Tree protection

To preserve the bushland character of Hornsby Shire a Tree Preservation Order applies to every private property. It is illegal to remove or significantly prune any tree that is protected by the order.Tree protection measures

To view the Tree Preservation Order, download the  Hornsby Development Control Plan - Part 1 - 798kb.

Which trees are protected?

What is an ‘indigenous tree’?

Indigenous trees are species that are native to Hornsby Shire. See a complete list of trees indigenous to Hornsby Shire, or a list of common indigenous species, including photographs.

Where are Heritage Conservation Areas and heritage items?

There are nine Heritage Conservation Areas (HCAs) in Hornsby Shire, where it is illegal to remove trees without special permission from Council. They are:

  • Beecroft/Cheltenham Heritage Conservation Area
  • Barker College Heritage Conservation Area
  • Hornsby West Side Heritage Conservation Area (Mt Errington Precinct, Peats Ferry Rd Precinct, Pretoria Pde Precinct)
  • The Crescent, Pennant Hills Heritage Conservation Area
  • Wahroonga Heritage Conservation Area
  • Wahroonga (North) Heritage Conservation Area
  • East Epping Heritage Conservation Area
  • Essex Street (Epping) Heritage Conservation Area
  • Rosebank Avenue (Epping) Heritage Conservation Area

Download a map showing conservation area boundaries - Hornsby Shire Council Heritage Conservation Areas - 1.1MB.

For a full list of the Shire's HCAs and heritage items, including details, see the Hornsby Local Environment Plan (HLEP).

What are Endangered or Critically Endangered Ecological Communities?

These are vegetation communities that have been identified by the State and Federal Governments as needing environmental protection. Severe penalties or imprisonment may apply for breaches of these laws.

All trees in these areas are protected and require consent for works, even tree species that would otherwise be exempt from protection.

Tree protection measures also apply to trees that provide habitat for threatened species.

The removal of trees from these areas may require an application to the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage or Commonwealth Department of the Environment.

If you have any questions please phone Council on 9847 6832 or the Office of Environment and Heritage or Commonwealth Department of the Environment.

What tree work is exempt?

There are a number of exemptions to the Tree Preservation Order, such as when a tree is dead or dying and not required as a habit for native fauna. For a full list of exemptions see the Hornsby Development Control Plan.

Please note that any tree work, including pruning, must be carried out in accordance with Australian Standard AS 4373-2007 Pruning of Amenity Trees.

What is "substantial damage" caused by a tree?

A tree may be removed if it is causing substantial damage to your property. This can include damage to approved foundations, in-ground swimming pool or slab driveway by roots, as well as damage to the roof by falling branches.

It is not considered “substantial damage” if it can be fixed by pruning the tree and carrying out minor repairs to the damaged structure.

Substantial damage also does not apply to footpaths, twin-strip driveways, retaining walls, above ground pools, car ports or buildings on stump, pillar or pole foundations.

What is an "approved foundation"?

An “approved foundation” is a concrete slab that supports any approved residential building, garage, commercial premises or community building with walls. The term also applies to brick supports located on strip footings or pad footings/supports that support any of the above structures.

For the purposes of the HDCP, the visible wall immediately above the buried foundation is taken to be the foundation.

This definition does not include carports nor buildings on pole frames or pier and beam footings.

The removal or pruning of a tree is allowed where the base of the trunk of the tree at ground level is located within 3 metres of the foundation of an approved building.

Who can apply to remove a tree?

The application form must be endorsed by the owner of the property the tree is located on or their agent and an application MUST be submitted for each property. The results of the application will be sent to the owner of the tree.

How do I apply for permission to remove or prune a protected tree?

Apply online

Online applications and payment by credit card are available through Council's Online Services Portal.

Download an application form

Following the receipt of your initial application, one of Council’s qualified arborists will inspect your tree/s and make a determination.

Inspection Fees

There is a fee for the inspection of tree/s on private property.

Download Council's Tree Inspection Fees - 40kb.

How can I appeal against a Council decision on my application?

If you wish to appeal against Council’s decision on a tree application you must do so in writing, by completing a First Appeal of Council’s Determination (fees apply).

The appeal application must include any fresh or additional information not initially included. This can include:

  • Proof of damage caused by a tree;
  • A report on the condition of the tree from a qualified arborist;
  • A building report from a structural engineer;
  • A pest inspection report.

The additional information should demonstrate that the removal of the tree is the only means to mitigate the damage or problem. The matter will be considered by a suitably qualified Council staff member, different to the one who dealt with the first application. The appeal must be lodged within one year of the lodgement of the original application.

Do I need approval to prune a tree?

Where a property is listed as a heritage item or located within a designated Heritage Conservation Area Council consent is required. You can find out if the property falls into either of these categories through the website links provided above or by contacting Council.

Consent would also be required in instances where a property is located within designated Endangered Ecological Communities area. You can find out if the property falls into either of these categories through the website links provided above or by contacting Council.

Any pruning undertaken must not be greater than 10 percent of the tree's total foliage area. If consent is granted by the tree owner all work must be performed without encroaching on your neighbour's property or climbing the tree. Please ensure you prune the tree in accordance with Australian Standard AS 4373-2007

Can I prune overhanging branches?

Residents can only prune overhanging branches with consent from the tree owner. In addition where a property is listed as a heritage item or located within a designated Heritage Conservation Area, Council consent is required. You can find out if the property falls into either of these categories through the website links provided above or by contacting Council.

Any approved pruning undertaken must not be greater than 10 percent of the tree's total foliage area. If consent is granted by the tree owner all work must be performed without encroaching on your neighbour's property or climbing the tree. Please ensure you prune the tree in accordance with Australian Standard AS 4373-2007.

How do I prune a tree?

The best method is to carry out general crown maintenance. Indiscriminate lopping or pruning can be dangerous to your safety and the health of a tree.

Pruning should not reduce the volume of the crown or change the height and width of the tree. Prune selected branches only, removing dead wood and thinning the crown, while ensuring the tree remains structurally sound.

How do I get my neighbour to prune a tree on their property?

Council has no power to compel a neighbour to prune or remove a tree, including recently planted trees. If you have a concern about a neighbour’s tree, it is best to resolve the issue by having a friendly discussion with them. Most neighbours will be helpful and understanding.

Disputes between neighbours about trees

Council cannot arbitrate in disputes relating to neighbours and trees. The best option is to try and reach an agreement with your neighbour about what should be done before proceeding. If you are having difficulties you should contact a Community Justice Centre (CJC) on 1800 990 777.

The CJC is a government funded organisation designed to assist people by mediation. The service provided is free. Professionally trained mediators will sit down with the parties in an attempt to resolve the matter quickly and possibly save the parties legal cost from court action.

It is also in you interest to notify your neighbour in writing of the damage/nuisance being caused and giving your neighbour the opportunity to rectify the problem before taking further action.

Legal advice may need to be obtained in such disputes from am solicitor or the Community Justice Centre. The NSW Land and Environment Court has the power to settle tree disputes. For more information about trees and neighbours, please visit NSW Land and Environment Court.

What are the penalties if I breach Council’s Tree Protection Measures?

If you remove or damage a tree, even by changing the soil level around its base, you may be taken to the Land and Environment Court or receive an on-the-spot fine. You may also be ordered to plant new trees and maintain them until mature or forced to hire a contractor to do this for you.

How can I find out more?

If you have any questions please phone Council on 9847 6853 during office hours (Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5pm).