Issue 4: Tree removal on private property

Current Situation

Council has identified that increasing the tree canopy in Wyndham is one of the priorities in the Council Plan. The Planning Scheme controls removal of some native or significant trees, including trees in a heritage overlay. The Community Amenity Local Law 2015 does not currently have any clauses relating to the removal or pruning of trees on private property, other than that trees must not encroach on or overhang Council Land. There is currently no regulation of the removal of non-native trees or trees that have not been nominated to the Significant Trees Register. It 2020, it was estimated that 17,243 trees on 8766 properties in Wyndham have trees which would be affected by the proposed clause.

Proposed Local Law Provision (if determined to be necessary)

Consider adding provisions that require a permit to remove or significantly prune any trees on private property that have a diameter greater than 35cm (measured at 1.4m height).

Compliance obligation

The obligation placed on property owners would be moderate to significant. Currently, property owners can remove non-native trees of any height on their property without restriction. Requiring that property owners apply for a permit to remove a tree also means that Council may deny a person the ability to remove a tree on their property, which could negatively impact the owners use of their land. When applying for a permit, property owners are likely to be required to obtain an arborist report at a cost of approximately $400-$500 in addition to any permit fees. Council’s with similar Local Laws currently charge around $400 to apply for a tree removal permit.

Appropriate penalty

The nature of non-compliance does not immediately present a risk to the safety of others, however, a large tree is not easily replaced and the loss of canopy cover is long-lasting. The penalty should be effective to encourage compliance or as a deterrent to non-compliance. On that basis, the penalty amount is proposed to be 10 penalty units ($1000).

Resources required

In order to administer and enforce this clause, additional administration resources will be required for the creation and maintenance of tree removal permits, additional Authorised Officers will be required for the investigation and enforcement of permit conditions or trees removed without a permit, and additional arborists will be required for assessment of trees (officers could potentially act as both an arborist and an Authorised Officer). It is estimated that that these resources could at least $256,000 per year. This cost could be offset by revenue of approximately $80,000 in application fees and infringements (based on 250 application fees and 10 infringements).