24 November 2011
Regulated trees or Significant Trees?
The law has changed in the categorization of trees and their level of significance. For the last few years trees have been deemed to be significant if their trunks were greater than 2m around when measured at one metre above the ground regardless of species. When an owner wished to remove a tree they had to lodge a Development Application with Council with an arborist's report. Council then decided if the tree could be removed, this often involved having to go through the lengthy process of public notification and Development Assessment Panel approval or refusal. If the decision was refusal the applicant had an opportunity to appeal the decision in the Environment, Resources and Development Court.
Under the new laws all trees with a circumference of 2m are described as Regulated, and those over 3m as significant. The process for the larger trees has not changed other than there is no longer a requirement to publicly notify. Only those that staff recommend for refusal will go to the DAP for final refusal or approval. However, regulated trees (2m-3m circ), other than all species of eucalyptus and willow myrtles that are growing within 10 metres of an existing house or pool will be able to be removed through a simpler process. A Development Application will still need to be lodged with Council but there is no requirement to submit a report from an arborist (this additional cost was often difficult for some people). The staff will then approve the tree's removal. There are also penalties for removing trees and a requirement that 2 or 3 trees are replanted for each one removed. There will no longer be a need to seek approval if a tree is to be pruned of less than one third of its canopy if the wood to be removed is dead or deemed to be dangerous.
As the new laws are implemented there will be a need for further minor legislative changes and some will be resolved through the courts.