When the Development Act was amended over a decade ago to introduce protection for significant and regulated trees the original legislation was fairly inflexible. A tree was a regulated tree with a truck circumference of 2.0 metres or more. In the case of trees with multiple trucks of 625 mm or more totalling 2.0 metres its removal is considered development and required development approval. Or a significant tree is specifically listed in the respective Council Development Plan or has an even greater circumference than a registered tree.
If a tree was classified as a significant or regulated tree, local council approval was required before substantial pruning or removal. Failure to obtain approval can attract a fine of up to $120,000. The original controls were restrictive, exemptions few and approval difficult to obtain. The main benefit of the original legislation was it forced people to consider what the true value of a tree was where as previously they had not been valued and often removed unnecessarily.
More recently the legislation applying to trees was substantially amended more exceptions introduced:-
- Council approval not required for removal of 22 common exotic trees
- Trees located within 10 metres of an existing dwelling or an in ground swimming pool (except if a Willow Myrtle or Eucalyptus)
- Within 20 metres of a dwelling in Medium or High Bushfire Protection Area
These exemptions applying to exotic trees or within 10 metres of an existing dwelling have been very useful since introduction. Most recently a heritage list villa in St Peters was surrounded by mature exotic species within 10 metres of the dwelling. The trees had cause substantial damage to the dwellings foundations and cracking in the walls so there was no debate or hesitation in agreeing they should be removed rather than requiring specific Council Approval.