Tuesday, April 15, 2008

A corporation's idea of a tree

"I think that I will never see a poem as lovely as a ... powerpole." The world according to Energy Australia.

The electricity supplier in our area, a working class suburb in the St George area of Sydney, has just been through in one of its periodic tree massacres in the name of preventing interruptions to power supplies during windy and stormy weather.

It's hard to argue with that, but it would be nice to think that this corporation had any idea of what a tree should look like, the differences between various trees, and how they should be pruned.

It doesn't, of course. Like all corporations its sole concern is to minimise costs and maximise profits. To that end it seems to issue a contract for tree pruning to the lowest bidder, issue some cursory guidelines as to how far the offending foliage should stay from the power (and cable television) lines and tell them, "gentlemen, start your chainsaws".

Exhibit 1. This is a date palm near my home. It's a type of tree that has adapted over thousands of years to high winds and only drops fronds when they are dead, and even then only after months of hanging beside the tree. In a decade of living near this tree I've never seen it drop anything in a high wind. A sensitive approach would be to come around about twice a year and remove any fronds that are dead or dying and likely to fall in the near future. Instead, our friendly energy corporation gets out the tape measure, deems this miscreant to be breaking the rules, and shears everything off one side. Great stuff, Enery Australia, thanks for your contribution to beautifying our neighbourhood!

Exhibit 2. This is one of a group of trees that provide shade to people walking (yes, people still do that) along the street on hot summer days. It has thick foliage, has been trimmed by Energy Australia many times and doesn't seem to suffer too much, but why oh why have the trimmers left that one lonely branch growing out to the right? Would the execs at Energy Australia trim a tree like that in their own garden? Very unlikely, so why do it to our neighbourhood? No doubt this is the corporation's idea of the perfect tree, observing a respectful distance from the power lines and outside that nothing matters. It obviously doesn't matter to Energy Australia.

Exhibits 3 and 4. A couple of calistemons that have been given the full treatment. (See one of these at the top of this post, a particularly lovely example of Engergy Australia's handiwork). Some trees seem to get reasonable treatment from the Energy Australia contractors, and perhaps skill varies between various operators of the chainsaw, but these trees have been done over brutally. Branches that are nowhere near the powerlines have been cut and almost nothing is left of their foliage. New growth is unlikely until spring, and it will be a struggle for these two trees to survive winter, which is just beginning.

We all use power and don't want interruptions to the power supply, but how about a bit of training for your tree loppers, Energy Australia? Cheap and nasty isn't nearly good enough.