Tree removal in Sydney can be quite tricky because trees are protected by the State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation SEPP) and local councils. Trees are a vital part of our environment and it is right to protect them. Breaching the policy even in private properties may require heavy fines.
Regardless if a tree is on your residential or business property, you still need to apply for a permit before removing it. However, there are certain exemptions to the rules depending on the species, condition of the tree, or if it poses an imminent risk to human life or property.
To apply for tree removal from your local council, see our Council Tree Removal Applications Forms page.
When is Council Approval Not Required to Remove a Tree in Sydney?
The rules for tree removal in Australia vary in different states and territories. Each council has put out several rules that differ from one another.
In Sydney, the rules for tree removal vary depending on the council your property comes under. Most local councils have approval exemptions for removing trees under very specific circumstances. These exemptions are council specific as all have a Tree Preservation Order (TPO) which outlines the rules for tree maintenance and removal.
The majority of councils in Sydney do not require approval for tree removal in the following instances:
if the tree is dead, dying or is dangerous,
if it is not on the city's register of significant trees or the heritage trees list.
Dead, Dying or Dangerous Trees
When a tree is dead, dying or posing harm to people or property, tree removal approval exemptions are usually in place for most local councils. But first, you must prove the tree's condition by providing the following information:
detailed records of the tree (with photos)
proof of the level of risk that the tree presents
a statement verifying how current or future works were the minimum actions necessary to manage the risk
Now, if the tree poses an imminent danger to human life or property, a detailed report from a professional arborist with a minimum AQF Level 3 in Arboriculture identifying the risk is required. It should also include the estimated period in which the tree failure will most likely occur, and if it requires immediate action.
According to the City of Sydney Council, the risks that are imminently dangerous includes:
obvious instability of the root system
evidence of soil heave or cracking
loss of structural roots/root decay
structural defects, such as splitting branches
Councils issue heavy fines and pursue legal actions to false reports on the condition (dead, dying, or poses imminent danger) of any tree.