Frequently Asked Questions


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

If the tree is less than 10m in height, less than 10m in canopy diameter, and less than 1.5m in trunk circumference at 1m above ground, you do not require a Council permit to remove/prune a tree unless it is growing on the site of a heritage item.

However, if in doubt, or the tree reaches or exceeds the size of the measurements above, an application form must be completed, forwarded to Council and appointment made for an inspection with Councils Tree Preservation Officer by calling North Sydney Councils Call Centre staff on 9936 8100. If approved, a permit will be sent to you after the tree inspection takes place. The inspection and permit is free and the permits are valid for 12 months.

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


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), you can prune branches overhanging the common boundary line without the consent of the tree owner, within the recommended pruning practices of the Australian Standards For Pruning of Amenity Trees (AS 4373). A qualified Arborist (member of Arboriculture Australia) should be engaged to undertake the pruning.


If the tree is protected by Council's Tree & Vegetation Management Policy, you need to complete a Tree & Vegetation Management Policy removal/pruning application form. If the Arborist needs to access the property where the tree is located or prune the branches to the nearest branch collar over the boundary line, the tree owner must sign section 2 of the application form.


If the owner of the property where the tree is located does not sign section 2 of the application form, 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.


Who pays for work on private trees?

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


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

Please contact Council if you would like a street tree planted outside your property. We will inspect the proposed planting site to ensure it is suitable and if so, will schedule planting of a new tree. As a rule, Council generally won't plant 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 generally be chosen to match the rest of the street. Because Council is ultimately responsible (and potentially liable) for all trees on public land, residents are not encouraged to plant their own trees on public land. For more information, go to Planting on Public Land.


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

Council, and common sense, 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 excessive tree pruning or removal. At the request of property owners, Council will prune to meet target clearances (refer to trees on public land for essential pruning and target clearances). Unless there is an immediate hazard, all such pruning will be carried out as part of the cyclical area maintenance program which takes approximately 18 months per cycle. Where the Council team is not scheduled to be in the vicinity for many months, the property owner may request a permit to carry out the work at their own expense (with appropriate conditions).


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

In the first instance, have the pipes cleared to ensure there is no environmental spillage. Tree roots don't invade pipes unless they are leaking, and water is seeping into the soil. Tree roots will always seek water sources. Most old sewer pipes (usually clay pipes) are at least 50 years old and start leaking at some point in time. At this stage roots start to penetrate pipes. This problem can be resolved by the replacement of old clay pipes with modern PVC pipes. Pipe maintenance is a part of property maintenance and should take place when pipes begin to leak. 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 roots in pipes, Council requires the property owner to submit a detailed plumber's report that includes, as a minimum, the following information:

  • map showing all trees 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 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?

Many tree species can be pruned by a professional Arborist so that filtered sunlight or light spill can penetrate by thinning the tree canopy. This is called cosmetic pruning.

Council policy with regard to cosmetic pruning of trees on public land allows residents to apply to the Tree Preservation Officer 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. The work must done by a qualified Arborist under Council supervision with all costs borne by the applicant. The Arborist must have a copy of the permit on them while they undertake the pruning work.

Appointments can be arranged with Councils Tree Preservation Officer for cosmetic pruning requests by contacting our Call Centre staff on 9936 8100. Please note: Council does not approve cosmetic pruning of trees located in areas zoned Bushland. 


A Council-owned tree is overshadowing the house and obstructing light. What can I do?

Many tree species can be pruned by a professional Arborist so that filtered sunlight or light spill can penetrate by thinning the tree canopy. This is called cosmetic pruning and conditions are the same as described above in relation to pruning for a view.


A tree is obstructing the footpath.

Branches overhanging public footpaths and roadways from private property should be pruned back to the property boundary to a height of 2.4m (8ft). To notify Council of locations where property owners are not maintaining this clearance please phone (02) 9936 8100 with the exact property address. Council will then send out a notice to the owner of the property requesting that pruning be carried out. 


Neighbours have planted large trees that will overshadow/block views from our property. What can I do?

There are no rules and regulations that can force a property owner not to plant big trees. This is a matter for neighbours to negotiate and agree upon. However, the NSW Land & Environment Court Trees (Disputes Between Neighbours) Act 2006 gives the Land and Environment Court jurisdiction to hear disputes about high hedges that severely obstruct sunlight to a window of a dwelling on adjoining land or views from such a dwelling.


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. North Sydney Council's Tree Preservation Officer will make a decision based on the type of tree, the type of building and factual evidence to prove that a tree is causing structural damage.


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.