Trees on private land

How we preserve trees and vegetation

We do not remove or prune trees on private land.  We do, however, protect and preserve the urban environment by regulating how trees are managed when they are on private property.  

The State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas) 2017 sets out how we are able to preserve trees and vegetation in our local area.

We regulate tree and vegetation preservation to control clearing in urban areas with the aim of protecting trees and prohibiting, without our consent, the:

  • cutting down, felling, uprooting, killing, poisoning, ringbarking, or burning of a tree

  • destruction of vegetation, lopping or otherwise remove of a substantial part of the vegetation

Vegetation means a tree or other vegetation, whether or not it is native vegetation.

The definition of a tree (a prescribed tree) in our Development Control Plan 2015 is:

A perennial plant with a self-supporting stem which has a:

  • height of more than 3 metres and/or

  • a trunk diameter of more than 200mm or more measured 1.0 metre above ground level. 

Apply to remove or prune a tree

Residents must obtain permission to carry out work on a tree in their property by completing a Tree removal/pruning application. Tree-Removal-Application-Form.pdf(PDF, 248KB)

The applicant may be the registered owner of the property on which the tree is growing, persons renting the property or neighbours of the property, however applications received from persons other than the property owner must be endorsed (signed) by the registered property owner.

In completing the application, you must review the information in this section of our website to assess whether the proposed work will be considered or is exempt under State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas) 2017. Depending on the scope of work proposed, you may need to attach a copy of an arborist’s report.  We act as the consent authority only and do not undertake technical reports.

We allow no more than 10% of a tree canopy to be removed without an application being approved (consent).

Fees are payable with any application, unless proof of pensioner status is provided. Pensioners are exempt from paying a fee for an application.

Current fees as set out in our Goods and Services Pricing Schedule 2017/18:

  • 1 to 5 trees: $60.00

  • 6 to 10 trees: $120.00

  • Additional trees over 10 trees: $12.00 each

  • Urgent inspection fee (within 48 hours): $270.00.

Urgent inspection fees cover 1 to 10 trees; for additional trees add $12.00 each. 

Apply to remove trees for building works

We protect and preserve the urban environment by regulating how trees are managed when they are on private property.   If you wish to clear trees for building works associated with a Complying Development Certificate, you must obtain our permission by completing a Tree removal/pruning application and tick the box ‘relates to a proposed Complying Development Certificate (CDC)’

In completing the application, you must review the information in this section of our website to assess whether the proposed work will be considered or is exempt under State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas) 2017.

Your application must include:

  1. a copy of the plans sent to your private certifier, showing the location of the proposed building works and the location of the tree(s) in relation to these works. These plans should include distances from the tree(s) to the proposed building including trees on adjoining properties which may be impacted by the proposed works

  2. a letter from your private certifier stating that the tree(s) cannot be retained and that the works cannot proceed if the trees are retained

  3. a plan (can be incorporated on plan required in point 1) showing the location of the replacement trees (2 trees are required for each tree removed).  This is a requirement of our Tree removal/ pruning application. Please note, a minimum container size of 45 litre trees is required

  4. a plan (can be incorporated on plan required in point 1) indicating other trees within the property to be retained and neighbouring property trees within the vicinity of the proposed building. Documentation in which these trees will be protected in line with AS 4970-2009 ‘Protection of trees on development sites’ should be supplied and in line withState Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008Schedule 6 Part 1 (6) Tree Protection Measures.

We will not permit the removal of an otherwise significant healthy tree or element of bushland where reasonable alternatives exist on site, or where the tree is of such significance that protection is warranted.

If we do not consent to removal of the tree, you can lodge a development application for the proposed building work.  This allows the matter to be considered in more detail, and where removal is warranted it allows the work to be linked to the development.  Allowing for a more rigorous consideration of the issue as part of a development application is one of the safeguards built into the exempt and complying provisions.

Here is a useful fact sheet from NSW Planning & Environment about tree protection and removal requirements.   It explains the requirements for tree removal and protection which apply to buildings approved as complying development.

When you can prune a neighbour's tree

First you need to establish whether the tree is protected by the under State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas) 2017.

If it is, you will need to ask the owner to apply, or for their permission to apply, to us as set out under ‘Apply to prune or remove a tree on private land’(PDF, 248KB).

 We will allow up to 10% of a trees canopy to be removed without consent provided that: 

  • you inform the owner of the tree before carrying out the pruning

  • you do not unnecessarily damage the tree in the process

  • you do not enter onto your neighbour’s property without their consent

If more branches need to be removed you will require consent from your neighbour and us via lodging a tree removal/pruning application.

If your neighbour does not agree to your request, you may apply to have the matter dealt with under the Trees (Disputes between Neighbours) Act 2006

Trees (Disputes between neighbours) Act 2006

Many disputes occur between neighbours about trees which overhang property boundaries, contact and/or damage buildings or where roots have lifted pavements, driveways and/or blocked underground sewer or stormwater pipes.

Most of these disputes can be resolved by talking the matter through and where relevant consulting with us.  We cannot, however, act as a mediator or make decisions on tree disputes between neighbours.

If the matter cannot be resolved mutually, the next step is for neighbours to participate in voluntary mediation through the Community Justice Centre (CJC). Mediation provided by the CJC is free, informal and does not require lawyers. The CJC can be contacted on 1800 990 777 or visit their website at:  http://www.cjc.nsw.gov.au/cjc/com_justice_index.html

Where mediation fails, the parties may be required to consider more formal dispute resolution processes through the Trees (Disputes between Neighbours) Act 2006 in the Land and Environment Court

We can provide an information package to a resident outlining the process to resolve the matter through the Trees (Dispute between Neighbours) Act 2006 . This Act puts forward a set of logical steps which can be used to resolve the matter without lengthy and expensive legal battles.

This information is provided as a general guide, and specific situations may vary. It should not be relied on as legal advice. Read the Trees (Dispute between Neighbours) Act 2006 for more information and if you require specific advice you should seek your own legal advice from a practicing lawyer or solicitor. 

How we assess tree applications

The State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas) 2017 sets out how we will review and assess requests for tree pruning or removal.

We will schedule a site inspection

On receipt of your application, we will organise for one of our Tree officers to inspect the subject trees.   This inspection will not require you to be present; however we are happy to meet with you if you specifically request a meeting on site.  We will, however, contact you if there is difficulty accessing the site or more information is needed.

The State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas) 2017 requires us to determine an application for a permit within 28 days of receipt.  Applications are inspected in the order in which they are received, but you may choose to pay the additional ‘Urgent’ fee to have your application assessed within 48 hours of lodgement.  

Note:

  • Urgent applications lodged after 10am on any Friday will not been assessed until the following Monday.

  • Urgent inspections will not be done when applying for tree removals associated with Complying Development Certificate (CDC).

We complete a visual tree assessment

Our Tree Officers do not complete technical reports or risk assessment of trees within private property; these must be completed by a qualified Arborist.  We will only inspect the tree from ground level and complete a Visual Tree Assessment (VTA).  Our Tree Officers interpretation of each consideration is based on industry practice and peer review, and not solely on the applicant’s opinion of the tree.

They determine if consent is approved based on:

  • is the tree remanent native vegetation?

  • does the tree fulfil its original purpose in the landscape?

  • is the tree significant to the site or surrounding area?

  • privacy or screening – are the trees planted as part of Development consent?

  • consideration of a trees health, structure and condition. The estimated remaining life span. Is the tree young, semi mature, mature or over mature?

  • whether there is suitable growing space?  How much space will the tree require in the future as it grows, if it is retained as existing, in the long term?

  • can relocation of, or repairs to the adjacent structure or pipes be achieved without tree works?

  • will pruning, routine maintenance (deadwood removal or fruit removal) or the use of alternative technologies (pipe relining, root barriers, etc.) resolve the issue?

  • where submitted independent information from qualified consultants in the industry. This is in the form of an Arborist report.

Our determination will be in writing

No work can be undertaken until we provide our written approval.

Consent will generally not be given to remove a tree where:

  • a tree is shedding leaves, fruit or bark, as this is considered a natural process

  • a tree is causing minor damage to property (e.g. driveways/fences/pathways)

  • the objective is to improve a view

  • there are unsubstantiated fears about large trees

  • a tree is causing blockage to pipes

  • a tree is causing minor shading

  • it is assessed for removal  as part of a Development Application (DA). The DA process will determine tree removals.

  • the tree does not suit the existing or proposed landscape

Where permission is granted by us to remove trees on your land we will generally require replacement trees to be planted within 12 months of removing any tree/s. This is a condition of consent. 

Request a review of our determination  

If your application to remove or prune a tree is refused, you have a right of appeal under the provisions Section 82A of the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979.

A Request for review of determination can only be made by the applicant shown on the original application. We must receive the request within 6 months of the date shown on your original application determination notice, or made within 28 days if you are seeking a review of a modification determination. A request for review of determination can only be made once on each determination.

To request a review complete a Tree review application and pay the applicable tree review fee which is 50% of the original application fee. At this point you may raise any additional information not considered in the initial application. We recommend that at this stage an independent assessment on the tree from a suitably qualified AQF Level 5 Arborist is submitted with your review, or a structural engineers report about your dwelling.

Our Open Space Policy and Tree Management Coordinator and/or Officer will re-inspect the tree/s giving consideration to any additional information against the criteria set out under ‘How we assess tree applications.

We will notify the applicant of the final decision in writing. 

If we reject your appeal, you can lodge a further appeal to the Land and Environment Court.

Note: If you are seeking a review to remove a tree(s) that has been conditioned to be retained on an approved development application (DA), please contact our Development Services Section on 9839 6000. 

How we deal with unauthorised tree removals or pruning

Any person acting contrary to the State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas) 2017 will be liable to prosecution unless it can be demonstrated to us that the tree was dying or dead or had become dangerous in a manner that it is imminently about to fall. In the event of prosecution, it will not be a sufficient defence that the species was not appropriately identified by a qualified person.

Under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act (1979) we are able to:

  • issue on-the-spot fines (penalty infringement notices enforced through the State Debt Recovery Office).  Where there is a breach of development consent (that includes tree removal without consent), fines of up to $3,000 for individuals and $6,000 for corporations may be issued.

  • instigate court proceedings for the unauthorised damage (including intentional damage) or removal of a protected tree or vegetation.  Penalties of up to 10,000 penalty units may apply if dealt with in the Land and Environment Court or up to 1,000 penalty units if dealt with in the Local Court.  The 2017 value of a penalty unit is $110.

Tree and vegetation policy exemptions

A permit or approval is not required to remove a tree that is classified as:

  • ‘dead’ - means a tree that is no longer alive and is not a habitat tree (means a tree which contain hollows used by forest fauna)

  • ‘dying tree’ - means a tree that is in such an advanced state of decline due to damage or disease—where an insufficient amount of live tissue, green leaves, limbs or branches exists to sustain life—that death is unavoidable. Evidence is required.

  • ‘dangerous tree’ - means it is in imminent danger from falling and the action is necessary to protect human life, buildings or other property

  • trees within 3 metres of an approved structure (evidence is required). The structure must be on the land where the tree is sited

  • pruning of less than 10% of the canopy or root system up to once every growing season and only of branches less than 100 millimetres in diameter

  • inserting of root barriers, when this will result in less than 10% of the root system being removed and up to once every growing season

  • the removal or pruning is an action required or allowed to be carried out by or under the Rural Fires Act 1997 without development consent

  • ·vegetation which does not meet the definition of tree as outlined in section 4.3 of our development control plan

  • any topping, lopping or removing of trees required to comply with a direction under the Electricity Supply Act 1995, any other Act of Parliament or complying with a direction from any emergency service including the State Emergency Service

  • the removal of torn limbs or dead wood, such as individual branches, but does not include whole trees

  • excavation in accordance with the conditions in the AS 4970-2009 Protection of Trees on development sites.

The 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code of Practice

New laws are now in place allowing residents in certain areas to clear vegetation from around their home to reduce the risk of bush fire.

The new laws allow people in designated 10/50 vegetation clearing entitlement areas to:

  • clear trees on their property within 10 metres of a home, without seeking approval

  • clear underlying vegetation such as shrubs (but not trees) on their property within 50 metres of a home, without seeking approval.

Landowners must check the NSW Rural Fire Service website and open the ‘online tool’ to find out if their property is within the clearing entitlement area.

All clearing must be in line with the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code of Practice (PDF, 450kb). You must read the code and apply all relevant conditions to your property.

If you are concerned that vegetation on land near you may be placing your property at risk from bushfires, you can request an inspection by an officer from the NSW Rural Fire Service by lodging a Bushfire Hazard Complaint.

The 3 organisations listed below keep registers of consulting and practising Arborist and may be useful for sourcing an Arborist to assess and report on trees, supervise works on or adjacent to trees, or for professional pruning or tree removal.

Disclaimer: we do not endorse or recommend any provider or warrant that any service providers are suitable or appropriately qualified. Individuals and organisations should conduct their own review process before choosing or engaging any listed service provider and do so at their own risk.