The last inspection of a rotten wooden power pole near Terang, which snapped in moderate winds and caused a bushfire, took just 90 seconds, according to lawyers for the victims.
That inspection happened less than four months before pole No. 4 on the Sparrow Spur line at The Sisters broke off on March 17 last year causing The Sisters/Garvoc bushfire.
Francis Tiernan, QC, made the claim the inspection took just 90 seconds during his opening address in the Supreme Court civil trial at Melbourne on Tuesday against electricity giant Powercor.
He said an inspector outlined in evidence that a full inspection of each pole took 20 to 30 minutes and a top-only inspection between 10 and 15 minutes.
The barrister said it was clear that on November 30, 2017, inspections of poles numbers three, four and five by inspector Peter McFarlane took about 18 minutes - five minutes for pole No. 5, 90 seconds for pole No. 4 and six-and-a-half minutes for pole No. 3.
Mr Tiernan said the pole inspection program was unwieldy and unsophisticated which was incapable of recognising red flag issues.
He said pole No. 4 was never given the attention it required from 2004 onward during five inspections, especially after the 2005 inspection found a good wood reading of just 70mm.
The barrister said the epicentre of rot decay was above the pole's double stakes and should have been detected, but that was simply not possible when the November 30, 2017, inspection took just "a few minutes".
"There was no drilling above the stakes where the internal cavity was at its largest," he said.
Mr Tiernan said if drilling had been conducted "surely the pole would have been removed before it failed".
He claimed the inspections were "inadequate and in many respects indefensible".
The barrister said the ongoing inspection regime was a grave concern as Victoria entered a potential catastrophic bushfire season.
Barrister Tim Margetts, QC, said Powercor had adopted the asset management regime accepted and approved by regulator Energy Safe Victoria.
He said the issue was whether Powercor's actions were a reasonable response to the risk posed and the company claimed it had discharged its duty of care.
The barrister said Powercor had a network of 561,471 power poles, including about 366,000 wooden poles.
Mr Margetts said there were a lot of poles in the system and it was not always possible to predict a failure, especially when the structural failing was above the re-enforced stakes, which was regarded as a highly unusual event.
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