Tree Removal

State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas) 2017 (Vegetation SEPP)

On 25 August 2017, State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas) 2017 (Vegetation SEPP) introduced new statewide controls for the clearing of trees and other vegetation. The Vegetation SEPP specifies when approval is required to clear vegetation and how an approval can be obtained.

The Vegetation SEPP defines the clearing of vegetation to include:

  1. cut down, fell, uproot, kill, poison, ringbark, burn or otherwise destroy the vegetation
  2. lop or otherwise remove a substantial part of the vegetation.

To determine whether you will need an approval for your clearing, or how to obtain an approval, refer to Figure 1 below.

When approval for tree removal or clearing of vegetation is required:

  • Council can only grant approval for:
    • non-native vegetation
    • for native vegetation where the tree removal or clearing of vegetation is below the ‘biodiversity offsets scheme threshold’ under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016.
  • If the tree removal or clearing of vegetation involves native vegetation and the clearing is above the ‘biodiversity offsets scheme threshold’ under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016, approval can only be given by the Native Vegetation Panel. The Native Vegetation Panel is an independent body established under the Local Land Services Act 2013. Application to the Native Vegetation Panel can be made through the Local Land Services.

The Office of Environment and Heritage’s online ‘Biodiversity Offsets Scheme Entry Tool’ can be used to determine if the clearing will exceed the threshold. A report and map is produced which can be printed.

Clearing that does not require approval under the Vegetation SEPP includes:

  • if the clearing of trees and/or other vegetation is authorised under Section 60O of the Local Land Services Act 2013
  • if Council is satisfied * that the trees or other vegetation is dead or dying, and is not required as habitat for native animals
  • if Council is satisfied * that the trees or other vegetation is a risk to human life or property.

* Council is to confirm in writing that it is satisfied that the trees or other vegetation are dead, dying or a risk to human life or property and therefore a development application or permit is not required prior to any clearing being undertaken.

State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas) 2017 can be viewed here.

Do I Need Approval to Clear Trees and/or Other Vegetation?

The following diagram will assist in determining whether or not approval is required for the removal of trees or other vegetation, what type of approval is required and where that approval can be obtained.

Written Confirmation for Tree Vegetation Removal Written Confirmation for Tree Vegetation Removal

Obtaining Approval for Clearing from Council

Exemptions - What does not need Council approval?

You do not need Council’s approval for tree or vegetation removal in some circumstances. However:

  • you must have the owner’s approval
  • the land must not be a heritage item, an Aboriginal object, within a heritage conservation area or within an Aboriginal place of significance.

Exempt Trees or Vegetation

There are 12 categories of trees or vegetation that are exempt from requiring development consent or this issue of a permit. These categories are:

  1. Risk to human life or property*

    The tree or other vegetation is a risk to human life or property. You will still need to obtain written confirmation from Council that the tree or vegetation is dangerous, however an on the spot approval may be given if the tree is an immediate safety hazard.

    * Written justification is to be provided from an Arborist or suitably qualified person including photographs. Council is to confirm in writing that a development application or permit is not required prior to the removal of the tree or other vegetation.

  2. Dead or dying*

    The tree or other vegetation is dead or dying and is not required as the habitat of native fauna. You will need to obtain written confirmation from Council that the tree or other vegetation is dead or dying and is not required for habitat.

    * Written justification is to be provided from an Arborist or suitably qualified person including photographs. Council is to confirm in writing that a development application or permit is not required prior to the removal of the tree or other vegetation.

  3. Exempt species

    The tree or vegetation is one of the exempt species listed in Hawkesbury Development Control Plan (provided the tree is not on land that forms part of a heritage item, Aboriginal object or is in a heritage conservation area or within an Aboriginal place of significance). The list of exempt species can be viewed here.

  4. Priority Weeds

    The tree or vegetation is one of the weed species identified within the Hawkesbury River County Council Priority Weeds Plan. The Priority Weeds Plan can be viewed here.

  5. Parasitic mistletoe

    Any species of parasitic mistletoe or parasitic plant as identified by a qualified arborist.

  6. Fruit trees

    Seasonal pruning of fruit trees to maintain fruit production.

  7. Seed collection

    Pruning for the purpose of seed collection where less than 10% of the available seed resource is removed.

  8. Trees or vegetation in State forests

    Trees or other vegetation within a State forest, or land reserved from sale as a timber or forest reserve.

  9. Emergency Works or Bushfire Hazard Reduction

    Trees or vegetation required to be removed for emergency access, emergency works, emergency fire fighting or bushfire hazard reduction work by Council, State Emergency Service, Rural Fire Service or other public authority.

  10. Electricity supply

    Tree removal or pruning required to maintain minimum clearances from electricity supply cables, excluding trees that are situated on State Heritage listed properties.

  11. Land survey

    The removal or clearing of any vegetation, in accordance with the Surveying Act 2000 or any regulation made under that Act, between properties for the purpose of enabling a survey to be carried out along that boundary by a registered surveyor where no alternative survey method is feasible.

  12. School sites

The removal or lopping of a tree under State Environmental Planning Policy Infrastructure 2007 because the tree poses a risk to human health or safety or, if the removal or lopping is in accordance with the State government publication School Facilities Standards—Landscape Standard.

10/50 Vegetation Clearing

Prior to the lodging an application for the removal of trees within 10 metres, or other vegetation within 50m, of an external wall of a dwelling, it is recommended that you check with NSW Rural Fire Services whether the removal of the trees/vegetation can be carried out under the Rural Fire Service’s 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Scheme.

There is no need to apply to Council to remove trees or vegetation in these circumstances if your property is within a ‘clearing entitlement area’ and the proposed clearing meets the 10/50 Code of Practice.

You can find out if your property is in a 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Entitlement Area, and to view the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code of Practice, by visiting the NSW Rural Fire Service website.

Protection - What needs Council approval?

Hawkesbury Development Control Plan 2002 prescribes the types of trees and other vegetation that require approval prior to being cleared.

Protected Trees or Vegetation

There are five categories of protected trees or vegetation that need consent:

  1. Protected trees are those with a height greater than 4m or branch spread greater than 3m or trunk circumference 500mm or more.
    However, you do not need approval if your property is able to satisfy all of the following:
    1. zoned R1 General Residential, R2 Low Density Residential or R3 Medium Density Residential
    2. has an area less than 1,000m2
    3. is NOT in Kurrajong or Kurrajong Heights
    4. is NOT heritage listed
    5. is NOT located on land shown on the Terrestrial Biodiversity Map
    6. is NOT shown on the Environmental Constraints Area Map.
    7. It is recommended that you contact Council’s Duty Officer to confirm whether any of the above restrictions apply to your property. Enquire at Council to find out your zoning and property size.
  2. Native trees or vegetation  
    These are specifically protected in certain zones (shown below) and also in other zones if shown on the Terrestrial Biodiversity Map or the Environmental Constraints Area Map.

    Native trees or vegetation of any size located on land in the following zones:
    1. RU1 Primary Production
    2. RU2 Rural Landscape
    3. RU4 Primary Production Small Lots
    4. RU5 Rural Village
    5. R5 Large Lot Residential
    6. SP1 Special Activities
    7. SP2 Infrastructure
    8. RE1 Public Recreation
    9. RE2 Private Recreation
    10. E2 Environmental Conservation
    11. E3 Environmental Management
    12. E4 Environmental Living
  3. Heritage items or heritage conservation areas Any trees or vegetation that are located on land that contains a heritage item or is situated within a heritage conservation area, is or forms part of an Aboriginal object or within an Aboriginal place of significance.
  4. Kurrajong and Kurrajong Heights
    Trees located in Kurrajong and Kurrajong Heights that have the following dimensions:
    1. height greater than four metres
    2. branch spread greater than three metres
    3. trunk circumference greater than 500mm (measured at one metre above ground level)
  5. Trees within 40 metres of a watercourse
    Any trees situated within the riparian zone (within 40 metres) adjoining a watercourse*.


    *A watercourse means any river, creek, stream or chain of ponds, whether artificially modified or not, in which water usually flows, either continuously or intermittently, in a defined bed or channel, but does not include an artificial waterbody.
Approval - What type of approval from Council do I need?

Application

Application for Tree/Vegetation Removal Permit

  • Use for the clearing of trees or other vegetation (except for heritage).

Development Application

  • Use where:
    • a tree or other vegetation is, or forms part of, a heritage item;
    • a tree or other vegetation is within a heritage conservation area;
    • a tree or other vegetation is, or forms part of, an Aboriginal object;
    • a tree or other vegetation is within an Aboriginal place of heritage significance;

Written confirmation – When is it needed?

Hawkesbury Development Control Plan requires written confirmation that Council is satisfied that a tree is dead, dying or dangerous be obtained prior to works being carried out on that tree.

Approval to prune a tree is not required, however if pruning is not carried out properly it could injure or destroy the tree, or make the tree unsafe. To ensure that your proposed pruning is carried out correctly, you can obtain written confirmation from Council that the works are consistent with the Australian Standard (AS 4373-2007) for the Pruning of Amenity Trees.

The following form is to be used if you seek to obtain written confirmation that a tree is dead, dying or dangerous, or that your proposed pruning works will not harm a tree:

More information

You can contact Council’s Duty Officer on (02) 4560 4444 during business hours.

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