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Are You Allowed to Cut Down Your Tree?

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Do you have a tree on your property that is potentially going to be a nuisance, or is already a hazard? What about your neighbour’s property, is there a tree that overhangs on to your land and cause problems? Are you considering buying a property that has a large tree on the land?

You may be considering cutting the tree down entirely or perhaps just cutting it back. In Queensland, most of the time you will need council approval from your region’s council before cutting down your tree. However, there are times when you do not require council consent to cut back a tree. Here is a useful guide.

Reasons for cutting down your trees

Everyone these days knows that trees add to a home’s surroundings, and large trees are likely to have been around well before the house. Most of the time a home owner doesn’t even want to cut down a tree, but there are various reasons that may mean that this is the only option.

For example, the roots of a tree may be causing continual sewer blockages. Or perhaps the tree has the potential to be a hazardous risk to your children playing in the back yard. Maybe the roots of the tree are causing structural issues to your home.

When are you allowed to cut down your tree?

Cutting down a tree is not something you should do on your own. It is recommended that you hire the services of a professional arborist, who can assess the safest measures for cutting down the tree.

Once you have hired a professional arborist they can help you to determine what species the tree is. The species of tree will be important to your application for council consent to cut down the tree, as you will need to know if the tree is within the Protected Significant Landscape Trees. These are trees that are considered part of Brisbane’s ‘unique landscape character’, and therefore require a permit before cutting them down.

In order for any trees to be removed, your arborist will need to see that permit before undertaking the work. Trees within this list include – but are not limited to – ficus-benjamina, obliqua, platypoda, virens and watkinsiana species of the fig tree.

Other native trees not in this list but that also require permits include Mango, Poinciana and Jacaranda trees. These require permits once they have reached 80cm in diameter, and the Queensland Kauri pine, Hoop pine, Queensland blue gum or Forest red gum, and Scribbly gum require permits when grown to 60 cm in diameter.

This means that if you have these species of trees listed here that do not meet the 80cm in diameter or 60cm in diameter restriction, then a permit is not required before cutting down the tree. Your arborist can help with these measurements for you.

You will typically need a good reason for cutting down the tree when you apply for a permit. The fact that a tree is causing too much shade or tree-litter is not a reason in support of a permit. A professional arborist can consider the species and where it’s placed on your property, and will have the expertise to advise on the impact of the tree to your home. Good reasons for cutting down a tree include the potential for structural damage, any risks to your family, or root blockages in pipes.

What about your neighbour’s tree?

A neighbour’s tree could be affecting your property. In essence, your neighbour’s tree is regarded as affecting your property if it is likely to seriously injure anyone on your property, seriously damage your property, or unreasonably get in the way of your enjoyment of the land (such as blocking solar panels). Normal tree litter is not sufficient to get an order.

If a branch overhangs by 50cm or more and/or is less than 2.5 metres above the ground, you need to formally notify your neighbour by stating a time you require your neighbour to cut back the branch, and include one written quote for the work. If the tree branch/es is not cut down by that date, you can remove it yourself or have a contractor remove them, for which the neighbour is liable (up to $300).

If a branch overhangs by more than 0.5m and/or the tree is 2.5 m above the ground, if the dispute cannot be resolved by consent between you and your neighbour then you would have to apply to Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal seeking a tribunal order before cutting down the tree.

Whatever the reasons for cutting your tree down, a professional arborist can provide the right advice in support of the permit, and professionally cut down the tree.

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