Council values private trees as an integral component of Newcastle's urban forest. A private tree is any tree on land not under Council's care and control. Council has a range of controls and requirements regarding private trees that should be considered before undertaking any activity to or around trees.
Urban Forest Technical Manual
The Newcastle Urban Forest Technical Manual is separated into three parts based on the land on which the tree, shrub or other vegetation is located, and the type of vegetation present:
- Part A provides guidance on the management of trees and large shrubs located on private land.
- Part B provides guidance on the management of trees and large shrubs located on public land.
- Part C provides guidance on the management of native vegetation communities on private land.
Use the Part that relates to the land on which the tree, shrub or native vegetation is located, regardless of the proposed activity.
Damage and Vandalism of Private Trees
Damaging or removing a tree without consent can be a breach of the NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 or Protection of the Environment Operations Act 1997. Penalties or prosecution can apply to someone who damages or removes a tree without consent.
Maximum Penalty imposed by Local Court - $100,000
Maximum On-the-spot Penalty infringement Notice (PIN - imposed by Council) - $3,000
Maximum Penalty imposed by Land and Environment Court - $1.1 million.
For more information on tree removal on private land or to download an application form go to the tree removal application page.
Trees and Development
Development can impact on both public and private trees. The Urban Forest Technical Manual is a component of the Newcastle DCP Section 5.03 Vegetation Management and informs development and public tree management, see Council's Development Control Plan and Technical Manuals page.
It assists both the design process and construction phase of a development. It is important that any trees within 5m of the development are considered in accordance with the relevant sections.
It is updated on an annual basis to ensure best practice is consistently applied.
Trees and Neighbours
Council’s tree management controls do not give Council the authority to direct a neighbour to remove or prune trees that grow on their own land. Council officers do not inspect private trees for tree removal or pruning. This inspection needs to be completed by a qualified private sector arborist. Residents should read the following sections of Council's Urban Forest Technical Manual (Part A) prior to engaging an arborist:
- Tree removal not associated with development see Section 3.0 and Pruning see Section 2.0.
- Qualifications required for both are detailed in Section 6.0, Table 5.
Disputes over trees must be resolved between you and your neighbour. There are, however, some options for you to consider:
You can seek mediation
If your neighbour does not agree you can seek mediation. Mediation is an alternative dispute resolution method which involves you, your neighbours and a trained mediator discussing the problem in an effort to determine an outcome which is agreed to by all parties.
Contact the Hunter Community Justice Centre for assistance on 02 4925 0333.
You can seek legal advice
If you believe the tree or overhanging branches are creating a legal nuisance you can seek legal advice from a solicitor or the Chamber Magistrate.
In 2006 the Trees (Disputes Between Neighbours) Act came into force in NSW. Information is available by going to the 'Trees and hedges' section of the Land and Environment Court website.