Having trees on your property can provide benefits — from a great view to providing shade during hot, sunny days, to even making the temperature around your property cooler. However, there are times when you might want to cut down a tree in your garden, and simply cutting them down may result in penalties in NSW.

Here is a quick guide on what you need to know when getting tree removal services in NSW.

Why You Might Want to Cut Down a Tree

Trees are essential for us to live comfortably. They provide oxygen and cool the temperature around us.

However, sometimes things happen, and we must cut down a tree. These can include the following.

  • The tree is dying or already dead
  • The tree could be pestiferous or diseased, which may be a hazard for surrounding plant life
  • The tree might be causing damage to your property and underground pipes
  • The tree might have grown in an incorrect or inconvenient position
  • The tree might cause a fire risk

However, if you have any uncertainties, we always suggest consulting your local arborist or tree surgeon.

Reasons for Protected Trees

Just like properties, some trees are protected and cannot be cut. The local council in NSW recognises protected species of trees in terms of the following factors.

  • Aboriginal importance
  • Historical importance
  • Landscape amenity
  • Botanical importance
  • Functionality

Some of the tree species that are protected and registered in NSW’s Register of Significant Trees include the following.

  • Camphor Laurel
  • Chinese Nettle Tree
  • Coral Tree
  • American Nettle Tree
  • Liquidambar

You can only cut down a tree listed as significant and protected in NSW if you obtained permission from the NSW local council. Before you can get permission, you must provide convincing reasons for removing the tree.

Removing Unprotected Trees

Generally, you can uproot and remove unprotected and insignificant trees without a permit from your local council.

However, even if you don’t need a permit, specific criteria must be followed before cutting down a tree.  Among these criteria include the following.

  • Height and foliage size of at least five metres
  • Trunk diameter of at least 300 mm
  • Trees that are invasive and considered invasive or pests

10/50 Rule

The 10/50 rule aims to protect people who are living within 100 metres of bushland as these areas are more prone to catch fire.

According to the rule, if you live in a bushfire-prone area, you don’t need permission from the local government.  Instead, you can cut down trees and vegetation within 10 to 50 metres from the outermost wall of your home or property.

It is important to note that there are still conditions to meet for the 10/50 rule, such as.

  • The method of cutting trees and vegetation must not change the soil profile underneath
  • Clearing practices must not include bulldozing, ploughing, and burning
  • Slopes are not covered by the rule as vegetation and trees in these areas are essential in erosion control

Penalties for Illegal Tree Removal in NSW

Unless exempted, illegal tree removal in NSW is a criminal offence as it violates Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs).

Penalties and fines for illegal tree removal can vary according to your location. These can range from $1,000 and can go up to $1.1 million.

Trees are essential parts of our lives. In fact, we cannot live without them. However, sometimes we need to cut them down, especially if they provide more harm than good. In NSW, you cannot just cut down any tree from your property, as some species are considered significant and protected. Otherwise, you may face penalties that cost more than you’ve spent cutting down the tree.

If you have plans to clear trees on your property, it is best that you consult a qualified arborist providing tree removal services.


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