Port Stephens is known for its incredible natural environment — an asset which makes living here and visiting so attractive.
To ensure trees are managed responsibly in Port Stephens, we've answered some frequently asked questions below.
Trees are important to the landscape of Port Stephens and provide many benefits to the community, including:
- improving the streetscapes and the appearance and value of property
- contributing to the visitor experience for tourists
- contributing to a sense of wellbeing in communities
- providing shade and shelter for people and property, reducing the risk of health problems and asset damage
- helping to protect people and properties from strong winds
- reducing noise, dust and soil erosion
- providing a cooling effect and reducing the impact of extreme heat
- providing food and shelter for animals (including koalas) and plants
- improving water quality by filtering out nutrients and contaminants
- improving local air quality by absorbing air pollutants and producing oxygen for us to breathe
- helping to reflect local natural and cultural values.
The preservation of trees and vegetation in Port Stephens is set out in the Vegetation in Non Rural Areas State Environmental Planning Policy (SEPP) and chapter B1 of our Council's Port Stephens Development Control Plan 2014.
On Tuesday 25 August 2020, the elected Council resolved to amend chapter B1 (Tree Management) of the Development Control Plan to align it with the SEPP.
Tree removal with a Development Application will be considered as part of the Development Assessment process.
Tree removal without a Development Application may require a Tree Permit application from Council when in a non-rural area. Please refer to our fact sheets:
The Development Control Plan chapter B1 Tree Management contains specific information about when approval is required.
On Tuesday 25 August 2020, the elected Council resolved to amend chapter B1 (Tree Management) of the Development Control Plan to align it with the SEPP. Council also resolved to identify additional circumstances where tree removal does not need a Council-issued permit.
There are 7 exemptions that don't require a Council-issued permit for the removal of an owner's tree in a non-rural area:
- The tree is in danger of immediate failure (within 48 hours) — a self-certification form must be completed and submitted to Council after removal.
- The tree presents a risk to property or life — a self-certification form must be completed and submitted to Council at least 10 working days prior to removal.
- The tree is dead or dying and is not required as the habitat of native animals — a report by an AQF3 Arborist and a self-certification form must be completed and submitted to Council at least 10 days prior to removal.
- Minor pruning of less than 12 months’ growth or 10% of foliage.
- Removal is authorised under a Council-issued development consent, certificate, or under other legislation (for example, the Rural Fires Act 10/50 vegetation clearing rule).
- The tree is less than 3 metres high and the trunk diameter is less than 300mm measured at breast height and removal does not otherwise require a permit.
- The tree is more than 3 metres high or the trunk diameter is more than 300mm measured at breast height and removal does not otherwise require a permit or the tree is within 5 metres of a wall of an approved structure, is a tree grown for fruit or nut production, or is an undesirable species listed in the Port Stephens DCP.
Please see our fact sheet on removing trees without Council permission (PDF 1.4MB) for more details and requirements.
For exemptions 1 to 3, a self-certification form (interactive PDF 1.8MB) will need to be completed and either submitted to Council or retained for 12 months to assist with follow-up enquiries.
In most rural properties, the Local Land Services Act 2013 applies with Hunter Local Land Services as the consent authority.
Application for a Tree Permit: If you are in a non-rural area, our Tree Removal Application form includes a checklist and guidance to ensure that a removal is undertaken safely and in accordance with legislation.
Please refer to our Council's Fees and Charges Schedule for current application fee.
Before submitting an application, it's recommended that you check Council’s Development Control Plan (DCP) 2014, or contact us for free advice on 02 4988 0326, as there are a number of circumstances where a Tree Permit may not be required.
Difficulties can emerge over nuisance or allegedly dangerous trees on a neighbour’s property. Complex factors arise in these situations, and can result in conflict between neighbours.
While Council has no jurisdiction on these matters, we can provide advice on how you might resolve these issues.
- Download our fact sheet on dealing with trees on a neighbour’s property (PDF 283KB)
Assistance in resolving disputes between neighbours:
Properties in Port Stephens may be affected by the NSW 10/50 Entitlement. This allows for the removal of trees on some properties within 10 metres of a home. These properties are 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 that are in a clearing entitlement area.
You can find out if the 10/50 Entitlement and exemptions applies to you by visiting Rural Fire Service vegetation clearing or by calling Council for free advice on 02 4988 0326.
Tree vandalism unfortunately happens in Port Stephens, especially as there is a lot of competition between vegetation and water views.
Vandalising public or private trees is an offence, and all reports of tree vandalism to our Council will be investigated. The Tree Vandalism Policy ensures we can respond in a consistent manner and reduce further vandalism.
If you believe a tree has been vandalised or that current rules and requirements around legally removing trees have been violated, please contact Council's Vegetation Management Officer on 02 4988 0326.
For more information on vegetation and tree management, contact our Vegetation Management Officer on
Phone: 02 4988 0326
Fax: 02 4987 3612