Whitehorse City Council

Overhead Cable Schemes

The majority of the City of Whitehorse was developed prior to 1970 when power and telecommunications cables were installed overhead on poles. The accepted standard since the 1980s has been to install new power and telecommunication cables underground because overhead cables are unsightly and often result in extensive tree pruning to meet clearance regulations. Works to reduce the impact of overhead cables can be carried out through a Special Charge Scheme under the provisions of the Local Government Act.  

What Options are Available to Property Owners?

Two options are available to lessen the impact of overhead cables in a local street: 

  • Undergrounding of cables – overhead cables can be placed underground and street poles removed, which eliminates overhead clutter and the need for tree pruning
  • Bundling of cables – cables can be bundled into one thick aerial cable on the existing poles. Poles remain in the street and service cables to houses remain attached to the poles. Some tree pruning is still required but this is a cheaper option than undergrounding

Street lighting is retained in both instances, which requires light poles to remain.  

How is a Special Charge Scheme Set Up?

Council generally requires a petition from a majority of property owners indicating that they support modifying the overhead cables in their street. Council then asks all property owners whether they are interested in obtaining detailed information about modifying overhead cables as a Special Charge Scheme. If the majority of property owners show interest, then a concept proposal including preliminary costs is prepared for further consultation with owners and service authorities.

Property owners are then given an opportunity to indicate whether they support Council formally giving notice of its ‘Intention to Declare a Special Charge Scheme’, which begins the formal process as required in the Local Government Act. A number of further steps are involved in a Special Charge Scheme and are fully detailed in Council’s Special Charge Scheme Policy, which is available at Council’s Customer Service Centres and website.  

What are the Benefits to Property Owners?

There is a significant improvement to the appearance of a street once overhead cables have been reduced or eliminated. The most noticeable difference is the reduction in tree pruning and there is often improved reliability of service.

What Happens When a Scheme is Introduced?  

Once property owners have indicated their support for the proposed scheme, Council will formally notify owners of its ‘Intention to Declare a Special Charge Scheme’. This means the scheme is publicly advertised and owners, who will be apportioned costs, are given an opportunity to lodge a written submission to Council, either supporting or opposing the scheme.

Council must consider all submissions received and may resolve to adopt, modify or abandon the scheme. If Council adopts the scheme, all owners are notified and given the opportunity to refer their submission to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) for independent review.

VCAT may:

  • Uphold any of the submissions
  • Overrule any submission and approve the scheme with or without modification
  • Abandon the scheme

If the Special Charge Scheme proceeds, contractors carry out construction under the supervision of Council officers.

Who Pays to Modify Overhead Cables?

In the past, the power authority has contributed towards the cost of the works and Council has generally matched that funding. Telecommunication authorities have also funded the costs associated to underground their cables, but this commitment is not guaranteed in the future. The State Government Powerline Relocation Committee may also contribute funding provided the project meets its strict conditions.

Property owners who benefit from the scheme finance the remaining cost. In determining each contribution, an equal cost is apportioned to each property that has a frontage to the street, with half of this cost apportioned to corner properties where the adjoining street is not within the scheme. The cost to connect from the street to each property is determined on a case-by-case basis and is fully funded by the property owner.

When Do Property Owners Have to Pay?

The first payment is due one month after works are complete and a final report has been prepared for Council. Property owners will be given the opportunity to pay the Special Charge by either lump sum or by instalments over a period of time specified by Council. The length of time for paying by instalments depends on the amount of the Special Charge, but is typically ten (10) years for overhead cable under-grounding. Interest is charged on late payments in accordance with the Local Government Act.

For more information on Overhead Cable Schemes, please phone Council on 9262 6333 and ask to speak to the Engineering Department.