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Removal of trees without council consent could result in fines

Updated: Mar 31

Council is serious about protecting trees, so much so that removing a tree without going through the proper legal procedures could result in a hefty fine.

Yes, that's how much you could be fined if you were to remove trees on a whim. It's clear Council is serious about protecting our greenery, so before you even think about removing a tree that's in the way of your building plans, please do your research, or consult a professional arborist about the correct procedures.

In fact, you can't just get anyone who claims to be an arborist. You actually need a report from a certified (AQF Level 5) Arborist to support your application for tree removal and even tree pruning on a residential or business property. This can be done online, and if your application is approved you will be issued a permit in writing.

Accomplished Tree Management, tree removals in Port Macquarie

Areas that require permit for removing trees

Check your land zoning. You need to know which zone you are in because the authority responsible for assessing and deciding whether you can remove a tree or not depends on the zone you are in.

These are the areas that are controlled by Council, so you're going to need to apply for a permit if you want to remove anything:

  • General Residential - R1

  • Low Density Residential - R2

  • Medium Density Residential - R3

  • High Density Residential - R4

  • Large Lot Residential - R5

  • Village - RU5

  • Industrial - IN1, IN2, IN3 and IN4

  • Business - B1, B2, B3, B4, B5, B6 and B7

  • Environmental - E1, E2, E3 and E4

  • Recreation - RE 1 and RE2

  • Special Purpose - SP1

Go to Local Land Services to request for a permit.

These areas are not under Council's control:

  • Primary Production - RU1

  • Rural landscape - RU 2

  • Forestry - RU3

  • Transition - RU6

Criteria for assessing tree removals

It's not the luck of the draw with the Council when they are deciding your case for tree removal. There are some very practical considerations they assess when they receive an application. This applies to tree pruning as well as tree removal.

  1. Is the tree dead? Or sick? Perhaps it could be a hazard? If so, this needs to be supported by a qualified professional arborist. The arborist will come down to fully assess the situation and draw up a report to justify that there is indeed something seriously damaging about the tree. So you absolutely cannot 'get rid of' a tree just because it's in the way of your building plans or doesn't complement your aesthetics. We have human rights, animal rights, and our greenery also have their right to be protected.

  2. When the tree gets bigger or fully mature, will they exceed the space they are in, and could that cause potential problems to either the tree itself or the infrastructure? Don't forget, Mother Nature's will to life is strong and strong tree roots can even crack concrete. This is why even before planting or transplanting anything, it is important to think ahead and consider all factors and possible situations. It is recommendable to consult an arborist if you are not familiar with this so you don't waste time or money unnecessarily in the future trying to correct a mistake.

  3. Is the tree unfortunately growing in an unsuitable environment or is there overcrowding? Is it affecting the other vegetation around it? Again, reminder to think before you plant. Always.

  4. Is there clear evidence of damage to utilities and/or services? You don't want to have a nasty electricity or water problem on your hands, and if a tree really needs to go, you need to provide proper evidence to show it. Your qualified arborist can help out here.

  5. Is the tree affecting any solar heating appliances around it? Sometimes giving the tree a trim would be enough. An arborist can recommend the best option to take, bearing in mind we always try to keep tree removal as a last option when nothing else better can work.

Why did Council reject my application?

If your application got rejected, it's not because Council is trying to make your life miserable. There are some common situations where applications tend to get rejected, and if you are not sure about these, speak to your arborist about your situation.

If the tree is an important home to animals and offers environmental benefits, then that tree cannot be touched. This is not too difficult to empathise with. After all, you wouldn't want someone bulldozing down your house just because it's in the way or blocking a nice view! We sometimes forget that a tree is more than a trunk and lots of leaves and a bunch of roots. It's home to so many creatures, and if you are one of those who like nature walks, you'll understand this well enough. Observe a tree the next time you go walking and see how many neighbours you can spot living in just one single tree alone. We bet you our last dollar you'll find way more than just a trail of ants on that tree.

Did you know there are trees classified as 'koala food trees'? These are protected. Find out more about them in the Development Control Plan. Koalas feed exclusively on just a few specific tree species. If these trees reduce, it will affect the survival rate of the koalas. So it is important to know which trees are koala food trees and to protect them.

If removing the tree means the landscape would be adversely affected, then the tree wins and it gets to stay. This is typically the case if it's located along a creek, front boundaries, ridgelines or rural views.

The criteria listed above is really the clearest guide for tree removal, which means that if your situation does not match any of those stated, we wouldn't hold on to much hope that your application would be approved.

enemies of the council

Believe it or not, there are some trees Council does not care much to 'protect'. Some of you may be amused by a black list of Noxious, Undesirable and Exempt Tree Species(PDF, 291KB). These naughty trees are not protected by Council, and you don't need an application to get rid of them. Actually, in the first place, you really shouldn't even be planting them on your land! Not all of us are tree experts, so do double check with your arborist if you suspect you have one of these on your land.

Check for certification

At Accomplished Tree Management, we have always taken pride in caring for nature the right way, and this also means giving our clients clear and transparent information so they can make well-informed decisions, and we also respect the laws of the areas we find our projects in.

We are fully qualified and adhere to the Australian standards of AS 4373-2007-Pruning of Amenity Trees and we are also a registered user of the Quantified Tree Risk Assessment (QTRA) method.

We hold the following qualifications:

  • AQF 2 Arboriculture

  • AQF 3 Arboriculture

  • AQF 5 Arboriculture

  • All our pruning and climbing techniques are AS 4373-2007 Pruning of Amenity Trees compliant.

  • ​Reports on development sites are compliant with Australian Standard AS4970-2009 (Protection of Trees on Development Sites)

  • Registered user of Quantified Tree Risk Assessment (QTRA) Method

If you are unsure of what to do about a potential tree removal or pruning situation in your area, speak to us. A proper consultation can help give you peace of mind to know what is the next best step to take.

We have a variety of different tree maintenance services - please contact Accomplished Tree Management to find out more.


About Accomplished Tree Management: Tel 0411 443 535

Accomplished Tree Management is based in Port Macquarie and services the Mid North Coast. With over 16 years of experience, we employ safe work methods and are certified with Australian AS 4373-2007-Pruning of Amenity Trees standards. We're fully insured with $20 million Public Liability and $5 million Professional Indemnity Insurance. We provide the following tree services -

  • Tree management - tree removals, palm tree services, council permits

  • Tree and garden maintenance - hedging, pruning, deadwooding, stump grinding

  • Tree consultation - arboricultural reports, hazard assessment


This article is written by Vermilion Pinstripes, a sales marketing and communications agency based in Port Macquarie helping businesses thrive with brand confidence.


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