Tree Removal Council Regulations in the Eastern Suburbs

If you want to have a tree removed from your property, for whatever reason, make sure to check the rules first. Regulations regarding tree removal do not only vary by state but also depend on local councils. If you are to apply for tree removal, you also need to ensure your reason is valid.
Land and homeowners in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs who want to have a tree removed usually do so because of any one of these reasons, sometimes in combination:

  • The tree is infested with termites or some other insects.
  • The tree is diseased.
  • The tree is dying or already dead.
  • The tree is planted in the wrong position relative to the house or building.
  • The tree poses a threat to the building owner’s safety or that of the neighbours.
  • The tree stands in the way of construction or renovation work.

To find out if you will be permitted to proceed with tree removal, you need to file for a tree removal application with your local council.

Prices for tree removal application

Just as each local council has its own tree removal application form, the fees charged for tree removal application also vary.

Randwick City Council

The Randwick tree permit application is used for both minor tree works on private trees found in a Heritage Conservation Area or listed in the Council’s Significant Tree Register, and for pruning or removing any private property trees. However, it’s always better to err on the side of caution, so always double check if there are exceptions to these conditions.

For Randwick, the tree removal application fee for a single tree is $76. You’ll also need to pay an additional $28 for every additional tree.

Waverley Council

The Waverley Council tree permit application is quite straightforward and states that the “pruning, cutting down, lopping, topping, ringbarking, removal or willful destruction of any tree” is prohibited subject to the following conditions:

  • The tree is five metres in height (or more) and has a trunk width of 300 millimetres or more at ground level.
  • The tree canopy is spread at about five metres or more and has a trunk width of 300 millimetres or more at ground level.
  • The tree is included in the Waverley Register of Significant Trees.
  • Street trees are not to be pruned, removed or altered in any manner.

The tree removal application fee for a single tree in Waverley is $77. You need to pay an extra $31 for every additional tree.

Woollahra Municipal Council

The tree works application form used by the Woollahra Municipal Council applies to private property trees that need to be pruned or removed. The tree works application processing fee for Woollahra is $77.50 per tree, and you need to pay $28.50 more per additional tree.

Protected trees

Aside from trees located in public property, heritage trees and significant trees are also protected by law from pruning and removal.

In Sydney, this protection is embodied in the Sydney Development Control Plan 2012. If you want to remove a tree included in the heritage list, you need to apply for development consent. To find out what heritage trees are in your area, you can check with your local council and secure a copy of the list.

Significant trees are protected for a host of different reasons:

  • Horticultural value: A significant tree may be old and considered venerable. It can also be an outstanding example of its species, be extremely rare or may have been part of the original or native vegetation. It can also have outstanding or impressive physical attributes.
  • Social value: It may be strategically located, contributes to the beauty of the landscape or functions as an important landmark. It may also have religious or spiritual significance or be important to aboriginal activities.
  • Historic value: The tree may be part of a historic area, a ceremonial planting or have a meaningful association with an event, person, group or institution.
  • Aesthetic value: A significant tree may enhance the surroundings with its beauty, have unusual features and be considered an outstanding specimen of its kind.

Some examples of significant trees include the Queensland firewheel tree (Stenocarpus sinuatus), Moreton Bay fig (Ficus macrophylla), Washington palm (Washingtonia robusta) and brush box (Lophostemon confertus).

What you can prune or remove without council approval

Just as there are significant and heritage trees that are protected from pruning and or removal, there are also those that do not require a tree permit application from the council. These include trees classified as noxious, such as the following:

  • Celtis sinensis (hackberry)
  • Citrus spp (citrus)
  • Ligustrum sinense (narrow leaved privet)
  • Ligustrum lucidium (broad leaved privet)
  • Nerium oleander (oleander)
  • Olea Africana (wild or African olive)
  • Salix spp (willows)
  • Syagrus romanzoffianum (cocos palm)
  • Toxicodendron spp (rhus tree)

Be sure to notify the local council and provide photographic evidence prior to removal.

Other species that can be removed without permission

You can remove the following types of trees without permission:

  • Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven)
  • Bamboo spp (all species and cultivars)
  • Citrus spp (all varieties)
  • Cotoneaster spp (Cotoneaster)
  • Ficus elastica (rubber tree)
  • Gleditsia triacanthos – non-cultivars (wild honey locust)
  • Lagunaria patersonia (Norfolk Island hibiscus)
  • Ligustrum spp (privet)
  • Melia azedarach (white cedar)
  • Morus spp (mulberry)
  • Musa spp (banana)
  • Olea europaea var. Africana (African olive)
  • Robinia pseudacacia – non-cultivars (false acacia)
  • Salix babylonica (willow)
  • Schefflera actinophylla (umbrella tree)
  • Syagrus romanzoffianum (cocos palm)

There are also tree species that you can prune or remove without permission, as long as the tree is less than 10 metres tall. However, it should not be listed on the register of significant trees, as well:

  • Cinnamomum camphora (camphor laurel)
  • Celtis sinensis (Chinese nettle tree)
  • Celtis occidentalis (American nettle Tree)
  • Erythrina x sykesii (coral tree)
  • Liquidambar styraciflua (liquidambar)

Avoid getting penalised

Anytime you want to prune or cut a tree in your property, be sure to check with the local council first and familiarise yourself with local regulations. Offenders under the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 can face stiff fines and penalties depending on the extent of tree destruction.

If you need assistance with tree removal, please contact Wolf Trees and Gardens. We specialise in tree pruning, removal and other related services in Sydney’s Eastern suburbs.