Electricity company Aurora Energy won’t stump up $500,000 to underground power lines along the entrance to Queenstown.
A row of trees on privately owned land along Ladies Mile was to be chopped down earlier this year, because they were growing dangerously close to power lines and the owner could not afford to maintain them.
They were saved from the chop, however, after a public outcry and lines maintenance contractor Delta agreed to a one-off trim, done in April.
Queenstown’s council suggests ratepayers stump up half the $1 million cost to put the power lines underground.
But in its submission to the council’s annual plan this week, electricity infrastructure company Aurora says there’s no basis for it to pay the other half.
It also wants the entire proposal removed from the annual plan while it discusses with the council the feasibility and alternatives to putting the power lines underground.
“There is not funding available for undergrounding this section,” the submission says.
“As set out in Aurora Energy’s 10-year asset management plan, capital expenditure is fully allocated to projects that cater for reliability of power supply and growth.”
Aurora, which is owned by the Dunedin City Council – as is Delta – reiterates the maintenance of trees, to keep them a safe distance from power lines, is the responsibility of owners.
It also says the “best available evidence” is that the original lines were installed in 1962, before the trees were planted in about 1966.
The company suggests the council spend $9000 a year trimming the trees or plant a new row of lower-growing trees and remove the existing ones.
Another suggestion is the council pays the entire cost of putting the power lines underground, but Aurora warns potential costs could exceed $1m.
The Save the Ladies Mile Trees committee also made a submission to the council’s plan.
Spokeswoman Maggie Hillock says any suggestion the trees were planted after the lines is “completely incorrect” and the group has an affidavit to that from the original landowners.
She believes it would be an opportunity lost if Aurora did not contribute to the undergrounding of the lines.
“They used to have a historic 50-50 agreement to underground powerlines in the town and it would be nice if that was resurrected, but, in this particular instance it would be a shame if Aurora didn’t take an opportunity like this.”
Otago Daily Times