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Tree Removal & Pruning Guidelines in the Whitehorse Council

Before commencing any significant works on private trees throughout the City of Whitehorse, it is important that you familiarise yourself with the local and state regulations to avoid any possible infringements and subsequent fines. Our local loppers, known as Arborists, always operate within the laws and the Australian Pruning Standards to ensure our tree maintenance and removal is always legal and of the highest quality. While it is recognised by both state and local officials that the pruning and removal of trees is an essential part of keeping them healthy and safe, the planning controls within the district aim to discourage improper treatment of trees, particularly those which have been classified as environmentally, culturally or aesthetically significant to the region. It is important that home owners and residents do not allow these regulations to discourage the regular maintenance of healthy trees and removal of damaged or dying trees, as this process is not only important for the health and wellbeing of the tree, but vital to the prosperity and safety of the wider ecosystem and community.   

Trees close to residential homes and pathways are especially important; without regular trimming and health assessments from a qualified Arborist, branches can become overgrown and at risk of falling. Excess foliage on a tree’s extremities can not only fall and clutter your roof, drains and garden, but compromise the structural integrity of large limbs. Allowed to grow without the care of a tree specialist, these overgrown limbs and foliage can lead to dangerous weight imbalances. Once this occurs, storms and strong winds can be the catalyst that causes them to fall. While many know the danger of unstable trees in heavy storms, imbalanced and unhealthy trees can be a risk of falling under any condition. It is thus important to ensure responsible tree ownership through regular pruning of healthy trees and the removal of dangerous, sick or damaged ones. 

Tree Removal & Pruning Regulations

Significant Landscape Overlay – Schedule 9 (SLO9)

The Whitehorse Council currently regulates the work that can be done on private trees through an amendment to the Whitehorse Planning Scheme. Since February 2018, Amendment C191 has broadened the Significant Landscape Overlay (SLO) to include all residential land across the council. This new, wider overlay is known as SLO9. Two further amendments to the planning scheme (C214, C223) have extended the timeframe of these interim tree protection controls up until the end of June, 2020. The council are working to implement Amendment C219 which will permanently apply SLO9. 

Where Does SLO9 Apply?

Broadly, the interim Significant Landscape Overlay applies to all residential areas, including:

  • Neighbourhood Residential Zone
  • General Residential Zone
  • Residential Growth Zone
  • Low Density Residential Zone

An interactive map is available where you can search your property and identify the overlays that cover your property through the selection of an information bubble once you have selected your property. 

What Restrictions Apply? 

Within the SLO9 a permit is required to remove, destroy or lop any tree: 

  • greater than 5 metres in height, and
  • with a trunk circumference of 1 metre or more, measured 1 metre above ground level

A permit is also required to commence any building work or development within 4 metres of any vegetation which requires a permit to remove or lop. 

Exemptions

A permit is not required to:

  • Remove or lop a tree less than 5 metres in height and with a trunk circumference less than 1 metre, measured 1 metre above ground level
  • Prune a tree for regeneration or shaping
  • Remove or lop a tree which is dead, dying or dangerous (as agreed by the council)
  • Remove a tree outside the Minimum Street Setback in the Residential Growth Zone

How Do I Obtain A Permit?

Permits can be acquired through the VicSmart application process. It is recommended that you first contact the Council to determine whether you need a permit for your proposed works. The Council can be contacted on 9262 6303.

Further Overlays & Restrictions

The Victorian Environment, Land, Water and Planning website has an interactive map and with a list of ordinances that reveal which overlays and planning restrictions apply to your property. 

This list of protections includes:

  • Environmental and Landscape Overlays
  • Environmental Significance Overlays
  • Vegetation Protection Overlays
  • Heritage Overlay
  • Native Vegetation protections

Information on each of these planning schemes can be found on the Victorian planning scheme website for Whitehorse

Arborist Insights

Our local tree specialist in Whitehorse says that a majority of the work done around the region is tree removals due to improper care and negligence of maintaining the health of the large, mature trees

“Mostly its tree removal,” says our local expert, “they can be a hazard when they’re too close to houses, in heavy storms branches can snap and fall, especially gum trees – their branches snap very quickly from the high weight.”  

It’s important to not only regularly maintain and assess the health of your residential trees, but to keep an eye out for warning signs, says our expert. There are a number of key factors that could cause a tree to become dangerous:

“Branches overhanging the roof, when the branches are too big, when the tree hasn’t been pruned properly, uneven weight distribution,” says our local Arborist, “some people don’t know how to prune trees properly, they just cut the tree from one side and don’t worry about the other.”

While these issues can occur from poor maintenance or amateur tree services, there are other factors that can cause local residents to cause these issues by only maintaining one half of a tree:

“…sometimes a tree is between two boundaries. So sometimes the neighbour on one side will cut the tree and won’t care about the other. So we look at all these things and guide the customer with the best options, whether that’s removing the tree, pruning for weight reduction,” says our Jim’s Trees franchisor in Whitehorse.

However, it’s important to remember that we help the community with more than just tree removal and pruning:

“We also do stump grinding and some people like to cut the costs and cut the tree themselves and we help with chipping and removing the green waste for them,” says our local tree surgeon. 

Cutting to the Chase

Removing and pruning private trees in the Whitehorse region is regulated by a number of overlays, the Significant Landscape Overlay (SLO9) being the most extensive. Removing and lopping trees within these overlays requires a permit from the council, though it is recommended that you contact the council prior to engaging in any treeworks to determine whether you should apply for a permit. For further information, or to begin your next treeworks, contact us today