Removal of a tree on private land generally requires our permission.

Before you apply for tree removal, you need to:

  • confirm if your tree is exempt, or
  • lodge with an arborist report including TRAQ, or
  • lodge a permit for removal.

Trees that pose an 'Immediate (imminent) risk to life or property’ may be removed without a permit in certain circumstances.

Pruning can be completed if exempt, or where a Pruning Specification has been prepared as per the tab below.

Tree works conducted without a permit or outside of the exemptions, immediate risk or pruning specification process will be treated as tree vandalism.

Private trees are protected under our Development Control Plan (DCP) Chapter 39 ‘Natural Resource Management’ (section 4). This was developed under the provisions of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Biodiversity and Conservation) 2021.

There are some exemptions under the DCP Chapter 39 Clause 4.3 (Species Exempt from this Order) and Clause 4.4 (Other Trees and Tree Work Exempt from this section).

Other exemptions exist under the Rural Fire Service (RFS) 10/50 Code, or where a Hazard Reduction Certificate issued by the RFS approves the removal of specific trees.

tree located on private property in front of a white house
Trees shown on private and public property with a white house in the background.

Who should undertake tree work?

Tree work is inherently dangerous. Residents, unqualified loppers and arborists are injured or killed undertaking this work every year across Australia.

  • Beware of door knockers offering to cut trees cheaply for cash – they are often intimidating, uninsured and use poor work practices.
  • Poor cutting outside the Australian Standard Pruning Amenity Trees (AS4373-2007) can compromise a tree's health and structure, making trees unsafe.
  • Only engage an arborist with minimum qualification Australian Qualification Framework Level 3 (Certificate) in Arboriculture.
  • Ensure the contract arborist is fully insured, and that the insurance is for tree work. Gardening insurance has a height limit on works.
  • Most home insurance does not cover tree work. You may be liable for any injury or damage caused by (or to) uninsured persons.
  • Ask to see proof of qualifications and current insurance, including public liability and workers' compensation.
  • Ask for a detailed written quote with full business details, including their ABN.

Tree pruning

All tree pruning is to be undertaken in accordance with the Australian Standard AS 4373-2007 Pruning of Amenity Trees. This standard provides guidance on tree pruning and encourages pruning practices and procedures that reduce the risk of hazard post pruning, including branch failure, pathogen infection and premature tree death.

This standard (AS4373-2007) requires that pruning specifications are prepared by a person with a minimum level in arboriculture of AQF 3.

The pruning of a heritage-listed tree or shrub (item) requires the following information to be submitted to Council:

  1. A Heritage Minor Works Notification form, which you can obtain from our Heritage Officer
  2. A pruning specification, fully completed by an arborist with minimum qualification AQF 3 in Arboriculture.

A Development Application must be submitted to us for pruning of trees or shrubs that are:

  1. Native vegetation - that is - or comprises part of - a threatened species, population or ecological community listed in the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, or Fisheries Management Act 1994
  2. Part of an Aboriginal object or within a place of Aboriginal significance.

Find out whether your tree or shrub is heritage-listed by checking the following:

Check Shire Maps Heritage layer

Schedule 5 under Sutherland Shire Local Environmental Plan.

Council's Heritage and property item information

An approval is not required from Council where:

  1. The trees do not meet the criteria for Pruning that requires approval
  2. The trees are pruned on privately-owned land, and the following requirements are met:
  • the landowner’s consent has been obtained
  • the pruning is undertaken in accordance with the Australian Standard AS4373 -2007, and
  • a pruning specification is fully completed

The following steps outline what is required for tree pruning, in accordance with AS 4373-2007:

  1. Customer to engage a tree contractor minimum qualification AQF 3 in Arboriculture.
  2. Check the contractor has appropriate insurance for tree work and can provide a qualification number for the pruning specification.
  3. A thorough inspection of the tree is to be carried out by an arborist competent in arboricultural assessment (minimum AQF level 3 in arboriculture).
  4. The arborist will determine if pruning is required and the pruning requirements will be specified in writing on the template provided, with all sections fully completed.
  5. The specified pruning will not adversely affect the tree.
  6. All applicable planning, heritage and protected species legislation will have been considered in the context of the proposed pruning.
  7. Customer to keep the pruning specification for minimum of two years. You do not need to lodge this with Council,
  8. The specified pruning is to be carried out as by a person qualified and experienced in arboriculture minimum AQF level 3 (or AQF 2 under supervision of AQF 3).
  9. The person undertaking the pruning must do so in accordance with the specification, addressing all relevant factors as per AS4373-2007:
  10. Important Note:

    Pruning that is carried out without a pruning specification or where the specification has not been fully completed (including all arborist details and qualifications) will be deemed invalid and subject to compliance action.

    Penalties for illegal tree works are $3000 for an individual and $6000 for an incorporated business.

Tree removal

A permit to remove a tree on private land is not required if we are satisfied there is a risk to life or property. This is determined in accordance with the State Environmental Planning Policy (Biodiversity and Conservation) 2021 and the options outlined in Council’s DCP (Chapter 39 clause 4.4, 1c.)

You can engage a consulting arborist to prepare a report. However, as time can be critical in these circumstances, the following is recommended:

  1. Contact a qualified (minimum Australian Quality Framework AQF level 3) and appropriately insured arborist.
  2. Confirm their qualifications and insurance cover, and record their business details.
  3. The arborist must inspect the tree and take clear photographs, both in context and close-ups of the issue that is the cause of the urgent action.
  4. If the tree is confirmed as an imminent risk, you may complete the works.
  5. You and the arborist must complete the SEPP Exempt Imminent Risk Form, detailing the date of removal, the reason for the removal and why there were no remedial options.
  6. The owner and arborist must retain a copy of all photos, videos and completed SEPP Exempt Imminent Risk Form for a minimum of two years. We may request this information in the event of a complaint.

Where we are not satisfied, or the above information is not available, the removal will be treated as tree vandalism.

  • Inspections are conducted by Council's arborists
  • Applications are normally determined within 28 days
  • Permits are valid for two years
  • If an inspection reveals the tree poses a risk to people or property, we will issue a permit for removal
  • If an inspection reveals an imminent risk, we will advise you at the time of inspection and the permit will provide a time frame to complete the work.

We will not remove or prune a tree as part of a Complying Development. Tree permit applications will be assessed in accordance with our normal criteria.

If an application does not meet the criteria, it will be refused and the applicant advised to follow a Development Application process.

Instead of applying for a tree permit, residents can engage an arborist to prepare a report that includes a Tree Risk Assessment Qualification (TRAQ) assessment.

  • The arborist must be an independent consultant with no affiliation with a tree contracting company.
  • The arborist must be TRAQ-licensed and have a minimum Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF ) level 5 (diploma) qualification
  • When removal is recommended, we will accept the TRAQ assessment and issue a permit. Permit fees are outlined in Council's Fees and Charges.

There are three options:

  1. Engage an AQF 5-qualified consulting arborist to complete a report including a TRAQ assessment
  2. Apply to the Land and Environment Court of NSW using provisions under the State Environmental Planning Policy (Biodiversity and Conservation) 2021
  3. Apply to us for an independent panel review. The review process is only for tree removal within six months of refusal.
    1. Write to us and request a review.
    2. We will undertake an initial review and provide a Panel Review Application Form.
    3. Submit the completed application, along with any supporting information.
    4. Our panel will review the information and make a decision.
    5. We will advise you of the decision in writing.

You can return the completed form by mail or in person.  Tax invoice will be issued if payment is required.