Trees and Plants

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Trees - Removal and Preservation

Trees are vital to our region for many reasons. They improve the landscape, provide a home to wildlife, shade our homes and streets and provide the 'leafy' feel we love around the Great Lakes area. Trees also protect water quality and reduce land erosion whilst having a social and economic value.

Sometimes trees can also cause a problem, by threatening safety or a built structure. Council has to balance protection and nurture of our environment and landscape, with the need to remove undesirable and dangerous trees.

That's why tree management is central to our Environmental Plan, and why laws exist that prohibits the unauthorised pruning, lopping, slashing or removal of trees.

This tree laws are complex and can be controversial with the public. It's something we are often asked about.

Frequently Asked Questions about Trees:

How do I apply to remove my tree?

If you would like to remove your tree you need to submit the Tree Removal Application  and payment.  Once received, the Tree Management Officer will undertake an inspection. You will receive a written notification on the outcome.  This process can take up to three weeks from when the application is received. 

Who owns the tree?

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.

Can I plant a tree on the footpath outside my property?

Council encourages street tree planting, however some species of trees are not suitable for particular locations. You will need to contact us to check our preferred species list. Trees also need to be planted within the guidelines of Council's Greening Strategy.  For further reference please refer to Council's Street Tree Planting Policy or contact your local energy provider for further information.

Can I submit a Tree Removal Application if I'm not the tree owner?

No. We can only accept an application from the property owner where the tree is located.  Where a tree is located exactly on a boundary, both owners are required to submit an application before the application will be accepted.

Can I prune my tree without a Tree Removal application?

In some cases, Council allows up to 10 % pruning of a tree without a Tree Removal Application. Pruning must not have been previously undertaken in the last 5 years. Pruning should also only involve twigs, leaves and/or minor branches.  No structural tree limbs should be removed without approval from Council.

Do I need approval to remove a dead tree?

Yes. You need to seek approval for the removal of any tree.  Some trees are deciduous (losing their leaves in winter) making them appear dead or unwell. Others that are dead provide important habitat for birds, animals and reptiles.

Do I need to submit a Tree Removal Application when building a house?

No. Trees and vegetation are considered when assessing all development proposals. They are part of the development application itself.  The Tree Preservation process is designed for properties that are already developed.

What can I do if I have trouble with a neighbours' tree?

Council has no power to enforce the pruning or removal of a tree located on, and affecting private properties.  If you have a problem with a neighbouring tree, you need to talk to your neighbour.  If they are willing to submit a Tree Removal Application, Council will assess the tree.  However, if they are unwilling to submit the application, we cannot assist.  Information regarding civil tree disputes can be accessed further via the Land and Environment Court website , "Tree Disputes Between Neighbours Act 2006".

What can I do if I have trouble with a Council tree?

You will need to contact us and advise us of the problem. We will come and assess the tree and determine any required action. Please do not try to solve the issue yourself.

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 SES.  If the tree requires assessment after the event, a Tree Removal Application needs to be submitted to Council.

Tree Preservation

Trees which are protected by Tree Preservation legislation can't be removed.

Tree preservation applies to both public and privately owned land within the Great Lakes local government area identified in the maps below, which are contained in Council's Development Control Plan (DCP).  If you are unsure if your area is covered by the DCP please contact us.

  • Tree or Vegetation Preservation Maps

The tree preservation rules apply to trees that meet any of the following conditions:

a)      Is 5m or higher in height.

b)      Has an over-bark girth (circumference) exceeding 600mm at 1m above the ground.

c)      Is a Cabbage Tree Palm (Livistona Australis) that is 0.5m high or taller.

d)      Is any species of mangrove.

e)      Is registered as a significant tree (on the basis of environmental, social, cultural, ecological or habitat reasons or on the tree’s age, size or prominence).

f)       Is part of a heritage item or a heritage conservation area.

Exceptions to Tree Preservation Restrictions

If any of the following situations applies, the tree may be pruned or removed after the application is accepted:

a)      You're pruning no more than 10% of the tree, (and that work is done to Australian Standards AS4373-1996). It needs to be over 5 years since the last pruning.

b)      Removing a tree with a nearside trunk within 5 metres of a lawful permanent dwelling (not a pergola, shed, deck, caravan, detached garage, etc), as measured from the trunk of the tree to the nearest outside wall. This doesn't apply for Koala food trees in Hawks Nest or Tea Gardens.

c)      If we receive a report from a Level 5 qualified arborist that states the tree is dangerous, diseased or dying and cannot be saved by pruning. "Dangerous" can mean it has a history of falling branches, it is structurally weak, or it is too big for the available space.

d)      The tree or vegetation is listed in the "Exempt Species" table within Table 2, Chapter 12.10 of the Great Lakes Development Control Plan. (See below for downloadable pdf version of Chapter 12).

e)      The tree or vegetation is declared as a 'Noxious Plant' under the Noxious Weeds Act 1993.

For detailed information on tree preservation, refer to Chapter 12 Tree Preservation in Council's DCP 2016. 

Weed Control

Noxious Weeds

A "noxious weed" is a weed that is declared noxious by the Minister for Agriculture in accordance with the Noxious Weeds Act 1993. Priority for noxious declaration categories is determined by the detrimental effect a plant has on the environment and its ability to cause severe economic loss to Agriculture or the environment. A weed will only be declared noxious if there are reasonable and enforceable means of control.

Weeds are declared noxious on local and state levels.  Weeds may be added or deleted from declaration and categories may be changed at any time.  The Noxious Weeds Act 1993 provides for the Minister for The Department of Primary Industries to issue an order declaring a plant noxious, either in the whole State or a portion of a State.  The Act requires declared noxious weeds to be listed in one of the five control categories specified in the Act.

Noxious weed control in the Great Lakes area is conducted on a priority basis, when available funds allow.

There are 5 different categories of noxious weeds:

Class 1, State Prohibited Weeds
  • Class 1 noxious weeds are plants that pose a potentially serious threat to primary production or the environment and are not present in the State or are present only to a limited extent. "The plant must be eradicated from the land and the land must be kept free of the plant".
Class 2, Regionally Prohibited Weeds
  • Class 2 noxious weeds are plants that pose a potentially serious threat to primary production or the environment of a region to which the order applies and are not present in the region or are present only to a limited extent. "The plant must be eradicated from the land and the land must be kept free of the plant".
Class 3, Regionally Controlled Weeds
  • Class 3 noxious weeds are plants that pose a serious threat to primary production or the environment of an area to which the order applies, are not widely distributed in the area and are likely to spread in the area or to another area. "The plant must be fully and continuously suppressed and destroyed".
Class 4, Locally Controlled Weeds
  • Class 4 noxious weeds are plants that pose a threat to primary production, the environment or human health, are widely distributed in an area to which the order applies and are likely to spread in the area or to another area. "The growth and spread of the plant must be controlled according to the measures specified in a management plan published by the local control authority".
Class 5, Restricted Plants
  • Class 5 noxious weeds are plants that are likely, by their sale or the sale of their seeds or movement within the State or an area of the State, to spread in the State or outside the State. "Requirements in the Noxious Weeds Act 1993 for a notifiable weed must be complied with". "The plant must not be sold, propagated or knowingly distributed".

Plants in Class 1, 2 or 5 are "notifiable weeds".  That means if you find one on your land, you must tell Council within 3 days of identifying it.

For a list on the declared Noxious Weeds for the Great Lakes area please click below.  The following weeds are Declared Class 4 Weeds for the Great Lakes area.  By clicking on each weed below you will find a fact sheet which includes a weed control management plan. 

African Boxthorn(PDF, 111KB)  Bathurst Burr(PDF, 582KB)  Bitou Bush(PDF, 710KB) 
Blackberry(PDF, 690KB) Burrs (Noogoora, Cockle & Californian)(PDF, 591KB)
Boneseed(PDF, 223KB)
Chilean Needle Grass(PDF, 231KB)  Columbus Grass(PDF, 88KB)  Crofton Weed(PDF, 72KB) 
Giant Parramatta Grass(PDF, 591KB)
Harrisia Cactus(PDF, 564KB)
Lantana (Red Camara Form)(PDF, 557KB)  
Patersons Curse(PDF, 200KB)
Pampas Grass(PDF, 717KB)   Prickly Pear(PDF, 1019KB)
Rhus Tree(PDF, 631KB)
Scotch Broom(PDF, 623KB) Spiny Burr Grass(PDF, 554KB)
Environmental Weeds

An environmental weed is a plant that is not declared noxious but can still impact on the environment by interfering with the growth and spread of native plant species. They can also impact on native animals by replacing their natural food sources or affecting wildlife corridors. 65% of environmental weeds have "escaped" from domestic gardens.

Further weed information:

Native Vegetation

Protecting naturally growing Australian plants and trees is an important part of Great Lakes Councils environmental management policies.

We must preserve this vegetation because of the positive effect is has on landscape, animals, environment and culture.

Unfortunately, there is a particular problem with damage or illegal removal of vegetation along the foreshore reserves in the Great Lakes.

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, 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. 

Because of this "vandalism", Council has developed an Illegal Removal of Vegetation Policy. Where it happens, we erect a fence and signage to protect the area. This allows regeneration to occur.  Constructed fences are not permanent structures and will be removed once the vegetation is self-sustaining.

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.