As urban areas expand and property development increases, with the New South Wales (NSW) Government set to supply 127,000 regional dwellings by 2031-2032, understanding tree removal laws is becoming more relevant to property owners. In NSW, there are a number of regulations that govern the removal of trees to ensure environmental sustainability and preserve the natural landscape. This article will explain the key aspects of NSW tree removal laws and set you up with the basic information you need to navigate this regulatory landscape responsibly.
Can I cut down trees on my property in NSW?
In NSW, property owners have the right to manage trees on their land, but the process is governed by specific legislation and regulations. Before you remove any trees, it is essential to understand the local council’s guidelines and any Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) in place. While some minor tree removal activities may be exempt from council approval, major removals or those involving protected species typically require permission. Additionally, certain areas may be subject to the “10/50 rule”, allowing property owners in designated bushfire-prone zones to clear vegetation within specific distances of their building for fire prevention purposes.
Tree preservation order legislation and local environment plans
In NSW, TPOs play a key role in conserving significant trees and maintaining the environmental integrity of local areas. TPOs are regulations implemented by local councils to protect specific trees or vegetation deemed to have ecological, aesthetic, or heritage value. These orders vary between councils, identifying particular species or areas where tree removal or even pruning requires official approval. Before removing any trees, property owners should consult their local council’s TPO to ensure compliance with these preservation measures.
Local Environment Plans (LEPs) are statutory documents developed by local councils to guide land use and development within their jurisdictions. LEPs outline the zoning and permissible uses for different areas, and they often include provisions related to tree preservation and landscaping. Property owners need to be familiar with the specific regulations outlined in their local LEP, as these plans can influence the types of development allowed on their land and may include additional requirements for tree retention or replacement.
The 10/50 vegetation rule for removing trees in NSW
The 10/50 Rule, formally known as the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code of Practice, is a regulation in NSW designed to allow property owners in bushfire-prone areas to clear certain vegetation within 10 meters of a building and broader vegetation within 50 meters without seeking specific approval from their local council. This measurement isn’t limited to the main structure; it includes permanent decks and garages connected to the building, provided they’re permanent fixtures.
Detached structures, like standalone decks and garages, do not factor into the measurement. If a building is built without developmental consent, it may fall outside the 10/50 rule. The primary goal of this rule is to improve bushfire preparedness for homeowners. Not all vegetation can be removed under this rule, and property owners must adhere to guidelines regarding eligible plant species to ensure an environmental balance is maintained.
Council fines for tree removal without a permit
In NSW, tree removal is regulated by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act. The consequences of removing trees without a council permit in NSW are significant and can differ based on the court handling the case. If found guilty of unauthorised tree removal, the Local Court can impose fines for cutting down trees without a permit of up to $110,000. If the matter reaches the Land and Environment Court, the maximum penalty can be $1.1 million. This substantial penalty is intended to deter actions that may lead to environmental harm.
Applying for a tree removal permit in NSW
Applying for a tree permit in NSW can change from council to council, so homeowners should check with their council what is involved. Information on council websites can help identity if a property is subject to any TPO and will also usually set out the fees for an application for a tree removal permit.
Navigating tree removal laws in NSW involves adherence to the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act, local council regulations, and the 10/50 Rule. Unauthorised removal may result in substantial penalties, up to $1.1 million and obtaining a tree removal permit can be a detailed process.
A lawyer specialising in property law can provide essential guidance in understanding regulations, preparing comprehensive permit applications, representing individuals in legal proceedings, and ensuring compliance and responsible environmental management.
If you need legal advice on tree removal on your property, contact our property team at Turnbull Hill Lawyers.