Western Power silent on fairness of making private property owners responsible for power poles

Headshot of Madeleine Clark
Madeleine ClarkKalgoorlie Miner
Western Power workers prepare to install a power pole on an Addis Street property last week.
Camera IconWestern Power workers prepare to install a power pole on an Addis Street property last week. Credit: Carwyn Monck/Kalgoorlie Miner

Western Power is reviewing its policy of “gifting” power poles to private property owners but won’t say whether it believes this practice, and putting the subsequent maintenance responsibility on homeowners, is fair or not.

The power company has been issuing pole defect notices to Kalgoorlie-Boulder residents for the past two months, and installing new poles on people’s properties.

Last week it said it would install a pole on the property neighbouring that of Addis Street resident Rob Miller, who had told the Kalgoorlie Miner he would not accept responsibility for a pole being placed on his property, and would cut it down if it was installed.

Mr Miller also said he would not pay for half the undergrounding costs as an alternative.

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Mr Miller was not alone in his concerns about the situation, with many other residents taking to Facebook to question the defect notices.

People complained they were being issued pole replacement notices for small areas of rust or surface rust at the base of the pole.

Questions were also raised about whether or not the poles were made of materials appropriate for the area’s harsh soil.

In response to questions put to it by the Kalgoorlie Miner, a Western Power spokesperson said the energy provider was reviewing the current practice of installing consumer poles on private property.

“This includes investigating the alternate option of installing Western Power poles in the adjacent verge, or undergrounding, where possible,” they said.

Kalgoorlie-Boulder homeowner Rob Miller refused Western Power’s proposition to install a power pole on his property in Addis Street.
Camera IconKalgoorlie-Boulder homeowner Rob Miller refused Western Power’s proposition to install a power pole on his property in Addis Street. Credit: Carwyn Monck/Kalgoorlie Miner

“While there are no immediate plans for undergrounding in the broader Kalgoorlie-Boulder area, there is the option as part of the Retrospective Undergrounding Projects for local government to engage Western Power on undergrounding projects.

“Western Power is also expanding its network-driven undergrounding transformation methodology to include locations outside of the Perth metro area to be prioritised within the Targeted Underground Power Program.”

The spokesperson said poles were selected to be suitable for all normal soils the energy provider encountered in WA.

Defect notices indicated whether homeowners needed to replace their pole within 30 days or 90 days depending on the severity of the pole’s wear or damage.

If homeowners did not comply within the time frame, they might have their power connection cut off until they did.

The spokesperson said this was because Western Power had a duty to protect the community.

“In rare cases, they have to disconnect the power supply as a last resort to mitigate the risk of them causing any harm to the community or starting a bushfire,” they said.

“Financial support is available for customers experiencing hardship — contact Western Power for more information on 13 10 87.”

Each pole services two houses and the expectation is that both homeowners share the burden of the pole’s upkeep, however, it is only an expectation that cost of maintenance is shared between neighbours — it is not mandated.

“Property owners have a duty of care to inspect, maintain and replace all of their private poles as they would any privately owned asset,” the spokesperson said.

“The technical requirements and practices for the safe management of privately owned power poles are detailed by State electricity safety regulator, Building and Energy.”

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