Trees in Parks or on Public Land

Request to prune/remove trees on public land

Trees in the urban environment are impacted by many influences that could restrict their long-term health and well-being. As trees age they are more likely to cause root damage to property, drop limbs and create trip hazards.

As available resources are limited, public trees are inspected primarily on a as need basis. Requests to remove or prune trees are assessed by Councils qualified staff by a visual tree inspection. The assessment is based on:

  • Health
  • Structure, form and age of the tree
  • Potential to cause damage or injury to people or structures
  • Damage caused
  • Compatibility with the surrounding streetscape or landscape
  • Suitability of species to growing space and conditions
  • Heritage or other significance

Where Arboriculture works are identified as being required, an assessment of risk is undertaken. This assessment, based on the consequence and the likelihood of failure allows us to prioritise the work. Works will then be undertaken based on the priority and available resources.

The Impact of Public Trees on Private Assets

Assets of the property owner (sewer pipes, storm water plumbing, driveways, retaining walls etc.) are the property owner’s responsibility to maintain and repair.

Legislation recognises that Councils do not have the physical or financial resources to inspect every tree within the Council area on a regular basis. Reliance is therefore placed on the property owner to inform Council where public trees are impacting on private assets to allow Council to assess the situation and take appropriate and timely action concerning the tree, where required. Council generally will not consider any claim for monetary compensation concerning the impact of public trees to private assets.

As outlined in the Civil Liabilities Act, 2002, the Council will only consider claims where it can be shown that the property owner has previously notified the Council that a public tree was impacting on their private asset and Council can be shown to have failed to take appropriate action (taking into account available resources).

All claims with respect to public trees should be made in writing to Council. The risk management team will assess all claims, taking into account the structural integrity, age, maintenance and other relevant factors of the private asset. The onus will be on the claimant to substantiate any claim on Council.

Specific Issues

1. Private Sewer and Stormwater Plumbing

Sewer and storm water pipes are assets of the property owner and therefore the property owner’s responsibility to maintain.

If a blockage occurs in a customer’s private sewer or storm water pipe, the property owner should engage a licensed plumber to fix the problem. Blocked sewer lines may be caused by tree roots, inappropriate material put down the drains, sections of pipe collapsing, ground subsidence, debris or siltation.

Tree roots are not known to enter pipes which are well maintained. If tree roots have entered a pipe this is usually the result of the roots seeking water that is available because of the actual deterioration of the pipe (due to age/quality etc) or the failure of the seals joining the pipes. As the maintenance of these pipes are the responsibility of property owner, it is their responsibility to repair.

2. Driveways and Private Structures (Retaining walls, fences & other Infrastructure)

Driveways and private structures are assets of the property owner and therefore the property owner’s responsibility to maintain and repair.

Where property owners believe that public tree roots are damaging or have the potential to cause damage to driveways and structures, the property Owner should contact the Council as soon as possible to allow the Council to take appropriate action concerning the public tree. Options available include root pruning, removal of the tree, etc.

3. Pest and Disease

Generally Council does not treat trees for pest and disease but rely on the trees natural defence mechanisms to overcome the infection. Trees are sometimes genetically weak and may not repair. This may be grounds for removal.

4. Allergies to Trees

Many people in the community have allergic reactions to plant pollen resulting in seasonal hay fever. It is often the case that the pollen of the grasses that surround us are the cause of the symptoms but many trees get blamed.

If it can be established that a certain tree species is detrimental to public health by a recognised health management authority (such as the Department of Health) then that species will not be planted by Council from the date of notification. Existing trees of such species will be progressively culled when they are due for general maintenance treatment.

5. Overhead Utilities (Electricity & Telecommunication etc.)

Council is not responsible for maintaining clearance zones from overhead services.

Service providers such as Endeavour Energy will only maintain clearance zones for their overhead utilities up until the boundary with private property. Vegetation growing too close to the internal overhead utility is the property owner’s responsibility. Where a tree on Council land over hangs into private property, permission can be given to have these branches removed at the property owners cost.

6. Underground Utilities (Electricity, Telecommunication, Water etc.)

Council will respond to tree maintenance issues upon request from the utility provider.

7. Street Lighting

In streets with overhead power lines, it is the responsibility of Endeavour Energy to maintain clearance zones around street lighting.

In streets with underground power, Council is responsible for maintaining clearance zones around street lighting.

8. Termites/Pest Activity in Trees

Council will generally not undertake the treatment of termites/pests in trees within parks, road or bushland reserves as they are considered a natural part of the environment and the treatment of termites/pests in trees will not stop them invading from other sources or properties. It is the landowner’s responsibility to take the appropriate action to adequately protect their property from the invasion of termites/pests.

Factors that may be considered when receiving a request to treat termites/pests include:

  • Location of the tree
  • Target area under the tree
  • Significance of the tree

Insufficient Justification for Tree Removal

The following reasons will not be considered when assessing trees for removal/pruning:

  • Leaf, fruit, flower, seed, twig, bark or other litter build-up on private buildings or yards
  • Enhancement of views
  • Improvement of street lighting to private property
  • Proposed erection of a fence or because the tree causes, or will cause, damage to a fence
  • Unidentified bushfire hazard
  • Increase of sunlight to dwellings including solar panels. However, consideration may be given to allow thinning of the canopy in trees on public land to improve the amount of sunlight into dwellings or onto solar panels where:
    • Any thinning of the canopy of the tree will not affect the amenity of the road or recreation space in which the tree is growing;
    • The approved percentage of thinning to the canopy of the tree will not adversely impact on the health and vigour of the tree;
    • All work on the tree is undertaken by a contractor approved by Council;
    • The cost of the work by the contractor is paid by the applicant directly to the contractor.

Street Tree Planting

All requests from the community for new tree plantings on footpaths and reserves will be considered by Council provided the site is suitable and funding is available. All requests needs to be in writing.

Council will consider residents requests to plant their own trees subject to the site suitability and the appropriateness of the proposed new planting. All requests need to be in writing. Watering of the planted tree will be the resident’s responsibility until the tree is established.

Where a tree has been planted in any street or reserve by a resident without Council approval and Council’s relevant officer is of the opinion that the species and/or site of the planting is unsuitable, appropriate action may be taken to have the tree removed or relocated.

Requests for Council to undertake a street tree planting program will be considered in either current or future budgets, subject to site suitability and available funding. When planning new plantings, consideration will be given to planting avenues of trees and/or group plantings.

Page ID: 72445