Cut the trees – not the power

A large gum tree over powerlines in Bluewater, Townsville.

1 February 2024

 Cyclone Kirrily’s recent impact on Townsville and North Queensland has unveiled significant vulnerabilities in the region’s electricity network, prompting a call for immediate policy changes to enhance resilience and safeguard against future weather-related disruptions.

Hinchinbrook MP and Katter’s Australian Party (KAP) Deputy Leader, Nick Dametto has praised Ergon Energy and Energex work crews for their valiant effort to restore power to the greater Townsville region but was quick to call for significant policy changes to enhance the protection of existing transmission lines and cited potential changes to the Planning Act regarding power distribution to future developments.

The Hinchinbrook MP said there must be an urgent policy shift to enforce stricter rules around the proximity of vegetation to transmission lines.

Additionally, Mr Dametto said he wanted to start the discussion around making underground powerlines a requirement wherever practical for any new land developments in cyclone prone areas across North Queensland.

“Townsville dodged a bullet with Tropical Cyclone Kirrily as the damage could have been significantly worse,” he said.

“However, Thursday night’s winds were enough to serve as a stark reminder of just how fragile our exposed electrical infrastructure is here in the North. I want to personally thank every person who worked in the most trying of conditions to restore power, every one of you deserve our eternal thanks.

“Although Cyclone Kirrily was downgraded to a category two at the time of crossing the coast, widespread damage to electrical infrastructure still occurred, it was reported that no power poles were blown over by the weather system, but numerous lines were torn down by falling trees and flying debris.

“If I was the boss of Ergon or Energy Queensland right now, once power has been restored to all customers my next call would be to take a chainsaw to every existing tree in falling distance of an overhead power line.

“I know it’s nice to live amongst the trees but what’s more important, a bit of greenery or protecting the integrity of our electrical network.

Hinchinbrook MP Nick Dametto during cyclone Kirrilly clean-up.

“By proactively enforcing a strict vegetation removal policy, we could easily enhance the region’s resilience to natural disasters and minimise the widespread impact to residents who stand to lose power for days.

“In a perfect world, underground power lines would offer the greatest protection to potential infrastructure damage, I’m not suggesting we pull all our overhead powerlines down and replace them, but we should be considering if this is the best way forward for future developments, amendments to the Planning Act should be considered.

“As Townsville and the surrounding communities continue to recover, we must take away some harsh learnings. Without electricity our city comes to a standstill, our businesses cannot operate, our homes are crippled, and telecommunication and data capabilities go back to the stone age.

“I will be writing to the Energy Minister as well as the Minister for Housing, Local Government and Planning requesting that the Miles Government urgently consider implementing a stricter vegetation management policy to apply to all electrical assets and considers amendments to the current Planning Act.

“Prevention is always better than a cure and I am certain that hundreds of Townsville residents who have sweltered through the days post Kirrily would agree that these changes need to happen.”


Nick Dametto MP