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Tree Pruning & Removal Guidelines for the Yarra Council

Professional tree loppers, known as Arborists, are an essential part of maintaining a healthy urban forest. These tree surgeons provide a number of functions for the community to ensure that the trees are not only looking good, but are also safe and beneficial to the ecosystem. Our tree specialists have a number of strategies to assess the health of trees, preserve healthy trees and extract hazardous trees. Trees that have been left unmaintained can become hazardous to residents of nearby properties, passing pedestrians and local wildlife due to the risk of falling debris, limbs or the entire trunk coming down. As large trees mature, their branches can grow unevenly, causing the structure of the tree to become unbalanced. When these structural imbalances are exposed to outside factors like wind or rain, the extra stress on the limbs, joints and roots can result in fallen branches and trees. 

While our tree specialists frequently experience an increase in their workload after periods of storms, assisting in the community with the cleanup and removal of fallen trees and branches, these dangerous incidents could be avoided with preemptive maintenance and health assessments. Our Arborists always prefer to be doing proactive tree pruning rather than reactive cleanup, as it can prevent the loss of a tree as well as the risk of injury or damage to people, animals, property or vegetation nearby. There are a number of services that Arborists can provide to ensure that trees are kept healthy and safe. Pruning can help to remove excess foliage on trees, reducing the amount of leaves, sticks and debris that a tree will drop. Overhanging branches, particularly over houses, can cause a number of issues for homeowners as they shed this excess foliage; this can happen naturally, from winds or animals. By trimming the overgrowth of leaves, residents can save greater problems down the line, like blocked gutters, damaged tiles and leaking roofs that can all occur from the droppings of overhanging branches. 

Tactical lopping is another measure used by tree surgeons; removing overweight or problematic branches that could compromise the structural integrity of a tree. This approach can help to alleviate strains on the joints of a tree and preserve the life and longevity of large, mature trees. Due to the significant amount of benefits that trees provide the environment and the community, such as heat and pollution reduction, homes for native fauna and the preservation of soil quality, it is important that they are kept in the best condition to provide these many important tasks. Trees that have begun to deteriorate through age, sickness or damage, are often unable to perform these duties and can become a burden to their surrounding environment. For these reasons, among many more, tree removal is another important task for Arborists in safeguarding the local ecosystem. 

Tree Pruning & Removal Regulations

While pruning and removing private trees throughout the Yarra Council is an essential part of ensuring the urban forest remains healthy, safe and beautiful, there are some regulations that you should be aware of before commencing any such work. Below is a guide to the main regulations that you should familiarise yourself with, as violations of these rules can result in penalties, including steep fines. For clarification on any of the following guidelines, it is recommended that you contact the council to see which restrictions may apply to your private trees. 

Trimming, shaping and strategic lopping of trees on private property throughout the Yarra Council is generally permissible when the work is done by a qualified Arborist in line with Austalian Pruning Standards. However, there are two key types of regulations that can restrict the type of work you can do:

  • The Significant Tree Register
  • Planning Schemes

The Significant Tree Register

Significant Trees are defined by the Yarra Council as any tree that “has been listed (or nominated for listing) by Heritage Victoria, the Register of the National Estate, National Trust of Victoria, or Yarra City Council’s Planning Scheme. Significant trees require a permit from the responsible authority prior to removal.” 

To be considered for the protections provided by the Significant Tree Register, a tree must meet at least one of the following criteria:

  • Horticultural or Genetic Value
  • Unique Location of Context
  • Rare or Localised Distribution
  • Particularly Old Specimen
  • Outstanding Size (Girth height spread)
  • Aesthetic Value
  • Curious Growth Habit
  • Historical Significance
  • Connection to Aboriginal Culture
  • Outstanding Example of Species
  • Remnant
  • Outstanding Habitat Value
  • Environmental/Micro-climate Services
  • Social, Cultural or Spiritual Value

A detailed explanation of the criteria can be found here.

A Significant Tree Permit is required to conduct any major works on a tree within this register. The application for a significant tree permit includes: 

  • $150 non-refundable Application fee, plus
  • $215 for a Removal permit, or
  • $108 for a Pruning permit

A Significant tree will not be considered for removal unless: 

  • the tree is dead or dying; 
  • it poses a hazard which cannot be fixed through other means; 
  • it is causing structural damage to private or public property which cannot be fixed through other means; 
  • a planning permit has been granted; and 
  • a thorough consultation process has taken place 

Planning Schemes

Local and state planning schemes can also restrict the type of work you can conduct on vegetation within your private property. Various overlays cover the municipality to enforce protections on types of vegetation considered precious and beneficial to the character of the region. The major ordinances regulating the pruning and removal of trees are:

  • Vegetation Protection Overlay
  • Significant Landscape Overlay
  • Heritage Overlay
  • Native Vegetation Precinct Plan

Trees within these planning schemes, particularly native trees, are given comprehensive protections that prevent residents from conducting any major treeworks or removals without the express permission of the council. While these four ordinances focus on the protection of vegetation, other planning schemes that focus on building and developments also restrict the work that can be done on trees. 

To find out which planning schemes are relevant to your property, the Victorian Environment, Land, Water and Planning website provides and interactive map as well as information on the details of each of the regulations. If your property falls within the jurisdiction of any of these planning controls, it is recommended that you contact the council prior to engaging in any major tree pruning or removal. 

Arborist Insights

Our specialist tree loppers have been servicing the City of Yarra with their professional expertise for years. In that time they have not only helped to preserve the health and prosperity of the urban forest, but have identified some of the key warning signs that residents should be aware of in their private trees. When asked what things people should be on the lookout for in their trees, our local Arborist replied: 

“Holes in the tree are an obvious sign of bad health. Ants running along the trunk are also a sign that it might have something wrong with it.” 

While the list of warning signs for a sick tree is long, our Tree Surgeon has highlighted some of the most obvious signs of a tree deteriorating in health that anyone could see, even without a certificate of Arboriculture: 

“Obviously dead branches, cracks in the trunk, exposed roots or bores or that sort of stuff. Those things are what I would look for first.” 

While the need to maintain or remove sick and damage trees is self-evident, many people overlook the issues that can arise from tree stumps that get neglected after a tree has fallen or been extracted. 

“Probably 30% of the work we do involves stump grinding,” says our local tree specialist, “most people don’t care about a stump, but if people want to do work there, excavate, or plant something else there, they’re going to need to get the stump removed.” 

The problems with stumps aren’t limited to building and development projects, a lingering stump in your garden can cause a whole host of other issues too:

“If it’s close to a house it can push the foundations, push a fence over, damage pipes and that sort of stuff,” says our local lopper. Luckily, our team is equipped for any job, from tree pruning and removals, to stump grinding and mulching. 

Cutting to the Chase

Jim’s Trees provides a full range of tree and stump services around the Yarra Council. For help navigating the council regulations, a health assessment of your provide tree or any other assistance with your private trees, we’ve got you covered. If your tree is protected by any of the regulations mentioned in this article, it is recommended that you contact the council to confirm which restrictions may apply to your property and what permits you may require. For any extra information, or to begin your next treeworks, contact us today