Do you need Council Approval to Remove a Tree in Sydney?

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.

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

  • storm damage

  • 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.

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Species Exempt from Council Approval

Another exemption that most Councils allow is if the tree is not mentioned on the Register of Significant Trees or the City's Heritage Tree List.  

Some of the exempted tree species include:

  • Tree of heaven

  • Bamboo sp (all species and cultivars)

  • Citrus sp (all varieties)

  • Cotoneaster

  • Rubber tree

  • Wild honey locust

  • Norfolk Island hibiscus

  • Privet

  • White cedar

  • Mulberry

  • Banana

  • African olive

  • False acacia

  • Willow

  • Umbrella tree

  • Cocos Palm

Also, the following tree species can be removed or pruned without permit or permission, but only if it is less than 10m tall and is not on the Register of Significant Trees

  • Camphor laure

  • Chinese nettle tree

  • American nettle tree

  • Coral tree

  • Liquidambar

The identification of the tree should be obtained by an expert arborist. Once the species of the tree is identified, the property owner should check and ensure that it is exempt from the list

Since the rules of tree removal in Sydney are very particular and there are heavy fines for false reports, remember that it is safer to seek a tree removal expert's help

Trees within Fire Zones

As the impact of Australian bushfires reaches global concern, plans and preparations in fire prone communities have become more strict. Families living in areas near the bush are asked to prepare their homes as well as those who live far from it. Property owners are also reminded of ember attacks which can happen many kilometres and hours away from the fire front and can be brought by high wind conditions.

With this, the original 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Scheme that was first introduced in 2013 has been further enhanced. This rule allows people in a designated area to clear trees in their property within 10 metres from their home without seeking approval.

When is Council Approval Required to Remove a Tree?

Whether you like it or not, your local council has the authority to decide if you can or you cannot remove a certain tree from your property. Hefty fines are quickly handed out to those who defy the rules.

Some legitimate reasons to remove a tree that is generally accepted by the council include:

  • if the tree is infested by insects

  • rotting

  • is very unhealthy

  • is being a safety hazard

  • is posing harm to people and property

Council approval will be required in any instance where the exemption rules listed above do not apply. You have to verify if the tree that you're planning to remove is on the list of exempted tree species. If your tree is not exempt, then you will need to lodge an application to your local council.

Download the PDF application form here

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What is the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Rule?

The 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Rule was introduced after the disastrous 2013 bush fires that destroyed more than 200 unprepared properties. To avoid it from happening again, better plans on how to stay prepared has been implemented

If your property is within the 10/50 vegetation clearing entitlement area, you are permitted to:

  • Clear trees on your property within 10 metres of a home, without seeking approval; and

  • Clear underlying vegetation (other than trees) such as shrubs on your property within 50 metres of a home, without seeking approval.

Changes on the eligible areas have been made, so you should check your eligibility first using this online tool to know if your property is still within the 10/50 vegetation clearing entitlement area before commencing work.

How to Apply for Council Approval to Remove a tree?

Applying for council approval can be a quick and simple process as long as you submit all of the relevant documents for tree removal. But, before filling out the application, the property owner should check to see if the tree is exempt in any rules.

5 easy steps to apply for permission to remove a tree:

  • Click here to find the relevant application form for your local council

  • Download the PDF application form

  • Print and fill out all the details

  • Pay the corresponding application fee

  • Wait for a notification within 28 days or until a tree management officer contacts you, or an officer to inspect your tree


In summary, you only have to remember a few steps and the rest will follow. Firstly, you have to check if your tree is exempt from needing council approval. If it is not on the list, then evaluate the reason why you want to remove that tree. Next, download your local council's application form and then pay the required fee.

Always remember that you can seek expert help from North Shore Tree Services if you are unsure about the tree removal process. With over 20 years in the business, North Shore Tree Services has all of the right equipment, skills, manpower, and experience to ensure a job is completed in the safest & convenient way