Trees and vegetation on the Northern Beaches, even those on private land, are protected by your area’s Local Environmental Plan. However, there’s quite a lot you can do legally if you want to carry out tree work on your own property.
What you can do without Council Permit
You can remove trees without a permit in the following circumstances. The tree is:
Under 5 metres in height
On the Exempt Tree Species List.
In an area in which the Council has authorised their removal as part of a hazard reduction program, where that removal is necessary in order to manage risk
Required to be removed under other legislation (including the NSW Rural Fires Act 1997 and the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979)
Removed by Rural Fire Services because they pose or will pose a significant threat to access along required fire trails or to human life, buildings or other property during a bushfire
Placed where the base of the trunk of the tree at ground level, is located within two metres of an existing approved building (not including decks, pergolas, sheds, patios or the like, even if they are attached to a building).
Is considered a high risk/imminent danger certified by a Level 5 qualified arborist. These trees can be removed without Council consent by the owner of the tree subject to the owner obtaining written confirmation from the arborist that clearly states:
a) The arborist qualifications: AQF Level 5 Arborist or equivalent
b) That the tree(s) is declared a ‘high risk’ or is an imminent danger to life and property
c) That immediate removal of the tree(s) is recommended
d) A copy of the report must be sent to Council for record keeping purpose
Any tree on the bio security species listing
Dead - photographic evidence recommended
Has fallen or partially fallen as a result of a storm and still present a danger (photos required)
Part of the pruning or removal of hedges (unless hedge is conditioned to be retained in a development consent). “Hedge” means groups of two or more trees that:
(a) are planted (whether in the ground or otherwise) so as to form a hedge, and
(b) rise to a height of at least 2.5 metres (above existing ground level).
Pruning and Clearing
You can prune trees or clear vegetation in the following circumstances:
- Reasonable pruning of up to 10% of a tree's canopy within 12 calendar months. Pruning must be in accordance with Australian Standards AS 4373 – 2007
- The removal of deadwood from a tree
- Removal of any species of parasite mistletoe or parasitic plant from any part of a tree
- It meets the criteria of other legislations eg under 10/50 Legislation some clearing of vegetation is allowed if your property is mapped in the 10/50 entitlement area.
Note: Public and private bushland is protected under Council's Development Control plan and requires consent to remove or clear understorey vegetation.
What you can do if you have Council Permit
Council may permit to the removal of trees in the following circumstances:
A qualified arborist report is delivered with all applications to remove significant trees
Removing unsuitable or hazardous trees
Removing trees in conflict with built structures where all engineering alternatives have been considered
Pruning and Crowning
Council may permit to:
Crown-thinning for views, solar, pedestrian or vehicular access
Maintenance pruning to remove dead, diseased or dying branches
Selective pruning to remove branches causing conflict, like building encroachment
Root pruning to reduce damage to built and natural structures
Pruning for service lines, vehicle sight line and Roads and Maritime Services requirements.
A Permit is Required for the Following:
Any tree or native vegetation which is a threatened species, threatened species habitat or is part of an Endangered Ecological Community as defined under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995
Any tree which is a heritage item or that is within a heritage conservation area as defined by searching the Planning Rules for your address
Any tree specifically identified to be retained as a condition of development consent for building or works or subdivisions
What Council will Not Permit
Council will not approve:
Tree work without signature of owner or their agent on application
Removing healthy, stable trees or trees for views
Removing trees for solar access, leaf, fruit or sap drop, bird or bat droppings, or damage to sewer pipes or built structures
Removing trees for allergies unless they can be medically linked by a specialist doctor
Removal of trees for fences, footpaths, or driveways
Removal of trees in bushland or understorey vegetation without a permit
Removal of trees where they do not meet the criteria of the permit
Pruning, Clearing and Alteration
Pruning of trees contrary to Australian Standards 4373
Pruning beyond what a particular species will tolerate, eg figs pruned by more than 10% are predisposed to sunburn
Requests for topping of trees
Alteration of soil levels within a tree’s drip line
Tree work for emotive reasons
How do I get a Permit for Tree Removal or Pruning
If you would like to prune or remove a tree, first check the exemptions. If the tree is not exempt, you need to complete an application and have the property owners consent. If you wish to be at the property when the Council officer attends there is a fee of $85.
What if I have Concerns about a Neighbour's Tree?
Council has no authority to act in disputes between neighbours. It is always best to talk to your neighbours first even if you are only pruning less than 10% of overhanging branches and if the tree needs consent they will need to follow the process above. If your neighbour does not agree to remove or prune a tree, you can contact the Community Justice Centre for mediation assistance. If your neighbour's tree is damaging your property and the above methods have not worked you will need to seek your own legal advice. Further information can be found in the Trees (Disputes between neighbours Act 2006)
Council does not inspect trees for compliant development, you must meet the criteria for compliant development prior to any works being carried out. Instances where a permit or approval is not required are outlined at the top of this page.
Illegal Tree Works
Don’t risk being fined for illegal tree works. You could still be charged, even if you’re on your own property. You may simply need a Tree Removal and Tree Pruning Permit. If in any doubt, phone our Tree Management Team on 1300 434 434.