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Court imposes fine on Powercor over Terang fire

15 December 2021

Electricity distributor Powercor has been convicted and fined $130,000 for a fire in Terang that destroyed close to 6000 hectares on St Patrick’s Day, 2018.

ESV appreciates the contributions of victims of that fire who, in some cases, re-lived the trauma of the fire as they read victim impact statements to Warrnambool Magistrates Court.

ESV laid charges against Powercor under section 98 of the Electricity Safety Act after the St Patrick’s Day fires at Terang and Garvoc for failing to comply with its general duty and exposing individuals to hazards and risks including bushfire risk. This case was the first of its kind under the Electricity Safety Act.

ESV has met with many of the victims.

The Terang fire occurred on 17 March 2018, St Patrick’s Day. The fire was caused by the clashing of high voltage conductors near the tee of a pole on the south side of High Street in Terang. The grass fire burnt through the localities of Dixie, Cobrico, Cobden, Elingamite, North Elingamite, Glenfyne, Jancourt and Scott’s Creek. The total area burnt was estimated to be 5797 hectares with an approximate perimeter in excess of 80 kilometres.

ESV has since rejected a proposal by Powercor to increase its power pole interventions (both replacement and reinforcement) by over 22,000 over the next five years. The ESV Commission has required Powercor to submit a bushfire mitigation plan demonstrating how it will increase interventions to a minimum of 34,000, a four-fold increase in interventions in hazardous bushfire risk areas.

The ESV Commission is due to give consideration to a revised Powercor bushfire mitigation plan next week.

ESV Commissioner and Chairperson Marnie Williams

“There were no winners in this case. Powercor needs to do better. We cannot afford another fire caused by poorly maintained electrical assets.

“I appreciate the bravery of those who read out victim impact statements to the Court. I can assure those people as well as everyone who lives in those communities that were affected by the St Patrick’s Day Fires that ESV has taken steps to require change.

“ESV has required Powercor to quadruple their power pole interventions in hazardous bushfire risk areas. ESV is confident that if Powercor meets its new obligations, this will make a material difference to preventing grass fires and bushfires caused by power poles.”

Media Contact

Jonathan Granger 0400 948 934 | jonathan.granger@energysafe.vic.gov.au

Click here to download it as a PDF.