Dead, dying or immediately dangerous

A permit or development consent is not required if your tree is dead, dying or is an imminent risk to human life or substantial property.

We must be satisfied a person with appropriate knowledge and expertise has identified the tree needs to be removed or pruned without our permission.

To show the tree is/was in this condition, you must provide us with the following information:

  • a record of the tree's condition (including photographs detailing the issue)
  • the high and imminent level of risk the tree presents
  • a statement verifying how current or future works were the minimum actions necessary to manage the risk.

You will also need to provide a report from a qualified arborist with a minimum level 3 in Arboriculture (AQF) before the works start, or immediately after in the event works were required to occur outside business hours. 

When immediate action is required

The qualified arborist is responsible for identifying if the tree is a high and imminent risk to human life or substantial property. The arborist will identify if tree failure is likely to occur in an unacceptable period (for example, 48 hours) and required immediate action.

Risks that are imminently dangerous may include:

  • obvious instability of the root system
  • evidence of soil heave or cracking
  • loss of structural roots/root decay
  • storm damage
  • structural defects, such as splitting branches.

If we are not satisfied the tree was dead, is dying or poses an imminent risk to human life or substantial property, we may issue fines or pursue legal action.

Species exemptions

A permit or development consent is not required for trees that are exempt from the Sydney Development Control Plan 2012. The following tree species can be removed without our permission unless the tree is listed on the register of significant trees or the heritage trees list:

  • Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven)
  • Bamboo sp (all species and cultivars)
  • Citrus sp (all varieties)
  • Cotoneaster sp (Cotoneaster)
  • Ficus elastica (rubber tree)
  • Gleditsia triacanthos – not cultivars (wild honey locust)
  • Lagunaria patersonia (Norfolk Island hibiscus)
  • Ligustrum sp (privet)
  • Melia azedarach (white cedar)
  • Morus species (mulberry)
  • Musa species (banana)
  • Olea europaea var. Africana (African olive)
  • Robinia pseudacacia – not cultivars (false acacia)
  • Salix babylonica (willow)
  • Schefflera actinophylla (umbrella tree)
  • Syagrus romanzoffianum (cocos palm).

The following tree species can be pruned or removed without our permission if the tree is less than 10m tall unless it is listed on the register of significant trees:

  • Cinnamomum camphora (camphor laurel)
  • Celtis sinensis (Chinese nettle tree)
  • Celtis occidentalis (American nettle Tree)
  • Erythrina x sykesii (coral tree)
  • Liquidambar styraciflua (Liquidambar)

Property owners are responsible for ensuring the tree species was listed as being exempt.

Identification should be obtained by a qualified arborist or horticulturalist with a minimum level 3 in Arboriculture or Horticulture (AQF).

Where possible, we suggest you keep photo evidence in case we make contact and you need to show the works did not require a permit.

Pruning exemptions

A permit or development consent is not required to prune a tree on private property if the pruning meets all of the criteria below:

  • provides clearances consistent with the tree pruning guidelines table (below), and the branch size does not exceed the diameter defined in each pruning category
  • does not remove more than 5% of a tree's canopy
  • does note damage or affect the health or structural stability of the tree
  • is undertaken in line with the relevant Australian Standard for the Pruning of Amenity Trees and by a qualified arborist minimum level 2 in Arboriculture (AQF).

Tree pruning guidelines 

Location Clearance permitted Permitted branch size
Major arterial roads 4.5m clearance in height measured from the road surface and in line with the kerb alignment Up to (not exceeding) 100mm in diameter
Local roads 2.5m clearance over parking lanes and 4.5m clearance over roads, measured in height from the road surface and in line with the kerb alignment Up to (not exceeding) 100mm in diameter
City pedestrian paths 2.5m clearance over footpath measured in height from ground level Up to 100mm in diameter
Domestic power or telecommunications lines Minimum clearance of 0.5m and a maximum clearance of 1m, measured from the service line Up to 50mm in diameter
Buildings Maximum clearance of 1m from any approved building, measured from the surface of the structural component (wall or roof) of the building's edge Up to 50mm in diameter
Downloads Document Downloads
Heritage trees list PDF 551.8 KB Download
Heritage trees list Word 73.5 KB Download

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Last updated: Monday, 19 March 2018