Pruning and Removing Trees Frequently Asked Questions

Can I prune my neighbour’s tree?

If the tree is protected by the WLEP 2012 Tree and Bushland Preservation you will need to ask the owner for their permission. If they agree you may lodge an application as long as they sign it or provide a letter of support. If they do not agree to your request, it becomes a matter for the Community Justice Centre. Council does not mediate in these matters. Please note that new tree dispute laws recently came into force. The Land and Environment Court can provide details on these laws. 

If the tree is not protected under the WLEP 2012 Tree and Bushland Preservation, then under Common Law you can prune the tree provided that:

  • You inform the owner of the tree before carrying out the pruning
  • You return all branches and fruit to the owner
  • You do not unnecessarily damage the tree in the process
  • You do not trespass onto your neighbour’s property

Can I lop or top a tree?

You should never lop a tree except in emergency situations.

Lopping creates problems such as:

  • Increased pest and disease
  • Poorly attached regrowth that can fall without warning
  • Death to part of the root system, or an increase in feeder root growth
  • Increased cost and frequency of maintenance
  • Reduction in the tree’s lifespan
  • Decreased sunlight as the remaining branches produce extra leaves
  • Loss of the tree’s attractiveness and natural shape

Most applications to lop or top all or part of a tree will be refused for these reasons, especially when there are other options.

How do I apply to remove or prune a tree?

Submit the Tree Pruning / Removal/ Transplanting Form to Council along with the application fee and any supporting documentation. The applicant will be advised of the decision in writing. No work can be undertaken until written authority is received.

The application must include:

  • Your name and contact details
  • Whether or not you own the tree
  • Where the tree is located
  • The reason for your request
  • Any other relevant information such as arborist reports or structural engineers reports

Council may consider granting consent to remove or prune a tree where:

  • A tree is likely to cause substantial property damage to houses or buildings
  • There is substantial evidence that a tree is structurally unstable and is a high degree of hazard (arborist report and testing may be required for significant trees)
  • The tree is causing substantial and continuing structural damage to a dwelling or structure (structural engineering assessment may be required)
  • Where the tree is in poor and declining health (with a short life expectancy) and there are no options to mitigate the decline in health

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 (eg 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
  • To allow for a proposed development (this would be considered under the development assessment process and is not a valid reason for removal under the WLEP 2012 Tree and Bushland Preservation)
  • The tree does not suit the existing or proposed landscape
  • Where permission is granted Council will generally require a replacement tree to be planted. What can be planted will be subject to other Council documents and factors such as native species and Heritage Conservation areas

How long will my tree pruning / removal / transplanting application take?

It usually takes between 10 and 15 days to have your application assessed. Bad weather or busy workloads may result in a longer wait. Applications are inspected in the order in which they are received.

Will Council staff make an appointment with me to inspect the tree on site?

If you specifically request a meeting on site, one can be arranged. Council may also contact you if there is difficulty accessing the site or more information is needed. Otherwise Council assumes that all necessary information was sent in the application and will not make an appointment to inspect.

What do Council staff look at when assessing tree applications?

In determining an application Council Officers take into consideration, but not limited to, the following matters relevant to the application:

  1. The health, safety and amenity of the occupants of the property
  2. The contribution of the tree to the existing and possible future amenity of the property and surrounding area
  3. The health and structural condition of the tree
  4. Whether the tree is suitable for the location given potential size, soil type and other site conditions
  5. Whether the tree has caused or will be likely to cause damage to property, and the potential extent of that damage
  6. The viability of replacement tree planting
  7. Whether reasonable alternative options are available to avoid the necessity for tree removal
  8. The existence and suitability of other trees on the property
  9. Relevant Environmental Planning Legislation, Instruments and Policies

How can you appeal against a Council decision on your application?

If you are dissatisfied with a decision or any conditions attached to a consent, a written request together with payment of appropriate fee for review of Council’s determination may be made to the General Manager within 28 days of the date of the determination.  Your second application should include any additional information not initially included. The matter will be considered by a different Council officer.

What are the penalties for a breach of the WLEP 2012 Tree and Bushland Preservation?

If you remove, damage, top or lop a tree or change the soil levels around the base of a tree, you may be liable to a fine of up to $1.1 million in the Land and Environment Court, or on the spot fines may be issued. In addition, the court may direct you to plant new trees and maintain them in a healthy state until mature, as well as providing a monetary security for the performance of this obligation. You may also be liable to a penalty for engaging a contractor to do the work on your behalf.