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Tree Removal & Pruning Guidelines in the Stonnington Council Area

City of Stonnington

Removing a tree within the City of Stonnington generally requires a permit, as the Council maintains a zero tolerance policy towards the removal of trees without the necessary permit it is a good idea to familiarise yourself with the local laws.

With approximately 25% of the region covered by tree canopy, the City of Stonnington’s diverse and extensive urban forest is vital to the leafy streetscapes and tree-lined boulevards that characterise its suburbs. However, over 90% of Stonnington’s land area is privately owned, meaning that increased development and housing densification threatens the health and prosperity of its urban forest.

While there are some remnant trees, like the River Red Gums, from pre-European settlement, much of the landscape of Stonnington has been altered by the horticultural trends of the 19th and 20th Centuries. The mature conifers and Canary Island Date palms were planted during a surge in popularity throughout the Victorian and Edwardian eras, while the 1900s saw much of the Peppercorn Tree population planted along the railways, an enduring feature today.

Despite the altered landscape, the Council of Stonnington has listed seven sites within the region in which to plant indigenous species in an attempt to enhance biodiversity and restore the pre-European environment. The seven key biodiversity sites are:

  • Glenburn Bend Park
  • Muswell Bend Park
  • Glen Iris Wetlands
  • Darling Park
  • Malvern Valley Golf Course
  • Urban Forest Reserve
  • Yarra River Corridor

Local laws in Stonnington Council

The Stonnington Council’s mission to preserve and grow its tree population is made complicated by the fact that 90% of its land is privately owned, meaning a significant portion of Stonnington’s urban forest is comprised of private trees.

Avneet, a local Jim’s franchisee of seven years, says that the chances of being approved for a permit without meeting the exact criteria are slim:

“Removal is a really tricky thing to get done. So the permit application, that process is really tricky. There has to be a proper reason behind it, whether the tree is unhealthy or causing property damage, otherwise 9 out of 10 times people will not get a permit.”

Luckily, we’re here to break it all down for you to give you the best chances for success.

The controls in place to regulate the removal and pruning of trees are broken into two main sections, the Stonnington Planning Scheme and the General Local Law.

The Stonnington Planning Scheme

This scheme is further divided into two distinct Planning Overlays:

  • SLO1 – Yarra (Birrarung) River Corridor Environs
  • NCO1 – Hedgeley Dene Precinct

To simplify things, if the tree you wish to remove or prune is within either of these Overlays found here, then you will need to apply for a permit.

General Local Law

The General Local Law of Stonnington protects trees from removal or pruning that have been classified as ‘significant’.

A Significant Tree is defined as a tree:

  • with a trunk circumference of 140 cm or greater measured at 1.4 m above its base;
  • with a total circumference of all its trunks of 140 cm or greater measured at 1.4 m above its base;
  • with a trunk circumference of 180 cm or greater measured at its base; or
  • with a total circumference of all its trunks of 180 cm or greater measured at its base.

If your tree matches any of these criteria then you will need to apply for a Tree Work Permit to carry out any tree works.

Tree Work Permit

Applicants for the Tree Works Permit must provide the completed application form along with the applicable fee, proof of identity and proof of property ownership. Processing time for these applications tends to take about 15 working days. These applications can only be applied for by the property owner, as such your local Jim’s Trees will not be able to submit this for you.

Nevertheless Avneet says that the application form itself is not too complicated and that your local Jim’s Trees can provide some assistance:

“It’s a very simple piece of paper, owners need to complete it and sign it and pay a fee, which varies from $30 – $150, depending on the number of trees, the location etc. Most of the process needs to be carried out by the owners, but if they ever need advice from us in terms of the dimensions of the tree or the species of the tree we can help with that.”

Common trees in Stonnington Council

With around 520 different species of trees planted across its streets and parks, Stonnington’s urban forest is a diverse ecosystem. The most common species are an eclectic mixture of native, exotic, deciduous and evergreen species, with the London Plane tree being the most numerous representing almost 10% of all trees in the City.

  • London Plane Latin Name: Platanus x acerifolia
  • Callery Pear Latin Name: Pyrus calleryana
  • Queensland Brush Box Latin Name: Lophostemon confertus
  • River Red Gum Latin Name: Eucalyptus camaldulensis
  • Sweet Gum Latin Name: Liquidambar styraciflua
  • Pin Oak Latin Name: Quercus palustris
  • Blackwood Latin Name: Acacia melanoxylon
  • Claret Ash Latin Name: Fraxinus angustifolia subsp. oxycarpa ‘Raywood’
  • English Oak Latin Name: Quercus robur
  • Yellow Box Latin Name: Eucalyptus melliodora

Stonnington Arborist Insights

While the processing time for Tree Works Applications can take up to 15 business days, the Jim’s Trees process is quite a lot faster than that.

Avneet, who runs three franchises across Kew, Malvern East and Chadstone, says that customers should expect things to get underway quick once they’ve contacted Jim’s: “90% of my quotes are done within 24 hours, then we carry out the work within a week.”

Although many customers will try to convey all the necessary information over the phone, an onsite visit is necessary for an accurate quote as there are just too many elements to consider, says Avneet:  “You assess a tree for so many factors, whether there’s deadwood on it, Bora Bora, bracket fungi or Epicormic shoots, there’s plenty of things you have to look at in the tree in order to suggest to your client what needs to be done. So those are just some of the basic things that you have to assess all the time.”

Then there’s the challenge of how to assess a tree; while cutting open a cross section of the tree and examining it’s inner-rings can give the most accurate picture of a tree’s age and health, it is not best for the trees longevity. Instead, Arborists prefer to get a different perspective:

“There are other factors that help you figure out if a tree is healthy or not by climbing; if there are previous wounds that have not healed properly, if there’s rot or there’s funghi, you could climb up a tree and assess the tree in a much better way. A lot of times when we are there to prune a tree and we climb up, we suggest to a client that the tree’s health is pretty bad and they should consider removing it, and then they do that because from the ground you can’t figure out all the problems that a tree could possibly have.”

When it comes to the removal process though, Avneet says that around the Stonnington Council area felling a tree is rare. The preferred method for the region, he says, is climbing and taking the tree apart piece by piece:

“Disassembling trees is the most common type by far because the areas that we service tend to have pretty confined spaces, between houses etc. Felling a tree very rarely happens, usually medium to small trees we can fell straight away if the backyards are big enough. Most of the jobs we prefer climbing and disassembling.”

When it comes to alternatives to tree removal, Avneet prefers pruning. Although some Arborists like to offer the option to brace a tree with ropes, the regularity of upkeep necessary for this method tends to put most customers off the idea:

“Bracing is like a contract…once you start doing that then you have to stay on top of it, because you might need to go back every year and tighten those braces up and after every storm you might need to go and double check.”

Instead, Avneet preaches the importance of regular maintenance in the form of pruning. Our Arborists’ number one suggestion for homeowners looking to avoid removing trees while ensuring their trees are safe, healthy and aesthetically pleasing is annual pruning:

“Maintenance is a very important aspect, every tree needs to be maintained and every tree needs to maintained at different times of the year. For fruit trees it’s different, for hedges it’s different, every tree is going to grow differently…just like how we maintain our gardens, trees need to be maintained as well on a yearly basis, which not many people do and they only do it when they don’t have a choice left.”

Cutting to the Chase:

No one wants to end up in the Magistrates’ Court for pruning or removing a tree without the proper permits, however every tree owner should be maintaining their trees on an annual basis to ensure both the safety of residents and the health of the tree. This guide can help you navigate the intricacies of the Stonnington Council’s various planning controls. For further information on filing a Tree Works Application, visit the Council website.

For assistance with specific tree information on this form, or to get a quote on your next tree works, contact Jim’s Trees today.

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