Port Stephens is well known for its beautiful bushland and biodiversity. The Port Stephens natural environment is an incredible asset which provides significant value to local residents and businesses and is one of the critical foundations on which the local economy relies. A healthy natural environment is critical to the people of Port Stephens as it provides essential environmental services such as clean air, clean water and healthy soils. In turn this supports ecological, cultural, recreational, economic and aesthetic values.
Why preserve urban trees?
Council is also committed to preserving the amenity of the urban area, including biodiversity values, through the preservation of trees and other vegetation. Urban trees are import for a number of reasons including:
- Providing habitat for native animals;
- Attracting visitors to the LGA;
- Increasing property values for all residents;
- Reduce urban heat island effects
- Reducing airborne pollution;
- Reducing the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere;
- Protecting the soil from erosion.
How are trees preserved?
The preservation of trees and vegetation within the Port Stephens Local Government Area (LGA) is provided for by the provisions of Clause 5.9 of the Port Stephens LEP 2013. Council's Port Stephens DCP 2014, specifically Chapter B-1 Tree Management gives effect to this provision by specifying the species or kinds of trees or other vegetation to which the preservation requirements apply, generally through reference to defined species, size, location or other relevant matters.
When do I need approval to remove trees?
Outside of the usual Development Application process for activities (which where relevant incorporates consideration of impacts on trees and vegetation), Council approval is required to remove or prune trees or vegetation in urban areas (as shown in Figure BB of the DCP). Outside of urban areas, on most rural properties, the Native Vegetation Act 2004 applies with Hunter Local Land Services as the consent authority.
The DCP chapter B-1 Tree Management contains specific information as to when approval is required as well as a range of existing exemptions for pre-approval for the removal of trees or vegetation. Generally exemptions apply to:
- Dead trees, if native fauna habitat does not exist
- Urgent removal on account of immediate failure (a post-event tree removal notification is required)
- Trees under 3m in high
- Trees within 5m of the wall of an approved structure
- Tree maintenance of less than 12 months growth or 10% of foliage in accordance with
It is the landholders responsibility to consider the DCP and confirm exemptions. Council strongly recommends seeking free advice by calling Council on 02 4980 0255 to clarify requirements in specific circumstances.
What is the process to remove a tree?
A fact sheet is available for Tree removal/pruning of trees on private property.
Before removing a tree, it is recommended that you check Council’s Development Control Plan (DCP) 2014, or contact Council for free advice on (02) 4980 0255, as many removals do not require a formal application.
Please refer to the Tree Management Map in Section B1 Tree Management in the DCP to confirm that you are in an urban area. If you are in an urban area, Council’s Tree Removal Application form includes a checklist and guidance to ensure that a removal is undertaken safely and in accordance with legislation.
Council’s tree removal checklist and application form can be found on our A-Z forms page. Free advice and guidance is available from Council officers by calling (02) 4980 0255. An application fee of $60.30 applies to the assessment any submitted application.
How are tree removal applications assessed?
To ensure adequate consideration is given to the social and environmental benefits of trees as well as the safety of people and property, approval to remove or prune trees or other vegetation has regard for:
- damage to an existing structure or utility service substantiated by a qualified person;
- interfering with a solar photovoltaic/hot water system;
- interfering with the amenity of a habitable room;
- threatened by a development consent;
- consistency with a flora, fauna or conservation strategy;
- the tree is interfering, or likely to interfere, with the provision of a public utility or road/driveway construction, provided the impact on the trees has been considered in the design phase;
- impact on threatened species, populations or ecological communities and their habitats;
- retention value under the tree technical specification; and
- impacts on human health
- other relevant circumstances.
The safety of people and property is a high priority for Port Stephens Council. The LEP and related Tree Removal Application process includes consideration of potential threats posed by trees. The process is designed to also protect the community by ensuring compliance with other relevant legislation when pruning and/or removing trees on private property.
Please contact council on (02) 4980 0255 if you are concerned about a dangerous tree.
The LEP and DCP allows for the urgent removal on account of risk of immediate failure when Council is provided with a tree removal notification post-event, onus of proof is on the landholder, photos should be taken before and after removal.
Tree disputes between neighbours
Difficulties can often arise over nuisance or allegedly dangerous trees on a neighbour’s property. A number of factors come into play in these situations, and can lead to ongoing conflict between the neighbours.
If you are concerned about damage or injury from a tree on your neighbour's property, you can apply to the Land and Environment Court for action to be taken. You can also apply to the court for compensation if damage has already occurred.
It's essential that you make a reasonable attempt to resolve the situation before approaching the court.
Council has no jurisdiction in these maters but can provide advice and guidance on how you might seek to resolve such issues.
The Community Justice Centre (CJC) is a state government funded organisation that can often help resolve disputes between neighbours over trees, and it is advisable to contact the CJC before the dispute escalates into a major problem.
Tree disputes helpdesk
Did you know that the NSW Land and Environment Court runs a free service that provides procedural assistance (not legal advice) to the public on tree dispute matters? The service is service attended by Macquarie University students under the supervision of a qualified legal practitioner. Find out more.
Bushfire and asset protection
Properties within Port Stephens may be affected by the NSW 10/50 Entitlement, which permits removal of any tree on some properties within 10 metres of a residence (in most circumstances) if your property is deemed to be in a 'clearing entitlement area' which meets the 10/50 Code of Practice.
It is the home owner's responsibility to find out if the 10/50 Entitlement applies to trees within 10 metres of a home. There is no need to apply to Council to remove trees within 10 metres of a residence in a clearing entitlement area.
Please note: in Port Stephens exemptions from requirements for approval for the removal of vegetation does not cover:
- Koala habitat
- Tree species listed under the Federal EPBC Act 1999.
You can find out if the 10/50 Entitlement and exemptions applies to you by visiting the Rural Fire Service vegetation clearing page in the first instance, or by calling Council for free advice on (02) 4980 0255 if you are unsure whether you property is within a 'clearing entitlement area'.
It is the owner's responsibility to ensure compliance with the 10/50 Code of Practice.
To find out more, including applying for a Hazard Reduction Certificate, please contact the Rural Fire Service.
Vandalism of trees and vegetation
Council's Tree and Vegetation Vandalism Policy was developed in response to tree/vegetation vandalism being experienced by councils across the LGA and wider Hunter Region.
This is particularly apparent in the coastal zone where development pressure and conflicts between water views and vegetation has seen an increase in the vandalism of trees and vegetation on public land under the care, control and management of councils.
View the Tree Vegetation Vandalism Policy on our Policies page or contact Council's Vegetation Management Officer on 02 4980 0255 for further advice or to report potential vandalism.
Links and Downloads:
- Port Stephens Development Control Plan
- Fact sheet: Tree removal and pruning
- Tree removal application from our A-Z Forms page
- Map of significant trees (PDF 3.36 MB)
- Significant tree register(PDF 1MB)
- Map – Tree Assessment categories (PDF 3.45 MB)
- Dangerous trees on neighbouring properties - (PDF 657KB)
- Overhanging branches - (PDF 715KB)
- Community Justice Centre
- Tree Vegetation Vandalism Policy on our Policies page
For further information on vegetation and tree management please contact Council's Vegetation Management Officer on:
Phone: (02) 4980 0255
Fax: (02) 4987 3612