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Updated: Mar 31

Trees Rule - Know Your Laws Before You Build

Don't build until you understand these tree removal permits required - Mid North Coast NSW
Don't build until you understand these tree removal permits required. Image courtesy of Pexels PhotoMix Ltd

When you see a tree on a site where you have plans to begin construction, what do you do?

Or perhaps you have an open site and you are wondering what trees to plant on it. As much as you may wish to let your imagination flow and decide to do as you wish, be advised that trees hold more weight than one may be aware of.

There are regulations in place to protect trees and also ensure the safety of the property and people on a building site.

First of all, you need to know the definition or classification of a tree.

A tree on private land is one where:

  • It has a lifecycle of more than two years.

  • It is at least 3 metres in height.

  • It has a trunk diameter of 100mm.

  • It is a cycad or mangrove.

Trees can give character to an area and it is necessary for councils to have laws to protect trees. It is also clear the need to respect nature when we have trees that are extremely large, very old or are a rare species. Some have ecological value. Others may even have cultural or historical significance that is unique to the area they are in.

Considerations when Removing Trees to make way for a new building

Let´s begin with the rules for removing trees on a building site. Now that you have identified a living vegetation as a tree, and let's say you are considering removing it. You will need to apply for permission from the Port Macquarie-Hastings Council. This goes for pruning a tree as well. This is serious business, and anyone who removes trees without going through the proper legal procedures could find themselves in quite a sticky mess with prosecutions and fines of up to $110,000.

In fact, trees are protected even from activities which may be in any way harmful to them. Before carrying out any activity on your building site, you may wish to consider if these activities may cause the trees injury, disease or even (accidentally) kill them.

Tree Removal Application with Council

If you are applying to the council for tree removal, remember your application may require an additional report from a private industry qualified arborist, like Accomplished Tree Management. The minimum qualification is an AQF Level 5 Diploma Horticulture (Arboriculture). Accomplished Tree Management provides Arboricultural Reports for such purposes.

Note that while you are waiting for the Council to give you approval for any works done on trees, you must not start work until you have received the approval itself.

The only trees that do not come under the protection of the law are what is known as noxious or undesirable trees. The name speaks for itself. They are basically invasive species and damaging to the areas around them.

Dead trees also do not require a permit. However, unless you are a trained, experienced arborist, it is not easy to know if a tree is dead. At Accomplished Tree Management, we help our clients identify the condition of the trees on their property. We provide consultancy services to help clients ensure their activities satisfy council requirements. Once you have ascertained a tree is indeed dead, it is wise to acquire the services of a professional arborist to help remove your tree. Nearly 1,000 people are injured by chain saws in Australia every year. Doing it yourself is dangerous and a dead tree that is not correctly removed is like leaving rotten bits of a diseased tooth in the gums.

Planting New Trees

Avoid planting noxious trees

What if you have a brand new open site and you wish to start adding some greenery to it? As mentioned above, there are trees considered to be noxious and undesirable whose removals are not covered by the law. This conversely also means that it is not a good idea to plant these species on your brand new property. Check this list of noxious trees to avoid.

It can be very tempting to plan your greenery based solely on aesthetic reasons. We recommend speaking to a professional arborist because they are experienced in a variety of conditions, scenarios, and situations and there is a practical side to their way of seeing things that are necessary to avoid future problems with trees grown in inappropriate places.

Avoid planting trees too close to water pipes

A simple example is planting trees too close to water pipes. We have often seen how powerful tree roots are. They can even break through concrete given time. And time they absolutely do have. So your baby tree may look pleasant where it is now, in a few years you may find yourself with a costly problem on your hands having to replace blocked or broken pipes.

It is also necessary to ensure trees have enough space for their roots to develop a healthy root system. Perhaps they may not damage your infrastructure but the area may not be sufficient for a tree to grow healthy roots. It would mean an unhealthy tree in a few years or one with a very short life span.

Avoid intrusive tree species

Some tree species are more enthusiastic than others - check out this list of intrusive species to avoid. You do not want an Amazonian jungle suddenly eating up your property. It would also be useful to understand if certain species of trees may be subject to certain pests or diseases. Planting a delicate tree that requires extra care may not be practical in the long run. Choose trees that are resistant to pests and diseases. You can look around you to see which varieties of trees are already thriving in your area and that is a good indication that that species is a safe one to plant, as opposed to choosing an exotic species which may not survive well.

An experienced arborist knows the protocols required for new vegetation in a variety of areas with different infrastructure. If you are planning to add some greenery to a new property, speak to us and understand how to best incorporate trees and vegetation to your property that is legal, safe and beneficial in the long term.

Why rely on an arborist?

They work closely with councils to help manage the greenery in each area. Accomplished Tree Management carries out assessments of trees on a property and assists councils by ensuring that any new construction work in an area with trees aligns with the council´s planning principles. What we do is we provide reports for tree removal applications, we conduct risk assessments for trees that may be deemed to be dangerous to people or property, we inspect trees that have been picked out for pruning, and we also check and make an inventory of the trees in an area.

Getting permission to remove a tree or checking to see if certain species of trees are appropriate for your new site may require time (especially so if they are a Cycad or Mangrove species) but it is time well-invested. We are here to help you make the most of your property and integrate nature into your site. Managing trees is our passion and by showing nature its due respect, we can enjoy so much of what trees can offer us.

Speak to us or call Rhys on 0411 443 535 if you need a guide with trees on your property.

If you are interested to learn more about Cyads in Australia, refer to the Palm & Cycad Society of Australia Inc. (PACSOA).

Do you know that mangroves are protected in New South Wales (NSW) under the Fisheries Management Act 1994? To know more about Mangroves in NSW, download this fact sheet.

Cyads may be protected by Australian law. Cyad photo by Vermilion Pinstripes
Cyads may be protected by Australian law. Cyad photo by Vermilion Pinstripes

Trees Rule - Know Your Laws before you Build 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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