Management of Trees and Vegetation
Trees are a vital part of our region. They improve the landscape, provide a home to wildlife, shade our homes and streets and provide the 'leafy' feel that the MidCoast is known for. They also protect water quality, reduce land erosion, and provide social and economic value.
When trees cause issues, councils must balance the protection the environment and landscape, with the need to manage undesirable and dangerous trees. That’s why vegetation management controls exist that prohibit the unauthorised pruning, lopping, slashing or removal of trees.
Here on the MidCoast, we’ve developed a targeted Vegetation Management Policy to protect vegetation that contributes significant ecological values or landscape character and amenity. This means it applies only to specific areas, not right across the region. If you’re looking to remove or prune vegetation on your property, we’re here to help you navigate the process which involves three distinct steps:
- Confirm if the location of the works you're proposing is covered by the Vegetation Management Policy
- Undertake a self-assessment to determine if an exemption can be granted for the works to be carried out
- Lodge a permit application to seek approval for works (that are not exempt) to be carried out
It is important to remember that no single project or program can enable us to manage and enhance all of our landscape. Rather it is a complex web of legislation, programs, controls and strategies that interlink to enable this to happen. Our Vegetation Management Policy is just one part of this.
Whether your property is covered by the Vegetation Management Policy or not, please check under “Other Vegetation Controls” to see what additional legislation might apply to your situation.
Please note: the Vegetation Management Policy replaces any previous vegetation management controls in the MidCoast region, including the Tree Preservation Order most recently in place in some areas of the former Great Lakes region. Learn more about the process that was undertaken in the development of the Vegetation Management Policy here.
Does the Vegetation Management Policy apply to my property?
The Policy targets only those areas where vegetation contributes significant ecological value (like habitats and fauna), or amenity and important landscape character. To check if your property is covered by the Policy, view the Vegetation Management mapping on our online mapping portal. (Switch on Vegetation Management Policy mapping under "General Development Constraints" on the left hand side.)
- After using the mapping tool, if you're still unsure whether your property is covered, please contact us for assistance - phone 02 7955 7777 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
- To find out more about our targeted mapping process, and why the areas covered are included, view the Assessment Criteria(PDF, 309KB).
If your property is covered by the Policy, you can undertake a self-assessment to determine if an exemption applies to the work you are looking to carry out. If an exemption is not granted, you’ll need to proceed to lodge a Vegetation Permit Application.
For all property owners, other controls outside the Vegetation Management Policy may apply to your property. Removing or pruning vegetation without the necessary approvals is an offence, so make sure you are aware of the legislation that applies in your situation. Further information is provided below (under "Other Vegetation Management Controls"), or you can contact us for assistance - phone 02 7955 7777 or email email@example.com
Apply for an exemption to prune or remove trees
Applying for an exemption under the Vegetation Management Policy is only necessary if the vegetation to be removed or pruned is in an area covered by the Policy. You can check whether it is covered here. (Switch on Vegetation Management Policy mapping under "General Development Constraints" on the left hand side.)
If the property is covered by the Policy and you want to seek an exemption, please complete the relevant self-assessment form. Note that pruning and removal are treated as separate types of vegetation management, and if you are looking to undertake both, you will need to complete both self-assessment forms.
Pruning Self-Assessment form
Removal Self-Assessment form
Eligibility for an exemption will remove the need to lodge an application for a permit under the Vegetation Management Policy. If you are not eligible for an exemption, a Vegetation Permit Application Form must be lodged for assessment by Council.
Before applying for an exemption:
You will be required to correctly identify the species as part of your self-assessment. If you’re unsure, skip the self-assessment and proceed to lodge a Permit Application. Penalties apply for pruning or removal of non-exempt species, and incorrect identification during self-assessment is not sufficient defence to avoid a penalty.
You will need to upload photos of the trees or vegetation that clearly demonstrate how they meet the exemption criteria. The photos should clearly show the full tree and the full tree in its landscape context. Please keep your photos on file for future reference if required.
If an exemption is granted:
It is your responsibility to comply with all conditions outlined on the self-assessment form.
It’s also good practice to notify your neighbours prior to undertaking the works.
Works must take place as described in your self-assessment, and within a period of 12 months from the date of the exemption being granted.
You must place the exemption certificate on your front fence for two days before and two days after the works are undertaken.
If you’d like to know more, or to discuss your individual circumstances before completing a self-assessment, call us on 02 7955 7777 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and we will guide you through the process.
Apply for a permit to prune or remove trees
Applying for a permit under the Vegetation Management Policy is only necessary if the vegetation to be removed or pruned is in an area covered by the Policy. You can check whether it is covered here. (Switch on Vegetation Management Policy mapping under "General Development Constraints" on the left hand side.)
If the location is covered by the Policy and you have determined the works to be carried out are not eligible for an exemption, you can submit a Permit Application for assessment.
Vegetation removal and pruning: Permit application form
Before lodging a permit application:
If you are applying on behalf of someone else, your application will require consent from the property-owner.
An application fee is payable at the time you lodge your application. Check the current fee in our Fees and Charges.
You must clearly identify which trees your application refers to and show where they are located – this may include an aerial map of the property, photos, or a hand-drawn diagram, with the tree locations clearly marked.
The more detailed and accurate your application, the easier it is for us to assess your request.
Obligations of the applicant:
Your application will require your agreement to:
Providing honest and accurate information, noting the provision of false or misleading information is an offence and liable to enforcement action and penalties.
Accepting all costs associated with making the application, and with the pruning, removal, and conditions of the permit.
Not commencing the proposed work before a permit has been granted.
Complying with all permit conditions should the permit be granted.
After lodging a permit application:
Our preliminary assessment may include an on-site inspection to determine whether a permit to proceed with the works can be issued – please tag the trees referred to in your application so we can easily identify them. Use coloured tape or a similar non-permanent material that won't hurt the tree.
If we have all the information needed to make a determination, allow up to 28 days for processing of your application.
In some cases, more information is requested to help us assess your application – this might include an arborist or ecological report. All costs associated with providing the additional information are the responsibility of the applicant, and any delays in providing the information will extend the time we require to process your application.
If your permit application is unsuccessful:
You will be notified in writing that the proposed works cannot be undertaken and details of why a permit was not issued.
If you are not satisfied with the outcome of your application, you can request a review within 12 months of the date of notification. Your request must be in writing and clearly outline the reason/s your application should be reconsidered. You may need to provide evidence from an expert like an arborist or structural engineer to support your request.
You also have the right to appeal to the Land and Environment Court within 3 months of the date of refusal.
If your permit application is approved:
It is your responsibility to comply with all conditions outlined with the issuing of the permit. If you don’t understand the conditions, contact Council or talk to your arborist.
Your permit is valid for 12 months from the date shown on the permit.
All works must comply with the SafeWork NSW Code of Practice – Amenity Tree Industry.
All pruning work must be done in line with Australian Standard 4373–2007, Pruning of Amenity Trees. This will ensure your tree continues to grow after pruning and is not harmed by incorrect pruning practices.
In most cases your permit will include a condition to replace the tree on the property, specifying the species, size when planted, and its mature height.
If you’d like to know more, or to discuss your individual circumstances before lodging a permit application, call us on 02 7955 7777 or email email@example.com and we will guide you through the process.
Other vegetation controls
Vegetation management is regulated by a complex web of legislation, programs, controls and strategies, many of which are driven by the State Government. Our Vegetation Management Policy is just one part of this.
All property-owners, even those who are granted an exemption under the Vegetation Management Policy, should ensure the tree/s you intend to prune or remove are not protected under any legislation. While not exhaustive, some of this information is provided below (as applicable on 30 September 2021).
Contact Council if the vegetation you want to prune or remove:
- is classified as being part of a threatened ecological community.
- provides, or has the potential to provide, habitat for native plants or animals listed as threatened under the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 or Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.
- is a heritage item, forms part of a heritage item, or is within a heritage conservation area.
- is on a site that contains an Aboriginal object or is located within an Aboriginal place of heritage significance.
- is specifically identified to be retained as a condition of development consent for building or works or subdivision.
- is on land where there is an approval or agreement in place that requires the tree to be retained or protected. This could include conditions in a development consent, a conservation agreement, Section 88B restriction on the use of land, or a positive covenant.
Be aware of other controls that require applications or specific requirements to be met when planning to clear vegetation on private property, which include:
- the Local Land Services Act 2013 which regulates the management and clearing of native vegetation on rural zoned land in NSW and is administered in the MidCoast by Hunter Local Land Services.
- Local Land Services, responsible for private native forestry advice and approvals. The NSW Environment Protection Authority is responsible for compliance and enforcement of private native forestry.
- vegetation present within areas mapped as ‘Coastal Wetland’ or ‘Littoral Rainforest’ in State Environmental Planning Policy (Coastal Management) 2018, which cannot be cleared without development consent and are mapped on the Biodiversity Values Map triggering entry into the Biodiversity Offsets Scheme.
- the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 which requires that a biodiversity conservation licence be applied for clearing of threatened species, ecological communities or protected plants from the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment.
- the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 which allows for the removal of specific trees during the development of a site. Check the State Environmental Planning Policy (Exempt and Complying Development Codes) 2008 to see if there are any requirements you need to satisfy.
- the NSW Rural Fire Service Rural Boundary Clearing Code which allows for vegetation removal from property boundaries. For details, and to find out if your property is covered by this code, visit the NSW Rural Fire Service website.
- the NSW Rural Fire Service 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Scheme, which allows clearing of trees close to your house without approval. For details, and to find out if your property is in a 10/50 area, visit the NSW Rural Fire Service website.
- the NSW Biodiversity Values Map, which identifies areas of high biodiversity and applies to many properties within the MidCoast region. Tree removal on these properties may require a permit from the Native Vegetation Panel.
Frequently asked questions
Can I prune trees on a neighbouring property?
The ownership of a tree is determined by where the trunk emerges from the ground, therefore if the tree is planted on the neighbour's property but overhangs into your property, it still belongs to the neighbour. To undertake any action on a neighbour's tree, you will need the neighbour's agreement first. If the trunk emerges on Council land, it is Council's tree and you can submit a report and request form if a Council tree is causing you a problem.
Before you prune branches overhanging from a neighbour’s tree, you need to check if the property is covered by the Vegetation Management Policy (you can check via the online mapping portal). If the property is covered by the Policy, you'll need to follow the process set out by the Policy.
What if I have concerns about a neighbour's tree or other plants?
Council does not have the authority to act in disputes between neighbours. If you have a problem with a neighbouring tree, you need to talk to your neighbour. If your neighbour does not agree to removal or pruning, you can contact the Community Justice Centre for mediation assistance.
If your neighbour's tree or hedge is damaging your property and the mediation process proves unsuccessful, you may need to seek intervention of the court through the Trees (Disputes Between Neighbours) Act 2006, which is administrated by the Land and Environment Court of NSW. This is the only authority that can resolve tree disputes between neighbours. For more information click here.
How long does it take to get a vegetation permit?
You will only need to lodge an application for a permit to remove or prune vegetation if your property is located in an area covered by the Vegetation Management Policy, and you’re not eligible for an exemption.
Once your application is received, the Tree Management Team will undertake an inspection, and if a determination can be made, you will receive a written notification of the outcome. This process can take up to 28 days from when the application is received. In some cases, the process will be extended if additional information is requested in order to make a determination.
What do I do if my tree falls during a storm?
Remember safety first! Trees that are falling, or have fallen during a storm event, should be dealt with by the State Emergency Service (SES). When a tree is an immediate threat to people or property, emergency authorities like the SES, Rural Fire Service (RFS) or Council can also do work to make the tree safe.
Sometimes trees on your land can become dangerous. This could include part of the tree ‘failing’ (for example, branches falling), roots heaving out of the ground, or significant damage from storms. Dangerous tree work can only be done on the part of the tree that’s posing a risk; for example, the whole tree can’t be removed if only one branch is causing a problem. If this happens, you should collect evidence to show why the tree is a threat. This could include an emergency response reference number, photos of the dangerous tree or a report by a qualified arborist. The arborist report should be from a Level 5 qualified arborist stating that the tree is dangerous, diseased or dying and cannot be saved by pruning.
If your property is covered by the Vegetation Management Policy, you'll also need to apply for a Vegetation Management Permit within 72 hours of the emergency if more work needs to be done on the tree, or if it needs to be removed entirely. Evidence to show that the tree was dangerous (described above) should be included with your application.
If a tree on public land becomes dangerous, report it to Council on 02 7955 7777. You can also use this number after hours.
Can I plant a tree on the road reserve outside my property?
While we encourage street tree planting, some species of trees are not suitable for particular locations. As the road reserve is public land, you'll need to contact Council to request permission. We can then provide a preferred species list and advise of any other planting requirements. Planting needs to be in accordance with specific Council guidelines. Contact us on 02 7955 7777 or use our report and request form.
What if there is an issue with trees on public land?
If a tree on public land, such as a footpath, park or reserve near your property needs attention, please report it to Council by phoning 02 7955 7777 or completing our report and request form.
My property is covered by the Vegetation Management Policy - but how can I get more light or sun for my solar panels?
Wanting more light or solar access to solar panels is not generally accepted as a reason to remove or prune a tree. Sometimes minor pruning can be approved to let more light through. Approval will only be given if the pruning can be done in line with the Australian Standard for pruning of trees.
You will have to go through the normal process to determine if the pruning can be exempt or whether you need to lodge a permit application (see earlier on this page).
My property is covered by the Vegetation Management Policy - but how do I apply to prune or remove a tree on a strata property?
Talk to your strata manager or Body Corporate before starting a self-assessment or permit application. Their written approval and stamp or seal will need to be attached to the permit application. Some strata managers may offer to handle the application on behalf of the owners or residents.
The application will also need to include a clear map of the property or complex and the location of the tree so we can inspect it. After you lodge a tree application, we will inspect the trees listed. Please tag these trees so we can easily identify them. Use tape, ribbon, string, or a similar non-permanent material that won't hurt the tree.
How do I know if someone has permission to prune or remove?
You can find out if permission was required, and if so whether it was obtained, but ringing us on 02 7955 7777, or email us with the property address and details of what trees are being pruned or removed. Make sure you include information about the dates and times that the work on the tree or trees happened. If the property is in an area covered by the Vegetation Management Policy, we can check whether an exemption was granted, a Permit for the work was issued, or development consent has been issued.
If an exemption or permit has been obtained, it must be displayed by the applicant at the front boundary of the property for at least two days prior and two days after the work for which the exemption was for. Keep an eye out for this notice.
Please note that this generally does not apply to properties outside of the areas covered by the Vegetation Management Policy. In particular, Council does not have records of clearing done under NSW 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Scheme.
I have noticed tree vandalism, what do I do?
Tree vandalism unfortunately happens in the MidCoast. The intentional damage of native plants affects the entire community. It impacts the lifestyle and views of residents and visitors; whilst simultaneously causing problems with biodiversity, and critically for our region’s water quality.
Damaged or vandalised vegetation creates a knock-on effect. It allows weeds to invade, thus degrading the area. This increases the chance of soil erosion and spoils the local micro climate.
Vegetation vandalism is a crime and Council will investigate all attacks on native vegetation. Heavy fines apply following a conviction associated with vandalism of vegetation. If you believe a tree has been vandalised, please contact us on 02 7955 7777.
What plants should I plant in the MidCoast?
Across the MidCoast we have historic lists of preferred street tree species for some of our towns and villages. Council’s arborists are currently reviewing and updating these lists to assist in identifying what species should be planted in each location. It is not the case that ‘one size fits all’ - the species selection will reflect the character of each town or village. A list of trees with cultural value and ‘bush tucker’ trees is currently being explored in partnership with our local indigenous communities. For immediate advice, please contact Council on 02 7955 7777 or via email.
Don’t forget, it is also important that you consider the following when planting trees:
- What size tree can my property support (think about how the canopy of a tree will affect your property in terms of shade, leaf fall, neighbouring properties)?
- Where should I plant a tree on my property (consider privacy, overshadowing, underground services and the size of the tree when mature)?
- What is the purpose of the tree on my property (shade, soil stabilisation, landscape feature, to attract wildlife)?
- What is the soil like, and the weather conditions the trees will be exposed to?
- What care does the tree need after planting?
Still have a question?
We understand everyone’s situation is unique, and the legislation around vegetation management is complex. If you require more advice or information please contact us by phoning 02 7955 7777, email us on firstname.lastname@example.org, or make an enquiry through our report and request form.