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Tree Pruning & Removal Guidelines for the Whittlesea Council


Tree Pruning & Removal Guidelines for the Whittlesea Council

Trees that are well maintained, through pruning, shaping and tactical lopping, provide a broad range of benefits for the community. Healthy trees look good, contribute to the leafy green character of a region, increase property value and even improve mental health and wellbeing, according to research. Trees that have been well cared for also return the favour through their environmental effects. Trees help to filter the air we breathe, reducing harmful gasses in the air and pumping out fresh oxygen. They also provide much needed shade, which is not only great for a picnic, but helps to reduce the effects of ‘urban heat islands’, which trap heat in highly developed areas. 


The work of an Arborist is not limited to maintenance, they help to preserve an ecosystem through the sustainable extraction of trees and the planting of new saplings. Trees that are too close to homes or developments can cause innumerable problems for property owners, both on the surface and underground. Overhanging branches are an acute concern for residents, as the shedding of their leaves and vegetation can damage tiles and block drains, while the potential for them to snap and fall onto a roof or person is a legitimate fear. These issues can all be mitigated through regular trimming, shaping and care from a qualified tree surgeon. Root systems, however, can be a much trickier problem to solve. As root systems expand away from the base of the tree, up to twelve times the distance of the tree limbs, they can cause havoc for any pipes, walls or pavement in their path. Cracks in pavement is often just the start of further issues to come. As these systems entangle themselves in a building’s plumbing, they can block pipes and cause leaks. To prevent these sorts of headaches, it is important that you factor trees and their roots into any development or renovation plans. 


The City of Whittlesea, located just 20km north of Melbourne’s Central Business District, is a vast and unique municipality covering almost 500 square kilometres. Approximately 70% of Whittlesea is categorised as rural area, making its tree population particularly robust and fundamental to the character and prosperity of the community. Our Arborists, commonly known as Tree Loppers, are an essential part in preserving and growing this population of trees. Maintaining or removing private trees in Whittlesea is the responsibility of residents and homeowners. This responsibility is heavily regulated by laws within the local Planning Scheme. Despite this, it is in the best interests of both residents and the wider community that everyone uphold this responsibility by enlisting the help of qualified and fully insured Arborists. 

Tree Pruning & Removal Regulations

While the Whittlesea Council support the proper care and treatment of private trees by qualified Arborists, they use restrictions within the local Planning Scheme to ensure that all work is carried out in a way best suited to preserving the character and environment of the region. It is therefore important that all residents are aware of these restrictions so that they can keep their trees healthy and safe without risk of violating any laws and incurring steep financial penalties. This guide will outline the key regulations and tree protections that are afforded by the Planning Scheme. It is highly recommended that you contact the Council directly for clarification and confirmation of the laws applicable to your property. 


The first step to navigating the laws on pruning and removing private trees throughout Whittlesea is to determine which restrictions are relevant to your property. This can be done either by contacting the Council, or by checking the interactive map supplied by the Victorian Environment, Land, Water and Planning website. From here you will be able to see which ‘overlays’ cover your property. The overlays are zones with specific restrictions on the type of work you can undertake and the permissions you need to carry out that work. 

The overlays that assign the strictest tree control measures are: 


Trees within these zones, particularly native trees, are heavily protected and will require a permit from the Council in order to carry out any removal or significant alteration through heavy pruning of lopping. 

Planning permits can be applied for through the Council website. It is recommended that you speak with the Council before lodging this application, as the application fees can be expensive and a permit is not always required for minor treework – even within the overlays. 


There are exemptions which allow residents to carry out work within the overlay zones without applying for a permit. The Council provides two examples of these exemptions. You do not need a permit to remove:

  • vegetation around your rural property for protection from bushfire
  • previously planted (rather than native) vegetation

Other exemptions are outlined in the bylaws of the Planning Scheme, including cases where there is imminent danger posed by a hazardous tree. For clarification on individual cases and exemptions, contact the council directly. 

Culturally Significant Trees

Trees that are considered important to the landscape, the culture or the history of the region are given extra protections under the Whittlesea Planning Scheme. This includes both native and non-native vegetation. The River Red Gum is one such example, is considered to be of high heritage value. Any plans to alter or remove a River Red Gum must be submitted to the Council for approval.

Arborist Insights

Our dedicated tree surgeons took some time out of their day to give us some insight into the work they do for the local community. One of our Arborists, who has owned and operated a Jim’s Trees franchise since 2013, is very familiar with all aspects of the business.


“My role is quoting jobs, climbing trees, removing trees, removing stumps, trimming – the whole lot,” he said. 


However, when we asked our tree expert about the greatest challenges that he has faced when removing a tree, well he was a little stumped. 


“Oh yeah there’s been lots of big trees, but nothing that’s too difficult … You know, if it requires a crane to remove then it requires a crane. A tree can always be removed, any tree can be removed. There’s always a safe way to do it, and if you can’t climb it, you use a machine, or a crane, or a boom lift.”


One of our other Tree Surgeons, who has operated his Jim’s Trees Franchise in and around the Whittlesea region since 2015, says that the biggest challenge they face is a lack of public knowledge of tree regulations.


“I think a big issue that we have is that people think they own the trees on their properties; they think it’s my tree I have the right to remove it – which is a hard thing to get past.”


In terms of the work they do though, our specialist says that pruning and maintenance is one of their priorities. 


“We don’t tend to take down a lot of trees. We do a lot of maintenance on trees, especially the big stuff … so taking the leaves off houses, pruning big hedges, that sort of thing. We don’t really like to remove big trees unnecessarily.” 

Cutting to the Chase

Before you start the process of hiring an arborist to prune or remove your private trees, you should familiarise yourself with the local laws and determine which regulations are applicable to your property. This guide has provided all the information you need to educate yourself on the Council regulations, plus links to help you start the application process for a planning permit. To clarify any of these restrictions, or to confirm the overlays relevant to you, contact the Council directly. To enlist the help of an experienced local tree specialist, contact Jim’s today

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