Protected Trees in Australia – The Lowdown For Each State
What trees are protected in Australia?
Tree protection laws in different Australian states and territories vary considerably. However, they all stem from their respective state and territory parliaments, serving a shared objective.
These laws exist to prevent the mistreatment and arbitrary eradication of protected trees vital for the environment and carry cultural significance. Therefore, it is imperative to ensure that the removal of a tree complies with all legal regulations, avoiding any violation thereof.
While seeking forgiveness rather than permission may seem appealing, it is prudent to exercise caution when dealing with protected Australian state trees. If you are contemplating removing, pruning, or trimming a tree, it is advisable to verify its protected status. By doing so, you can ensure compliance while still achieving your desired outcome.
The EPBC ACT
The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act) is the legislation of the Australian Government designed to protect and preserve the environment. It encompasses assessing and approving environmental factors, safeguarding significant biodiversity, and integrating the management of important natural and cultural sites.
If a new project on your property is anticipated to have a significant impact on a matter of National Environmental Significance, such as a threatened native grassland, marine park, or endangered species, it is imperative to refer the topic to the Australian Government Department of the Environment and Energy.
Australia’s environment is crucial to our natural heritage, indigenous traditions, and economy. We depend on the EPBC Act, Australia’s principal national environmental legislation, to ensure its preservation. This comprehensive framework empowers us to protect and manage essential flora, fauna, habitats, and significant sites of national and international significance.
Other Legislations Protecting Trees
The Tree Protection Act of 2005 safeguards precious trees in Australia by establishing a registry for regulated and registered protected trees. These majestic beings are protected due to their immense value and the critical need to preserve the urban forest. The comprehensive tree protection legislation ensures the conservation of these remarkable trees through a meticulously maintained tree register. Currently, this prestigious register encompasses approximately 5,000 trees across the nation, symbolising our commitment to their preservation and the beauty they bring to our surroundings.
The legislation also grants the Minister the authority to designate specific areas within the city as Tree Management Precincts. These precincts play a crucial role in safeguarding urban forests and mitigating the loss of canopy cover in our cities. They establish protective measures to prevent the unnecessary felling of trees during urban development. Prior approval is required for tree removal or pruning activities within a Tree Management Precinct.
What Makes A Tree ‘Protected’
Certain states have dedicated years to the collection of remarkable trees. Moreover, individuals and communities can nominate trees they believe should be safeguarded.
To attain protected status, a nominated tree undergoes evaluation based on its heritage, canopy size, landscape, and scientific significance. It is included in the protected tree registry if it satisfies the criteria.
A protected tree is recognised as valuable and should not be removed or harmed. These trees are typically chosen because of their historical or cultural significance, unique size, location, physical characteristics, rarity (especially for endangered species), horticultural value, connection to the community and environment, and the reason for their plantation.
If a tree is protected, it is strictly forbidden to damage or remove it without obtaining the necessary permit. Engaging in any activities that involve a protected tree can lead to the imposition of a substantial fine.
A comprehensive scientific evaluation of the species’ threat status is conducted to assess the eligibility of a species for listing as threatened under the EPBC Act. These assessments are performed by the Threatened Species Scientific Committee to determine if the species satisfies the criteria specified in the guidelines for nominating and evaluating threatened species and ecological communities.
Tree protection regulations in Australia exhibit variation across different regions. Each state, territory, and individual council has specific rules for safeguarding selected Australian tree species. Moreover, the permit application process and penalties for non-compliance differ depending on the particular state, territory, and council.
State and Territory Tree Protection Laws
Protected Trees in New South Wales
In New South Wales (NSW), the removal of trees is governed by the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 (EP&A Act). According to this legislation, obtaining council approval is necessary for tree removal, except in specific circumstances. Exceptions may include instances of an immediate risk to human life or property, which may warrant tree removal without prior consent.
Removing a tree unlawfully in NSW can result in significant fines and legal ramifications. The exact penalty depends on various factors, including the type and location of the tree, as well as the severity of the offence.
In New South Wales (NSW), there are circumstances where tree removal does not require council approval. These tree removal reasons include cases where trees are dead, dangerous, or below a specified height limit. Similarly, in most councils, such as the Sutherland Shire, immediate risks to life or property may justify tree removal without a permit, but only in specific situations. It is important to note that these regulations vary depending on your location and local council. Therefore, it is advisable to consult your council before removing any tree.
Common list of protected trees in NSW include:
- Coral Tree
- Camphor Laurel
- Chinese Nettle Tree
- American Nettle Tree
Protected Trees in Victoria
Local councils and laws play a vital role in preserving native vegetation, imposing specific guidelines for cutting, pruning, or removal. According to the Environmental Authority of Victoria, native vegetation encompasses trees, shrubs, herbs, and grasses indigenous to Victoria. Therefore, determining whether the tree in question falls under the protected species category is crucial. While some trees may be exempt from permits, it is advisable to notify the council before removal to address any potential legal complications that may arise proactively.
In Victoria, trees are safeguarded by both general property law and ‘common law’, which encompasses the legal principles established by the courts over time. Consequently, tree owners are typically not bound by a legal obligation to uphold their trees unless they are causing harm or disturbance.
Common protected trees in Victoria include:
- Avon Peppermint
- Pacific Madrone
- Yellow Gum
- Pacific Dogwood
- Western Red Cedar
- Big Leaf Maple
Protected Trees in Queensland
In Queensland, the preservation and removal of native trees are subject to legal protection. Furthermore, the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Qld) provides additional legal safeguards for specific tree categories, including rare and endangered species, listed trees, significant vegetation areas, and trees of particular sizes or ages. These measures ensure the conservation and sustainable management of Queensland’s precious natural resources.
Under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 (Qld), all native trees are afforded general protection to prevent their destruction or removal. This implies that it is illegal to damage or remove any native tree without obtaining a permit from the Department of Environment and Science (DES) in Queensland. The DES issues permits for destroying protected trees in cases deemed necessary for specific purposes such as development, land clearing, or scientific research.
Common list of protected trees in QLD include:
- Mango trees
- Weeping Paperbark Tree
- Eucalyptus trees
Protected Trees in Western Australia
Local councils have the authority to establish registers of noteworthy trees and issue “tree preservation orders” as part of their local planning schemes. It is worth noting that all councils in WA appear to maintain significant tree registers. The criteria for inclusion in these registers encompass various factors, including size (height, canopy, and girth), historical value, and indigenous/native significance. However, it should be acknowledged that the specific criteria may vary among different councils.
Some Councils have specific criteria for designating trees as ‘protected’. For example, the City of Mandurah considers trees ‘protected’ based on various important qualities. These include their remarkable visual or aesthetic importance, botanical or scientific significance, significant ecological value, and historical, commemorative, cultural, or social significance.
List of significant trees include:
- California Fan Palm
- Cabbage Tree
Protected Trees in South Australia
In South Australia, the laws regarding tree removal are recognised for their flexibility, making removing large trees relatively hassle-free without requiring a permit. However, it is essential to note that there are exceptions to this rule, particularly when it concerns certain tree species. Protected Australia tree species include:
- Norfolk pine
- Pepper tree
- Sugar gam
When resolving disputes between neighbours, individuals can trim tree branches that extend onto their property up to the property boundary line. However, it’s crucial to note that any branches or roots trimmed off belong to the tree owner. Therefore, seeking permission before entering your neighbour’s property to trim a protected tree is imperative. This ensures a respectful and harmonious resolution to any potential conflicts.
Protected Trees in Tasmania
Trees in Tasmania are afforded protection through various means. This includes being awarded significant status, often determined by the local council, or being classified as vulnerable, rare, or threatened by the State’s Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
The Department of Natural Resources and Environment in Tasmania curates an extensive inventory of protected trees, other flora, and fauna that are either endangered or hold significant ecological importance. Numerous plant species face the imminent threat of extinction within the region, necessitating their protection alongside the rare and vulnerable ones. It is paramount to safeguard these invaluable species and ensure their preservation for future generations.
For an accurate list of protected trees in Tasmania, it is recommended to contact the local council or seek assistance from a professional arborist. Among the notable species under protection are:
- Morisby’s gum (eucalyptus)
- Black gum
Protected Trees in Australian Capital Territory (ACT)
In 2005, the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) enacted the Tree Protection Act. This legislation not only safeguards remarkable individual trees but also prohibits the unnecessary removal of specific trees. Its purpose is to ensure the preservation of these valuable natural assets.
As per the ACT guidelines, trees that qualify for protection must fulfil the following criteria: they must be located on Territory land, have a minimum height of 12 meters, and be listed in the ACT tree register.
Common protected Australian tree species include:
- Red Box
- Yellow Box
- Chinese Elm
Protected Trees in Northern Territory (NT)
In the Northern Territory, protected trees can be classified as sacred and significant. Sacred trees hold cultural significance or are situated on sacred sites, as determined by the Aboriginal Areas Protection Authority.
The Northern Territory parliament and local councils do not offer legal protection to trees on private land unless designated as part of a heritage item under the Heritage Conservation Act. However, councils have implemented bylaws to preserve trees on public land.
Some common protected Australian tree species include:
Penalties for Violating Tree Protection in Australia
Several Australian states have established clear penalties for unauthorised tree removal. The fines for unlawfully cutting down trees differ throughout the country, with on-the-spot penalties starting as low as $500 and hefty fines exceeding $100,000 for removing protected trees.
New South Wales: Violating a Tree Preservation Order can lead to a hefty fine of $110,000 in regular courts, but in the Land and Environmental Court of NSW, offenders can face penalties as high as $1.1 million.
Queensland: Penalties for protected tree offences in Queensland vary among local councils, as each council has its tree protection laws. These laws outline fines for different violations, including unauthorised tree removal.
South Australia: The Planning and Design Code mandates that individuals who own trees classified as ‘regulated’ or ‘significant’ must obtain a permit before carrying out any tree removal. Failure to comply with this legislation may lead to fines ranging from $60,000 to $120,000.
Western Australia: Cutting down protected trees carries severe consequences, with a base fine of $200,000 and an additional $25,000 per day for each ongoing offence. Furthermore, there is a possibility of receiving an infringement notice amounting to $500.
Tasmania: Fines for violating the law, such as illegally cutting down protected trees without a permit, can amount to an astonishing $10,000.
Victoria: The penalties for unauthorised tree cutting in Victoria are severely inadequate. Let’s consider the city of Boroondara as an example, where a meagre fine of $2,000 is imposed for each offence.
Canberra: This region distinguishes itself as a trailblazer with its comprehensive and meticulously outlined regulations for tree protection. The Tree Protection Act of 2005 unequivocally prohibits the cutting of specific trees.
- Trees that are 12 meters tall.
- Trees with a trunk circumference measuring 1.5 meters.
- Trees with a canopy measuring more than 12 meters
The Northern Territory: There are currently no specific regulations to safeguard trees on privately owned land, except for laws on heritage trees as stipulated in the Heritage Conservation Act.
Tree Wise Men Has Your Bark… Back!
Preserving trees is paramount across Australia, as demonstrated by the diligent efforts undertaken in various regions. To determine the exact species, individual trees, and designated protected areas, it is advisable to contact the local council or government. Before considering any tree removal, engaging in this consultation process is always wise and prudent.
The preservation of Australia’s distinctive ecological diversity depends on the conservation of its tree species. Each state has its laws devoted to protecting native flora and fauna. While there may be slight variations across states, the ultimate goal remains unwavering: ensuring the survival of endangered species for future generations.
At Tree Wise Men, we are available to assist you at any time and address all your concerns regarding your issues. If you have a protected tree that you would like to have removed and you have obtained all the necessary requirements and permits, reach out to us. We are committed to doing everything possible to ensure your satisfaction.
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