  the trees crashed to the ground and some branches landed on power lines.

One dead tree remained but was leaning. So who should remove the last dead tree – the Lane Cove Council or Ausgrid?

dead tree

Timeline of Events

January 2016 –  The concerned resident advises the Lane Cove Council about the dead trees on Council Land.

14 January 2016 – The Lane Cove Council replies:

“Thank you for bringing this issue to Council’s attention. The embankment area will be inspected. Council’s tree crew have already been instructed to remove the dead trees. However, another inspection may be warranted.”

May 2016 – Resident follows up the issue and is advised by Council as follows:

“As it turns out, Ausgrid will be removing the trees because the two trees threaten their network and, Council’s tree crew are not authorized to do the work over the network. Ausgrid has been informed about eh (sic) trees.”

5 June 2016 – Trees fall down. The concerned resident contacts council and asks them to remove the trees lying across the foot path. One dead tree remains standing.

dead trees passing the buck

15 June 2016 –  The concerned resident contacts Ausgrid. Ausgrid advises they have no record of being asked to remove the tree. Ausgrid advises they do not remove trees, they only trim them.

23 June 2016 – The concerned resident contacts ITC. ITC seeks clarification from the Lane Cove Council on which government authority is responsible for removing dead trees. Lane Cove Council responds to ITC:

“.. Ausgrid will often trim near the wires and then leave the tree and/or trunk removal to Council once it is safely away from the lines. Council staff are scheduled to meet Ausgrid on site on Monday however if they deem it an emergency it may be trimmed sooner. Thank you for following up, I will be getting the Council website updated to clearly explain the difference between the role of Ausgrid and Council and will also help to promote staff help clarify these roles when responding to enquiries.”

15 July 2016 – Concerned Resident contacts Ausgrid. Ausgrid advises they trimmed one branch off the dead tree on 15 July and now it is over to the Lane Cove Council to remove the tree. Ausgrid advises they have contacted the Lane Cove Council about the tree.

6 September 2016 – Concerned Resident contacts Lane Cove Council for an update. The resident advises that Ausgrid had been trimming the tree that week. Council advised:

“Council’s tree crew or any other contractor is not permitted to work within the no go zone of Ausgrid’s network. Only Ausgrid and its contractors are authorized to remove trees overhanging the network. I will contact Ausgrid’s arborist to make enquiries about when the Wattle tree will be removed.”

9 September 2016 – ITC again writes to the Lane Cove Council and asks for a clarification on the issue of removal of dead trees. In ITC’s view, it really does not matter which government authority removes the tree, at the end of the day, Lane Cove Council has a responsibility to ensure that all trees on council property are safe. This means putting pressure on the relevant authority to remove the tree. This is council’s response

“..it appears there are different scenarios that can arise with Ausgrid and their willingness to remove trees etc. Likewise, different scenarios whereby Council gets more involved with liaising with Ausgrid. At times it can be case by case basis but I am working with the Open Space team to get some scenarios explained (like the one you mention) so that we can make this clearer on our website and also put something in our October quarterly newsletter which is going out in rate notices next month. Being Spring this is quite topical and it would be worthwhile to make it clear where the responsibilities should lie and reinforce some consistency in emergency, on public land/footpaths and private properties.”

We will let you know when the tree has been finally removed and which authority removes the tree.

Have you experienced Council buck passing? Let us know.

Passing the buck is a common issue when it comes to local councils. Check out this class example buck passing.


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