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Tree Pruning & Removal Guidelines for the Nillumbik Council


Why Prune Your Trees?

Tree removal and pruning practices are heavily regulated in the Nillumbik Council and for that reason all residents should familiarise themselves with the local laws before thinking about cutting down or trimming their private trees. However, these practices remain an important part of preserving the health and sustainability of the local ecosystem. 


Healthy trees, those which have been regularly assessed and maintained by a qualified Arborist, are hugely beneficial to the environment and the community. Large, mature trees that are healthy and well-shaped can bring value to a region; improving property value and decreasing air conditioning costs for those beneath its shade. These trees filter our air, remove unhealthy gases from the air and provide us with a fresh supply of oxygen. Healthy trees have been linked to improvements in mental health and general wellbeing

Why Remove Trees?

While the benefits of pruning and maintaining trees are numerous, the need to remove trees can be just as important. Trees that have deteriorated, whether it be through age, sickness or neglect, can become hazardous to their surroundings. Large trees that have been left without proper trimming, shaping and lopping, can grow unevenly. As these huge structures become imbalanced through this uneven growth, extra pressure is placed on their roots.  The introduction of external factors can become a catalyst for total collapse. This catalyst often comes in the form of storms. As the preceding rain loosens the soil around the base of the tree, the structural integrity becomes compromised, creating the conditions for a strong wind to bring the whole tree down. 


The work of an Arborist, also known as a Tree Surgeon, is to ensure the safety of the community through the proactive assessment and sustainable maintenance of its urban forest. It is the responsibility of homeowners and residents to understand the local tree protection laws, to acquire any required permits and to enlist the help of a Tree Surgeon to assess, prune or remove their private trees. Despite the importance of this responsibility, it can be very difficult and time consuming to figure out the local laws and determine which are applicable to you. That’s why we’ve created this guide to help you. Below you will find a summary of all the important regulations and tree protection controls in Nillumbik and information on the requirements for each. For clarification on any of these laws, or to confirm which restrictions are relevant to your property, contact the Nillumbik Council directly.  

Tree Pruning & Removal Regulations

The Nillumbik Council has structured their tree protection controls around the regulations provided by the local Planning Scheme. Permit holders must abide by all tree controls that are outlined in the conditions of their permits. 

Tree Protection Zones

Many of these planning and development permits specify the need for tree protection fencing around a designated Tree Protection Zone (TPZ). The size of the TPZ is detailed in the permit requirements and is intended to prevent any construction or work that could damage the tree roots, which can grow up to 12 times the length of the branches. 

Within the TPZ you are prohibited from:

  • Constructing any structures or permanent features
  • Storing equipment, fuel, building waste or rubble
  • Disturbing the soil
  • Excavation
  • Attaching anything to the tree

The Planning Scheme

The Victorian Environment, Land, Water and Planning website provides an interactive map of the Nillumbik Planning Scheme that can reveal which regulations and laws are applicable to your property. Any of the ordinances within the Planning Scheme can specify tree protection requirements in that zone, however the areas with the strongest protections are:


Pruning vs Lopping

The difference between pruning and lopping can be vague within these regulations. In general, lopping is considered to be the complete removal of large limbs, while pruning is restricted to the trimming of foliage and shaping of the canopy. The line from pruning to lopping can be crossed when a significant amount of the tree (often measured as ⅓ of the canopy) is removed. While pruning and shaping is commonly allowed without a permit, you should speak with the Council or an Arborist to confirm the permissibility of the activity before you commence. 


Each of these tree protection zones provide various exemptions for emergency scenarios and to enable fire protection activity. Before you begin an application for a permit, it is recommended that you speak with the Council directly to confirm whether any of these exemptions may apply to you. 


The Nillumbik Council offer different types of permits depending on the extent of work you wish to carry out.


Fast-track applications are available for the removal of two or less trees, or the pruning of an unlimited number of trees, when no development is planned. This permit application process is faster and does not require the inclusion of an independent Arborist’s report. Details of this permit, and an accessible version of the application form, can be found here


Planning Permits are used for tree pruning or removal work that includes more than two trees, or involves the development or subdivision of land. In addition to the completed form, fees and additional documentation, these applications require an Arborist’s report. 

Arborist Insights

Beware Unlicensed & Uninsured Tree Services

Our local Tree Specialists have noticed a rise in unlicensed and uninsured services working in the Tree Industry. The people operating in these unregulated ways are commonly referred to as ‘cowboys’. The best option for your trees and your home is to always choose a service with full OH&S policies and insurance coverage.


“There’s a lot of people going around in unnamed trucks doing questionable work. Like climbing a tree with spurs, working dangerously around power lines and dumping mulch in illegal spots.” 


It is important to be cautious of these services as they are often unqualified, do not meet safety requirements and can engage in dangerous activity around your home. This sort of illegal behaviour is not just risky for the workers, it can result in penalties for you. People look to these services to fast-track the removal of trees without the proper permits. However, harsh financial penalties can be given to both the person responsible for the removal of the tree, as well as the resident or homeowner. 


“The other thing is lowballing to get the job. They undercut our quotes by cutting costs around safety measures and insurance. I think it’s dragging down the tree industry as a whole, but that’s something that you can’t really avoid.”


Quotes for tree services include the cost of equipment, safety crews, insurance and qualified personnel. You should be wary of any service offering heavily discounted rates as you may end up paying for the corners that have been cut. 


“Some people ask for these cowboys to come in and do their trees. We tend to steer away from that because we don’t want to have to deal with the backlash. As an Arborist, that’s not how we’re taught to do it.”

Cutting to the Chase

Trimming, pruning, shaping and lopping can all help to preserve the health of a tree. Depending on the extent of the work you do, a permit may be required. Minor trimming and pruning with the intention of maintenance and shaping is often permissible without a permit. Significant removal of branches or canopy, through lopping, generally requires a permit from the Council. Cutting down and extracting a private tree almost always requires a permit and consent from the Council. There are exceptions to this, such as emergency situations and for the purposes of fire protection. To confirm the type of permit you need and the regulations that apply to you, contact the Council. To enlist a qualified Arborist and crew to help with your private Trees, contact Jim’s today

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