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Dumb laws on tree removal

By Affirmative Action Man 23 June 2015 31

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In Canberra it can be very difficult to remove a tree on your own property. I have had many friends who have large dangerous eucalypts on their property which they have wanted to remove but have been refused permission to do so.

This is a ridiculous (nanny) state of affairs. If it is on your block you should pretty much be able to do anything you want with the trees. Do we expect people to get a permit to change the type of grass or lawn they have or the type of rose bushes ? No we don’t – trees should be treated the same way.

The tree police seem to think that if we let common sense prevail on trees then every Canberran will rush out and chop down every tree on their property. The reality is that some trees will be cut down and others planted.

The irony is that you can be stopped from cutting down a large dangerous tree but your neighbour can plant a fast growing tree that will block your view and rob you of sunlight and you can’t do anything about it.

The first political party to allow people to manage trees on their own property gets my vote.


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Dumb laws on tree removal
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tim_c 1:48 pm 25 Jun 15

1967 said :

Cautionary tale.
We own a battleaxe block.
The back of our house, (or front depending on how you look at it), faces onto another rather busy street.
There was a pine tree out the front that had been hit by so many cars sliding out of control around the corner opposite that it was starting to split through the trunk.
We were concerned that it may either fall onto the house or the road, so sought approval to have it removed.
The government kindly sent a man who had a look and agreed that we could have it taken down.
We did this, and it cost just under $2000, it was a big tree and we got some other stuff “seen to” at the same time.

Months later, there was some issues with the storm water drains in the same area and the whole had to be dug up. I quizzed the bloke digging about rienstatement and he joyfully informed me that he was working outside my property boundary.

In short, the government had given me approval to pay for the removal of their tree.

I don’t know why you wanted it removed – it sounds like it was doing a great job of protecting your house from drivers who really aren’t fit to operate motorised vehicles on public roads.

1967 9:46 am 25 Jun 15

Cautionary tale.
We own a battleaxe block.
The back of our house, (or front depending on how you look at it), faces onto another rather busy street.
There was a pine tree out the front that had been hit by so many cars sliding out of control around the corner opposite that it was starting to split through the trunk.
We were concerned that it may either fall onto the house or the road, so sought approval to have it removed.
The government kindly sent a man who had a look and agreed that we could have it taken down.
We did this, and it cost just under $2000, it was a big tree and we got some other stuff “seen to” at the same time.

Months later, there was some issues with the storm water drains in the same area and the whole had to be dug up. I quizzed the bloke digging about rienstatement and he joyfully informed me that he was working outside my property boundary.

In short, the government had given me approval to pay for the removal of their tree.

dungfungus 9:01 am 25 Jun 15

Rustygear said :

Any tree that significantly impacts on solar aspect to a dwelling should be exempt from tree preservation regulations. It would also be fair for neighbours who plant such trees over your solar access to be compelled to remove them again. As to people who whinge about the appearance of eucalypts — this is Australia — why not buy a ticket back to little England, you’ll be so much happier there.

Agree entirely.
I am about to subscribe to “direct action” to regain my solar access as the neighbour on my Northern aspect refuses to trim down his greenery.
There is a great little tool called “electric pole chainsaw” that will do the trick.
Our Greens insist on solar access on all new residences in the Territory but don’t care about what happens 20 years later.

Rustygear 7:43 pm 24 Jun 15

Any tree that significantly impacts on solar aspect to a dwelling should be exempt from tree preservation regulations. It would also be fair for neighbours who plant such trees over your solar access to be compelled to remove them again. As to people who whinge about the appearance of eucalypts — this is Australia — why not buy a ticket back to little England, you’ll be so much happier there.

HiddenDragon 5:48 pm 24 Jun 15

dtc said :

There have been a number of court cases finding councils liable for personal injury after refusing permission to cut down a dangerous tree. I think you will find that if you can provide evidence that the tree is dangerous, you will be told to cut it down very quickly.

If the tree isn’t dangerous, but you just don’t like it; then (a) remember you are just leasing the land if you are in the ACT, so its not ‘your’ land nor ‘your’ tree; and (b) probably the tree was there when you bought the house and (c) suck it up.

I’m not sure our “local council” cares too much about those court cases – in all but the most egregious instances, the evidence of danger is, sadly, likely to be post facto.

Re your second para, the nature of land tenure is really not the point – the real point being made by a number of people here is about the implicit attitude of our elected and unelected officials to their fellow Canberrans (the people who pay the officials’ salaries) and their homes.

More broadly – as the trams have now found their way into this thread – one has to wonder how many of the Northbourne Avenue trees which have conveniently been found to have “deteriorated to the point where removal is required” are, in fact, far healthier than trees which are being doggedly protected on suburban blocks.

dtc 4:45 pm 24 Jun 15

There have been a number of court cases finding councils liable for personal injury after refusing permission to cut down a dangerous tree. I think you will find that if you can provide evidence that the tree is dangerous, you will be told to cut it down very quickly.

If the tree isn’t dangerous, but you just don’t like it; then (a) remember you are just leasing the land if you are in the ACT, so its not ‘your’ land nor ‘your’ tree; and (b) probably the tree was there when you bought the house and (c) suck it up.

darkmilk 2:44 pm 24 Jun 15

I wouldn’t disagree with the intention of the law, it’s worth protecting the truly significant trees.

However my personal experience with the tree protection laws was that they are a pain and administered in a pretty haphazard way.

When doing an extension, the corner of our planned work went just inside the drip line of a conifer tree in the neighbours yard. Unfortunately it was 1.6m around the trunk, so protected. After a few hundred dollars in fees and a fortnight delay to get it inspected it was deemed significant, so the corner of our plan was changed. The inspector even said “it’s a shame we have to protect such a crappy tree” noting that it would have been planted there, not original, it leaned over and was in pretty bad shape.

Less than a year later: the tree was cut down. By the government – it’s still a government housing tenant. Because it was “dangerous”.

Mysteryman 2:09 pm 24 Jun 15

rubaiyat said :

Mysteryman said :

I’d rather they just ripped up the existing trees and didn’t replace them. Canberra has more than enough native trees already. Removing some from a strip the length of Northbourne Ave will make no difference in the scheme of things, other than getting a few self-righteous people off side.

Well that would be worth it just for that alone.

A bonus would be converting the centre strip to National Car Park for its entire length.

A suitable visual introduction to the true Canberra spirit.

If you want something that represents the true Canberra spirit, then we should have neither light rail or trees. Just an assembly area for people to whinge about cars, complain about the removal of a small fraction of the over-abundance of trees, and a permanent statue in honour of the poor, helpless “legless lizard” that cost us all so much wasted time and money.

rubaiyat 10:12 am 24 Jun 15

Mysteryman said :

I’d rather they just ripped up the existing trees and didn’t replace them. Canberra has more than enough native trees already. Removing some from a strip the length of Northbourne Ave will make no difference in the scheme of things, other than getting a few self-righteous people off side.

Well that would be worth it just for that alone.

A bonus would be converting the centre strip to National Car Park for its entire length.

A suitable visual introduction to the true Canberra spirit.

Mysteryman 9:47 am 24 Jun 15

And yes, I agree with the OP: Canberra’s tree removal laws are ridiculous and obstructive. I hate the litter produced by gum trees, the way they drop limbs, the oil they excrete everywhere, and the way they destroy grassed areas. On top of the practical aspects, I don’t like the way they look either.

The bushland in and around Canberra is populated by more trees than people. Home owners should be able to remove the ones on their property if they so choose.

…and since someone else brought it up… My biggest objection to light rail is the obscene waste of money. I do think planting brittle gums is stupid, however, but generally I couldn’t care less. I’d rather they just ripped up the existing trees and didn’t replace them. Canberra has more than enough native trees already. Removing some from a strip the length of Northbourne Ave will make no difference in the scheme of things, other than getting a few self-righteous people off side.

rubaiyat 9:42 am 24 Jun 15

Tymefor said :

In 2013 there was a total of 1 fine issued for $250 according to this article. Food for thought, not everyone bothers with the process.

“Last year, TAMS received 2115 applications to remove, prune or lop trees, most were for tree removal and about half were granted”

So only 1000 trees were removed in the ACT hmmmm.

http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/government-struggles-to-stop-people-killing-protected-trees-20140520-zrilh.html

On the corner of Cotter Road and Lady Denman Drive Yarralumla, The ACT government has run a slaughterhouse for trees for years, with growing mountains of tree trunks in the process of being woodchipped.

It remains unsignposted so as not to attract the attention of passersby.

There should be at least a suitable gateway arched with the slogan: “Arbor Macht Frei”.

I also think of those poor mature date palms that were uprooted at great expense from warm Concord in Sydney to be condemned to a slow lingering death, in the freezing shadow of the Canberra International Sports and Aquatic Centre, in the eternal Canberra hope that the sun would finally rise in the southern sky as God meant it to.

rosscoact 7:45 am 24 Jun 15

vintage123 said :

rosscoact said :

vintage123 said :

rosscoact said :

I remember a neighbour removed a 4 metre high tree on a footpath ie a street tree because he didn’t like it.

Parked a trailer next to it. Cut it down with a chainsaw. Used a stump grinder to take it below surface level and filled that back with topsoil. Took the remnants away with a trailer. Very impressive.

TAMS came along a week or two later, had a look, scratched their heads and drove away. Nothing more was said.

I like trees and wouldn’t cut one down without good reason but if I had a good reason I certainly would not be seeking any permission to do so.

A $200,000 fine, it would have to be a seriously good reason.

There is little to no chance of getting fined $500 let alone $200,000 if history has any relevance. What is the highest any householder has been fined ever? Less than the cost of removal I would expect.

It may not be probable, but it is possible. I guess it just depends on your risk appetite and or budget. I have seen two trees in a front yard cut down at 10am in the morning and the council issue 2 X $4000 fines at midday. The owners sold the house a month later.

Some people might think that $8000 to improve home saleability and street appeal was extraordinarily good value. Certainly worth the risk that it might be more. You would pay more to do an inside paint.

rubaiyat 11:41 pm 23 Jun 15

switch said :

rubaiyat said :

How they have overlooked the problems has me stunned.

Welcome to the Real World, Rubaiyat. The people planning the tram are off in Fantasy Land, and not just about the wholesale destruction of Northbourne Ave’s beautiful trees. As many have been saying here for some time.

I’ve met and discussed this with Jim Gentleman. I am well aware of who is doing what, just not who is making this decision on the trees.

As to Fantasy Land, that seems to come in multiple flavours.

I have come to the conclusion that Canberra is very much a part of Disneyland, with suggestions of Monorails and Tomorrowland cars all round.

The mood seems to be for the Lake Burley Griffin jet to be replaced by the real symbol of business as usual, The Eternal Oil Derrick of Happiness gushing forth black goodness forever.

switch 11:02 pm 23 Jun 15

rubaiyat said :

How they have overlooked the problems has me stunned.

Welcome to the Real World, Rubaiyat. The people planning the tram are off in Fantasy Land, and not just about the wholesale destruction of Northbourne Ave’s beautiful trees. As many have been saying here for some time.

vintage123 10:26 pm 23 Jun 15

rosscoact said :

vintage123 said :

rosscoact said :

I remember a neighbour removed a 4 metre high tree on a footpath ie a street tree because he didn’t like it.

Parked a trailer next to it. Cut it down with a chainsaw. Used a stump grinder to take it below surface level and filled that back with topsoil. Took the remnants away with a trailer. Very impressive.

TAMS came along a week or two later, had a look, scratched their heads and drove away. Nothing more was said.

I like trees and wouldn’t cut one down without good reason but if I had a good reason I certainly would not be seeking any permission to do so.

A $200,000 fine, it would have to be a seriously good reason.

There is little to no chance of getting fined $500 let alone $200,000 if history has any relevance. What is the highest any householder has been fined ever? Less than the cost of removal I would expect.

It may not be probable, but it is possible. I guess it just depends on your risk appetite and or budget. I have seen two trees in a front yard cut down at 10am in the morning and the council issue 2 X $4000 fines at midday. The owners sold the house a month later.

rubaiyat 8:11 pm 23 Jun 15

One of my biggest objections to the Northbourne Ave Light Rail route is the wholescale removal of the existing avenue of trees and the proposed replacement with immature Brittle Gums.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-06-04/brittle-gum-trees-chosen-to-line-northbourne-avenue/6520846

Brittle Gums?!

If the name doesn’t give it away a quick look on line shows that it drops limbs. And it sounds more prolifically than other gum trees which are very poor urban trees, and next to Light Rail!?

The Australian National Botanical Gardens entry on e mannifera recommends against planting it near buildings.

https://www.anbg.gov.au/gnp/gnp7/eucalyptus-mannifera.html

This absolutely demands a “please explain” from the department involved. It sounds like the decision has been made on the aesthetic qualities of the trunks and that they are natives. How they have overlooked the problems has me stunned.

HiddenDragon 5:42 pm 23 Jun 15

The original ACT Tree Protection legislation was passed following a well-publicised case of the removal of a tree in the inner south, which apparently displeased some well-connected people. The then Labor opposition criticised the legislation for being overly restrictive but, of course, tooks steps to make the legislation more restrictive after it came to government. Along with strict liability offences, and heavy-handedness which might be more appropriate to matters of national security, the legislation is a serious over-reaction to a non-existent problem.

There was no crisis of widespread tree felling in the years prior to the original legislation being passed (although there was some very interestingly timed activity just before it came in…), and for every tree which has been protected – against the wishes of those living with it – one has to wonder how many more have been removed pre-emptively before they grow to a size which attracts protection, or have not been planted at all.

In support of the tree protection legislation, there are all sorts of nice, general, feel-good arguments about the “urban forest” etc. etc., which tend to blithely overlook the considerable cost, inconvenience and, for some, danger, presented by large trees on suburban blocks. If the benefits to the broader community are as great as claimed, perhaps homeowners who are forced to live with large protected trees could be allowed a worthwhile (several hundred dollars a year would be a starting point) rebate on their rates – which could be used to meet costs such as much more frequent drain and roof clearances. Better yet, as Affirmative Action Man suggests, let homeowners take responsibility for this.

rosscoact 4:27 pm 23 Jun 15

vintage123 said :

rosscoact said :

I remember a neighbour removed a 4 metre high tree on a footpath ie a street tree because he didn’t like it.

Parked a trailer next to it. Cut it down with a chainsaw. Used a stump grinder to take it below surface level and filled that back with topsoil. Took the remnants away with a trailer. Very impressive.

TAMS came along a week or two later, had a look, scratched their heads and drove away. Nothing more was said.

I like trees and wouldn’t cut one down without good reason but if I had a good reason I certainly would not be seeking any permission to do so.

A $200,000 fine, it would have to be a seriously good reason.

There is little to no chance of getting fined $500 let alone $200,000 if history has any relevance. What is the highest any householder has been fined ever? Less than the cost of removal I would expect.

tim_c 4:27 pm 23 Jun 15

It’s ironic when you look at photos of Canberra before it was developed – mostly just grassland. Now that the city is built and people have planted trees, you’re not allowed to remove them.

My brother applied for permission to remove a large eucalypt that was in the powerlines – permission was declined unless he planted SEVERAL trees to replace the ONE he wanted to remove. He then pointed out that the block was already so full of trees and large shrubs that there wouldn’t be enough space to plant the required replacements. Approval was then granted.

I wonder where the liability lies if you apply for removal of a tree that may be dangerous, the ACT Council declines permission, and then the tree (or part of it) falls down and causes damage and/or injury…

Maya123 1:45 pm 23 Jun 15

I think trees are great, as long as the correct tree is chosen for the spot, and it doesn’t shade your neighbours’ northern aspect. That’s selfish, and made worse if the tree is not deciduous.
I have planted eleven trees on my block, plus other bushes and vines, but none of them are large, or will shade the neighbours. Most are deciduous. I have planted a lot of native plants, and will continue to plant them, but none are big trees.

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