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Tree management

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.

Trees are important to the landscape of Port Stephens provide many benefits to the local community:

  • improve the streetscapes and the appearance and value of property;
  • contribute to the visitor experience for tourists;
  • contribute to a sense of wellbeing within communities;
  • provide shade and shelter for people and property, reducing the risk of health problems and asset damage;
  • help protect from strong winds;
  • reduce noise and dust;
  • provide a cooling effect and reduces the impact of extreme heat;
  • provide food and shelter for animals (including koalas) and plants;
  • improve water quality by filtering out nutrients and contaminants;
  • reduces soil erosion by holding the soil together;
  • improve local air quality by absorbing air pollutants and producing oxygen for us to breathe;
  • contributes to softening the built environment; and
  • help to reflect local natural and cultural values.

The preservation of trees and vegetation within Port Stephens is provided for by the provisions of the Vegetation in Non Rural Areas SEPP (State Environmental Planning Policy). Council's Port Stephens Development Control Plan 2014, specifically Chapter B-1 'Tree Management' gives provision by specifying the species or kinds of trees.

Tree removal with a Development Application

Will be considered as part of the Development Assessment Process.

Tree removal without a Development Application

Where tree removal or pruning in non-rural areas is proposed that is NOT associated with a Development Application an application for a Tree Permit from Council may be required.  Non-rural areas are specific in Council’s DCP (as shown in Figure BB of the DCP).

The Development Control Plan chapter B-1 'Tree Management' contains specific information as to when approval is required.

The Development Control Plan chapter B-1 'Tree Management' contains specific information as to when approval is required.

A Tree Permit is not required when removing or pruning a tree or other vegetation and:

  • the height is less than 3m or circumference breast height is less than 300mm, and:
    • within 5m of the wall of an approved structure measured from the wall to the trunk of the tree;
    • in accordance with a construction certificate or subdivision certificate;
    • a tree grown for fruit or nut production;
    • vegetation clearing work authorised under the Rural Fires Act 1997;
    • maintenance of less than 12 months growth or 10% of foliage in accordance with AS 4373 (pruning of amenity trees);
    • an undesirable species; or
  • requires urgent removal on account of immediate failure when Council is provided with a tree removal notification post-event

Note: The onus of proof is on the landowner and photos should be taken before and after removal. Landowners are encouraged to seek the advice of a qualified arborist in determining the direct threat of any tree.

Council recommends checking the whether your property is within a 10/50 vegetation clearing entitlement area under the Rural Fires Act 1997 (www.rfs.nsw.gov.au) in which case clearing may be exempt from requiring a Tree Permit from Council.

Council recommends seeking free advice by calling Council on (02) 4988 0326 to clarify requirements in specific circumstances.

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, Council’s 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 Council's Fees and Charges Schedule for current application fee ($110.00 in 2019/20).

Before submitting an application, it is recommended that you check Council’s Development Control Plan (DCP) 2014, or contact Council for free advice on (02) 4988 0326, as there are a number of circumstances where a Tree Permit may not be required.

So that all social and environmental factors are addressed, Council considers the following:

  • whether the tree is dead and provides habitat for native animals;
  • damage to an existing structure or utility service that has been verified 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;
  • whether the tree is interfering, or will interfere, with public utility or road/driveway construction;
  • impact on threatened species, populations or ecological communities and their habitats;
  • retention value under the tree technical specification; and
  • other relevant circumstances, as per the tree technical specification.

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.

If you are concerned about potential damage or injury caused by a tree on your neighbour's property, apply to the Land and Environment Court. You can also apply to the court for compensation if damage has already occurred. It is important that you make a reasonable effort to resolve the issue before applying to the Court. While Council has no jurisdiction on these matters, we can provide advice on how you might resolve these issues.

Assistance in resolving disputes between neighbours:

  • The Community Justice Centre (CJC) can help resolve disputes between neighbours. It is advisable to contact this centre before the dispute escalates.
  • The NSW Land and Environment Court runs a free service providing procedural assistance (not legal advice) on tree disputes.

Properties within 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 the Rural Fire Service vegetation clearing page, 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 Council will be investigated. The Tree Vandalism Policy ensures Council can respond in a consistent manner and reduce further vandalism.

Contact Council's Vegetation Management Officer on 02 4988 0326 for further advice or to report potential vandalism.


For further information on vegetation and tree management please contact Council's Vegetation Management Officer on:
Phone: (02) 4988 0326
Fax: (02) 4987 3612