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Tree Removal & Pruning Guidelines in the City of Melbourne

Pruning, lopping and removing private trees throughout the City of Melbourne is an essential part of maintaining its urban forest. Overhanging branches left unmaintained can cause a variety of problems for homeowners, from blocked gutters to safety risks. Without regular trimming and care, leaves can build up on tree limbs and begin to add extra weight to their extremities. During periods of high winds and storms, this excess weight can add extra pressure on the branches, putting them at a higher risk of snapping and falling. This same idea is true for entire trees. As their large branches are allowed to grow without the assessment and strategic lopping of a qualified arborist, the entire tree can become imbalanced. Without an even weight distribution, big mature trees can become a greater risk of falling. Generally this happens with the addition of external factors, such as rain and wind, though sometimes it can happen without any clear warning signs. 

While safety is a top priority, there are a whole host of other reasons that tree owners should be taking steps to care for their trees. Sick, dying or overgrown trees can be a detriment to your garden and the surrounding ecosystem. As trees deteriorate in health, they can begin to lose their structural integrity. This can result in an increase in the falling waste, such as leaves, twigs and branches. Beyond cluttering your yard, this buildup of waste can prevent light and important nutrients reaching your vegetation. Sick and damaged trees can also be a hotbed for disease and infestations. These diseases can spread throughout your garden and the wider ecosystem, negatively impacting the environment around you. With the help of our tree specialists, you can ensure that your tree remains safe, beneficial to the ecosystem and aesthetically pleasing. 

Below we have provided you with a helpful guide to the rules and regulations around carrying out treeworks on private trees throughout the City of Melbourne’s council region. Each council varies slightly in their rules, while the City of Melbourne does not have a stringent set of guidelines for pruning and removal, they do abide by strict planning schemes and tree registries that provide protection for certain trees. It is vital that you familiarise yourself with these guidelines prior to commencing any major lopping or removal of private trees to ensure that you are not in violation of any City laws.  

Tree Pruning and Removal Regulations

The City of Melbourne does not have authority over trees on private property. However, trees throughout the municipality may be protected by the following controls: 

  • The Exceptional Tree Register
  • The Significant Tree Register
  • Planning Schemes

Exceptional Trees – Created in 2012, the Exceptional Tree Register recognises and protects privately owned trees that are considered to be of particular value to the community. As of the time of writing, this registered contained 169 trees. However the council is in the process of revising the register and expanding the number of trees for a 2019 edition of the register. Any trees that are not considered weeds are eligible to be considered for nomination to the register. The criteria for trees to be granted the protection of the Exceptional Tree Register includes the following: 

  • Aboriginal association
  • aesthetic value
  • curious growth form
  • environmental / micro-climate services
  • historical value
  • horticultural value
  • location or context
  • outstanding example of species
  • outstanding habitat value
  • outstanding size
  • particularly old
  • rare or localised
  • social, cultural or spiritual significance

To find out if your trees are part of the registry and protected from significant lopping and removal, an interactive map is available. If your tree is part of the register and you wish to carry out treeworks, you should contact the council before proceeding. 

Significant trees – The National Trust also holds a significant tree register which includes several public and private trees throughout the City of Melbourne. Trees protected by this register must be given council approval before any significant pruning or removal can take place. To find out if your tree is protected by these controls, you can search the significant tree register.

Planning Schemes – Various planning schemes across the City of Melbourne restrict the type of work that can be carried out in those areas and the type of vegetation that can be altered or removed. Native vegetation especially is protected throughout many of these schemes, as well as trees that are within Vegetation Protection Overlays. To identify the planning schemes relevant to your property, and for information on the restrictions of those policies, the Victorian Environment, Land, Water and Planning website has an interactive map accompanied by information about the relevant ordinances on their website

Arborist Insights

One of our local tree specialists, Nathan, has been working in and around the City of Melbourne region for the last six years. Running his own Franchise means that he is experienced in every aspect of the tree servicing process:

“My role is quoting jobs, climbing trees, removing trees, removing stumps, trimming, the whole lot. So I do the whole lot.”  

Around the City of Melbourne, Nathan says that the type of work varies considerably. His clients’ needs can include:

“the whole lot: safety, landscaping, renovation, cleaning up the mess trees make, clearing areas to build a house there,” he says, but if he’s pushed to say which jobs are the most common, “mostly renovations, the inconvenience of the tree or the mess they make.” 

If Nathan had one piece of advice for residents around the City of Melbourne who are wanting to remove one of their private trees, it’s to first check with the council:

“I always suggest ringing the council first and finding out whether you need a permit for that. If it’s a completely dead tree and it’s dangerous, I reckon you’ll be fine – but it’s always good to double check, you know – there are big fines that are involved.”

Once all the necessary checks have been done though, you can rest assured that our tree surgeons are equipped and ready to tackle any job. When asked to mention any jobs that have been particularly difficult or troublesome, Nathan was stumped:

“I’ve never really come across a tree that I couldn’t do. 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.”

Cutting to the Chase

While the Council of the City of Melbourne do not have authority over private trees throughout the region, there are a number of tree protection controls that residents should be mindful of before commencing any major treeworks. The Exceptional Tree Register, the Significant Tree Register and the Planning Schemes all contain levels of restrictions that prevent certain private trees from being removed or lopped without permission from the council. In this guide we have provided links to the necessary sites to reveal which restrictions might be applicable to your property. For more information on the council regulations, or to contact an Arborist to begin your next treeworks, contact us today