Private trees

Trees within private property

The Woollahra LGA has a rich heritage of private and publicly owned trees planted since the early development of the area. These trees provide an important contribution to the beauty, character and history that continues to make our area such a desirable place to live.

The economical, health, environmental and social benefits trees provide our lives is well documented.

For these reasons, Woollahra Council is working with the community to protect our high value trees and also ensuring the planting of new trees for the next generation. The Woollahra Local Environmental Plan 2014 (Woollahra LEP), clause 5.9 Preservation of trees or vegetation, seeks to preserve the amenity of the area through the preservation of trees and other vegetation. From this, our community has chosen to adopt Chapter E3 - Tree Management of the Development Control Plan 2015 (DCP)(PDF, 186KB). This DCP is a planning instrument through which the pruning and removal of privately owned trees is administered.

What trees are protected

Most species of trees with a height greater than 5m or with a crown spread greater than 3m (irrespective of the height of the tree) are covered under the provisions of the DCP. If the tree is covered by the DCP an application to prune or remove the tree(PDF, 666KB) will be required to be submitted to Council. The Tree Management DCP also outlines a number of tree species and works which are exempt and do not require consent from Council to undertake.

Different types of approvals for tree works

There are two types of approval streams through which tree works (pruning or removal) are administered, these are:

Development Application (DA) consent

A DA is required where:

  • The works to the tree are part of building work or development that requires a DA.
  • Tree removal is proposed for trees identified as an Environmental Heritage Item within Schedule 5 of the Woollahra LEP or the tree is listed in the Significant Tree Register.


The majority of tree pruning and removal works are administered through the permit system, and includes:

  • All other works to prescribed trees for which a DA is not required.
  • Minor works to trees which have been identified as being;
    • An Environmental Heritage Item
    • On land identified as an Environmental Heritage Item
    • On land in a Heritage Conservation Area (HCA)

Minor tree works are generally considered as pruning for general crown maintenance or modification with consideration to the guidelines set out in Australian Standard 4373 Pruning of amenity trees.

The removal of trees within a HCA can be undertaken with a permit if it can be demonstrated, and Council is satisfied, that the removal of the tree will not adversely affect the heritage significance of the HCA.

Removing or pruning trees within your property

If the tree is growing within your property you will need to provide a completed application(PDF, 666KB) form. The legal owners of the property must sign the application and the form must be accompanied by the relevant fees.

Please be mindful when pruning or removing trees and vegetation that (although extremely rare) some plant material may be harmful to animals if digested.

Pruning or removing trees on your neighbour's property

If you wish to prune a tree that is positioned within your neighbour’s property which extends over your boundary you are still required to submit an application. The proposed works will be assessed as per the criteria set out in the Tree Management Policy (2011) and any approved pruning must be done in accordance with Australian Standard 4373 – Pruning of amenity trees.

Council will notify the tree owner, and in most cases adjacent properties that will be impacted by the proposed works. However, it is also suggested that you talk to the tree owner to inform them of your intentions.

Having the consent of the tree owner to undertake work within their property may make the process of pruning the tree easier. Please note that without the consent of the tree owner Council are only able to issue an approval to prune branches extending over the boundary and that are within your property. An approval cannot be given for tree works within your neighbour’s property unless your neighbour has given consent.

The approval does not allow you or a contractor to enter your neighbours property without their consent.

Applications to remove a neighbour’s tree without the tree owners consent will not be accepted.

Council does not mediate disputes between neighbours regarding trees. Conflict over the management of private trees in neighbouring properties is the responsibility of both neighbours to resolve. Disputes may be settled with the assistance of a Community Justice Centre aide(1800 990 777).

Where attempts for mediation between parties has failed, the opportunity exists for an owner of land to apply to the NSW Land and Environment Court, under the provisions of the Tree (Disputes Between Neighbours) Act 2006. The court has the ability to issue orders to remedy, restrain or prevent damage to the owner’s property, or to prevent injury, as a consequence of a tree situated on adjoining land.

Processing your Tree Works application

Upon receipt of your completed application a Council Arborist will be assigned to assess your proposal.

A site inspection to assess the tree and site will be undertaken before a determination is made. In most cases the owners of adjoining properties will also be notified of your application prior to making a determination.

The proposed tree works will be assessed in accordance with the criteria set out in the Tree Management Policy(PDF, 1MB) and include:

  • risk of personal injury posed by the tree
  • risk of damage to buildings, structures or services
  • the tree’s health, growth habit, stability and structural soundness of the tree and condition of the ground
  • the extent of the other trees on the property
  • the significance of the tree
  • the effect on the streetscape
  • whether the tree forms a part of or is remnant indigenous vegetation
  • the effect on biodiversity
  • the cultural or heritage significance of the planting, particularly in a conservation area.


At the end of the assessment process a determination will be forwarded to the applicant (and owner of the tree where applicable). If approval is granted for the proposed works, or part thereof, the approved works must not be commenced prior to receipt of the written determination.

If an application is refused, or part refused, you may lodge an application for review(PDF, 442KB) of the determination. Additional information not available at the time of the original assessment must be provided with any application for review. This additional information would normally take the form of an arborist and/or engineering report. An application for review must be lodged within 12 months of the date of issue of the original determination. Fees for a review of determination are 50% of the original fee.

Trees growing on rented property

If you are the tenant of a property, you will need to obtain the written consent of the property owner before lodging an application. The application form(PDF, 666KB) must be accompanied by the relevant fees. Managing agents are not able to sign on behalf of the owner of the property.

Removing or pruning trees on Strata or Company Title property

If the tree is growing on property owned by Strata or Company title, the application(PDF, 666KB) must be signed by an authorised officer under common seal. The application must also include the minutes from a meeting of the Body Corporate or Executive Committee where agreement on the management of the tree/s has been made.

Private trees overhanging public space

Where trees or shrubs from private property overhang a public walkway or carriageway and that tree is causing obstruction Council can contact the tree owner to request that they prune or remove the vegetation.

To request that Council investigate private trees or shrubs overhanging public space please contact our Customer Service Department on 9391 7000, or email

Trees which are subject to an existing Development Consent

You must advise Council if the property is subject to a current Development Application or Development Consent that affects the tree. If you wish to carry out works to a tree contrary to a condition of a current Development Consent, you will need to apply for a Section 4.55 to request an amendment to the conditions of consent, before the proposed work will be considered.

Once I have received consent for tree works, can Council do the work?

It is the responsibility of the applicant to organise for approved works to be undertaken. Council does not carry out approved private tree removal or pruning works. As a condition of approval, applicants may be required to engage the services of a qualified arborist trained to prune trees to Australian Standards. A list of qualified arborists can be found on the Arboriculture Australia or Institute of Australian Consulting Arboriculturists websites.

Replacement planting

To reinforce the urban forest a condition requiring you to plant a replacement tree may form part of the approval. The condition may specify the size and species of tree to be planted. However, we encourage you to discuss replacement planting options with the Council Arborist with the aim of planting an appropriate species in a suitable location.