Frequently Asked Questions


I want to prune or remove a tree on my land. What do I do?

First you need to determine if a permit is required from Council to undertake the proposed pruning or removal works.  A complete list of criteria to determine if a permit is required or not is contained within Section 16 - Tree and Vegetation Management to Part B of North Sydney Development Control Plan 2013 (228KB).

You DO need a permit to remove or prune a tree if the tree is:

  • greater than 5m in height, or

  • greater than 5m in canopy diameter, or

  • greater than 500mm in trunk circumference at ground level, or

  • a species identified as a biosecurity risk under the NSW Biosecurity Act 2015 (such as Camphorlaurels (Cinnamomun camphora)) and that tree is greater than 10m in height, unless exempted below, or

  • of any of the following species regardless of size if they are located on land identified as a heritage item under NSLEP 2013:

    • Bangalow Palms (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana sp);

    • European Nettle or Hackberry (Celtis sp);

    • Indian Coral Tree (Eryrthina x sykesii);

    • Kentia Palms (Howea forsteriana sp);

    • Privet species (Ligustrum sp);

    • Willow Trees (Salix spp).

You DO NOT need a permit to:

  • undertake maintenance pruning of protected trees as long as:

    • no more than 10% of the canopy area is removed, and

    • the branch is no more than 100mm in diameter (at the branch collar), and

    • that branch is located no more than 2.4m above ground level or within 1m of a building.

  • prune deadwood from a tree or dead palm fronds;

  • trees or vegetation that are adequately justified to be dead as confirmed in writing by a qualified arborist (minimum AQF Certificate 3) and where the tree or vegetation is not required as the habitat for native animals

  • Remove or prune any of the following:

    • African Olive tree (Olea Africana),
    • Box Elder (Acer negundo),
    • China Doll (Radermachia sinica),
    • Cocos Palms (Syagrus romanzoffiana),
    • Chinese Hackberry (Celtis sinense),
    • Indian Coral Tree (Erythrina x sykesii),
    • Privets (Ligustrum sp.),
    • Rubber Trees (Ficus elastica),
    • Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus sp.),
    • Umbrella Trees (Schefflera sp).
    • Willow Trees (Salix sp.),
    • Bamboo (Bambusa sp.).

If a tree exceeds the thresholds listed above or does not meet the exempt criteria above, an online application form must be submitted to Council. Council may request that further technical evidence is submitted by the applicant to assess the application.  If approved, a permit will be issued after the tree assessment takes place. The approved permits are valid for 12 months and can only be used once in that 12 month period.

For more information, go to Permits for Pruning & Removal.


In some areas trees can be cut down if they are growing less than 3m away from a building. Does this rule exist in North Sydney?

No, each tree close to a building will be assessed individually. The assessment officer will make a decision based on the tree species, the type of building and technical evidence to prove that a tree is causing structural damage to the property or likely to in the future.


A neighbour's tree is overhanging/causing damage to my property. What can I do?

If the tree is not protected by North Sydney Council's Tree & Vegetation Management Policy (please refer to measurements above), under Common Law, you can prune branches overhanging the common boundary line without the consent of the tree owner.

It is recommended that a qualified (level 3) Arborist or Horticulturalist is engaged to undertake the pruning within the Australian Standard for Pruning of Amenity Trees (AS 4373) to prevent damaging the tree/shrubs long term health and safety and conflict with neighbours.

When the tree is protected by Council's Tree & Vegetation Management Policy, an application form must be submitted to Council. If the Arborist needs to access the property where the tree is located (or prune branches on the tree owners side of the boundary line), the tree owner must submit the application form.

If the owner of the property where the tree is located does not provide consent to prune the tree on their side of the boundary line, Council can only give permission to prune the branches that are overhanging your property to the nearest branch collar to the boundary line.

Council cannot intervene in disputes and this must be resolved before Council can give permission. For more information on dispute resolution, go to Disputes between Neighbours, or seek mediation through the Community Justice Centre.


A tree on our adjoining neighbours land is causing structural damage to our property and/or obstructing scenic views. What can I do?

Council cannot force a property owner to remove or prune vegetation within their land or to submit an application form to Council.

When there is damage occurring or likely to occur, residents are advised to discuss the matter with the tree owner. If the tree owner takes no action, residents can make an application to the NSW Land & Environment Court under the NSW Trees (Disputes Between Neighbours) Act 2006 where a legal Order may be imposed on the tree owner to take action. 


Who pays for work on private trees?

Council is not in the legal position to determine who pays for tree work on private land. This is a matter for the two parties concerned to agree upon or independent legal advice sought by the resident.


Who can prune or remove trees once a permit has been issued?

It is a condition of Council consent that all trees protected by the Tree & Vegetation Management Policy are pruned/removed by a qualified Arborist. A list of qualified arborists can be obtained from Arboriculture Australia.


What is a suitable replacement tree?

Council strongly recommends that you plant the largest growing and longest-lived species of tree possible for the given growing conditions and site constraints taking into consideration such issues as soils, climate, physical access, existing vegetation, scenic views and solar access. If Council has not recommended or set a particular species condition on your removal permit, or if your tree did not require a permit, we suggest you consider using locally indigenous trees to provide wildlife habitat and linkages between our fragmented bushland remnants. For a list of locally indigenous trees, see our Native Plant List


I would like a street tree planted outside of my property. What do I do?

Council has a Street Tree Strategy document that guides the management of our street trees. If you request a new street tree our Arborists will inspect the proposed planting site to ensure it is suitable. If it is approved, Council will schedule planting of a new tree within the Street Tree Strategy guidelines.

Council avoids planting new trees in Summer unless the resident has made a commitment to assist with watering.  Consistent street tree species have a strong aesthetic effect and are conducive to efficient maintenance therefore, the new tree will be chosen to match the rest of the street.

Council is ultimately responsible (and potentially liable) for all trees on public land, so residents are not allowed to plant their own trees on public land without consent. Council can remove unauthorised plantings. For more information, go to Planting on Public Land.


The adjacent public tree drops debris onto my property. What can I do?

Council acknowledges that trees drop leaves, bark, sticks, flowers, fruit and sap as part of their normal life cycle and that these issues will not constitute justification for tree removal or excessive pruning. This type of debris falls whatever way the wind is blowing and pruning branches generally does not solve the problem.

Council undertakes cyclical maintenance (approximately every 18 months) to meet target clearances (refer to trees on public land for essential pruning and target clearances).

When the Council team is not scheduled to be in the vicinity for many months, the property owner may apply for Council consent to hire an independent, qualified Arborist to carry out the work at their own expense (refer to Trees on Public Land - Cosmetic Pruning).


Tree Roots are in my pipes. What should I do?

Firstly, have the pipes cleared to ensure there is no environmental spillage. Tree roots don't invade pipes unless they are leaking and water & nutrients are seeping into the soil. Most old sewer pipes (usually clay pipes) are in sections and are in aged condition. They start leaking at the joints and fibrous roots penetrate pipes, expand and block them.

This problem is resolved by replacing old clay pipes with new PVC pipes or re-sleeving the line. It must be remembered that removing the tree does not fix the hole in the pipe and other vegetation is likely to capitalise on the opportunity for moisture and nutrients.

To consider any claims relating to Council owned trees that have roots blocking privately owned pipes, Council requires the property owner to submit a detailed plumber's report that includes the following information:

  • map/plan showing all trees (including species) and location of pipes and blockage

  • type of pipes and approximate age, condition and depth

  • proposed remedial action and evidence of costs.

Council may also request further information including proof (by way of root analysis) that the roots causing a blockage are from a public tree.


A tree on Council Land is blocking scenic or water views. What can I do?

Some tree species can be pruned by a professional Arborist so that filtered sunlight or views can be obtained by selectively thinning small branches within the tree canopy.

Our Cosmetic Pruning policy allows residents to apply to Council to carry out work at their own expense. Permission may be granted where such work will not compromise the health, safety or integrity of the tree or adversely affect amenity.

Council will only consider Cosmetic Pruning applications for trees that are located in the immediate vicinity of the resident’s property. The work must be done by a qualified, independent Arborist with all costs borne by the applicant. The Arborist must have a copy of the permit on them while they undertake the pruning work.

Please note: Council does not approve cosmetic pruning of trees located in areas zoned Bushland. 

Refer to Trees on public land - Cosmetic pruning application.


Vegetation on private land is obstructing the footpath and road

Council does not prune privately owned vegetation. Branches overhanging public land from private land must be pruned back to the boundary line and to a height of 2.4m (footpaths & parking lanes) by the property owner.

When reported to Council we will contact the owner of the property in writing requesting that the pruning is carried out to keep the footpath or traffic lane clear. Council may issue a legal Order to the owner compelling them to do the work if it is not undertaken.