Tree pruning and removal

The Waverley Council LGA may be famous for its beaches, but it’s the tree-lined streetscapes, coastal bushland and lush parklands that make the area a beautiful place to visit and call home.

Trees play a critical role in the urban environment. They provide cooling benefits, improve the aesthetics of our parks and streets, improve air quality, provide habitat for local biodiversity, and have health benefits to the local community. While the benefits are significant, it is important to recognise that trees of the wrong species, poor health or growing in an unsuitable location can create risks in Waverley. A key aspect of tree management in the urban environment is finding a balance between the risks and the benefits that trees offer, to achieve the best outcomes.

Council regulates all appropriate tree maintenance, removals, and protection in accordance with legislation and the Waverley Tree Management Policy and Tree Management Guidelines. Some information from these documents related to trees on private land is included below, but this does not replace the full requirements as outlined in the Policy and Guidelines.

If you have any questions, contact us for assistance.

Applying to prune or remove trees

A Tree Permit Application must be submitted to prune or remove on any part of a tree on private land if:

  • the tree has a height of three (3) metres or more
  • and/or the tree has a canopy spread of three (3) metres or more
  • and/or the tree is listed on the Waverley Register of Significant Trees*
  • and/or the tree is listed as a heritage item, forms part of a heritage item or is located in a Heritage Conservation Area.*
  • If your tree is listed on the Significant Tree Register or if you think your tree may fall into the Heritage Conversation Area category, please submit a tree permit application in the first instance. However, after initial assessment by Council’s Tree Management Officer, you may be advised to submit a Development Application.

The pruning or removal of a tree is prohibited until the application is approved by Council. All approved tree work must be carried out by minimum AQF Level 3 arborist.

The only instances where a Tree Permit Application is not required are:

  • The tree is listed under Exempt Vegetation. See below for more information
  • Pruning of a hedge (refer to definitions in the Tree Management Guidelines from pg 26) by no more than 20 per cent of its height and width in any 12-month period
  • Pruning of a tree with a maximum height of below five (5) metres
  • Pruning of dead branches; palm fronds or palm fruit
  • The pruning or removal is an urgent safety matter e.g. the tree suffered severe storm damage. Evidence of the tree’s condition (e.g. arborist or SES report) must be produced at Council’s request if required. The requirement for replacement tree/s remains (more information below).
  • If Council is satisfied that the vegetation is dying or dead and is not required as the habitat of native animals

Residents cannot prune or remove any tree or plant on public land, including in front of their private property. Consult the Public Tree Management section if you wish to report an issue with a tree on public land.


How applications are assessed

Once a Tree Permit Application is submitted, it is reviewed by Council along with any supporting documentation and evidence the resident has supplied.

One of Council’s qualified arborists will inspect the tree/s, and make an assessment on, but not limited to, it’s location, current health, structural integrity, useful life expectancy and any visible damage to the tree. The date/time of the inspection will be arranged with the resident, but the resident does not need to attend the inspection.

If tree removal is proposed, adjacent residents will be notified for a period of 14 days and given the chance to make a submission about the proposal. Submissions will be taken into consideration prior to determining the outcome.

After assessment, the application will either be:

  • Approved, or approved with conditions;
  • Pending, awaiting further information, or supporting evidence from the applicant, or;
  • Refused, or refused with conditions.

If tree removal is refused, residents that are dissatisfied with Council’s assessment of their tree can submit a Request for Review of Tree Determination within six (6) months of the date of the determination.

Replacement trees and Offset Tree Planting

When permission is granted to remove a tree on private land, it is a condition of removal that a tree of equivalent or larger canopy size when mature, with a minimum pot size of 45 litres, is planted in the ground. The new tree must be planted within a month of the removal of the original tree. Audit checks of replacement plantings are carried out by Council.

However, if there is insufficient planting space on site to accommodate a mature tree of similar dimensions, the applicant will be required to contribute to offset planting on public land. Generally, for every tree removed, the replacement of a minimum of three (3) off-site trees will be required with pot size dependent on the canopy spread of the tree(s) to be removed as assessed by Council. The applicant will be charged an offset planting fee that includes the purchase, supply, planting and a 12-month maintenance program for the tree(s) as per Council’s Pricing Policy and Schedule of Fees and Charges.

All residents required to take part in offset tree planting must submit a Offset Tree Planting form.

Exempt Vegetation

The following pest / weed trees can be removed without submitting a Tree Permit Application. Instead, Council must be notified via email to with photographs clearly identifying the tree(s), its leaves and bark, a minimum of seven (7) days prior to the removal.

Botanic name Common name
Ailanthus altissima Tree of Heaven
Celtis sinensis Hackberry
Citrus spp Citrus
Ligustrum sinense Narrow leaved Privet
Ligustrum lucidum Broad leaved Privet
Nerium oleander Oleander
Olea europaea var. africana Wild or African Olive
Salix spp Willows
Schefflera actinophylla Umbrella Tree
Strelitzia nicolai Giant Bird of Paradise
Syagrus romanzoffianum Cocos Palms
Toxicodendron spp Rhus tree

Obtaining an arborist’s report

Supporting evidence for the removal or pruning of a tree(s) may require a report from a consulting arborist (AQF Level 5) where:

  • Major work or removal is proposed on heritage listed or significant trees or trees considered prominent in a heritage conservation area
  • There is insufficient evidence to support the removal of a tree as assessed against the above criteria

Council may request the applicant provide an arborist’s report for more complex tree assessments such as an aerial inspection, root mapping or identification, fungal or pest problems or internal diagnostic assessment.

For the report to be accepted by Council, the arborist must be qualified to AQF Level 5. You can find a local supplier via either the Institute of Consulting Arborists or Arboriculture Australia.

The report should include all of the below information:

a) The client, specific author (contact and title of qualifications), purpose of report, subject site, date(s) of inspection

b) Methodology of techniques used in the report

c) A summary of findings

d) A site plan showing the location of all relevant trees, numbered to correspond with text in the report. The site plan must accurately show the location of each tree and existing or proposed buildings/structures and above/underground services

e) A table for each tree detailing:

  • Common name and scientific name
  • Approximate height and age
  • Canopy spread
  • Diameter at one meter height (and number of trunks if more than one)
  • Condition and structural health of the tree/s e.g. signs of dieback and other trunk indications, loss of branches, leaves, stunted/distorted growth, wounds, cavities, cracks, included bark/co-dominant branches, pests and diseases and root conditions/issues
  • Hazard assessment of any of the above where relevant
  • Estimates of the tree’s useful life expectancy of the tree using accepted industry methods

f) A summary and discussion of other relevant tree and site information e.g. nearby structures; soil and drainage characteristics; habitat, landscape and amenity values; weather exposure; previous human intervention etc

g) If pest or disease problems are affecting the health of the tree/s, further expert diagnosis and discussion of treatment may be required

h) Supporting evidence such as test results, annotated and relevant photographs

i) Discussion of all available options and the reasons why they are recommended or not recommended e.g. can services be diverted to avoid root pruning; can a structure be relocated or rebuilt and retain the tree?

j) Recommended actions and the reasons for their adoption

k) Resource material to be referenced in an accepted method. References not used in the report are not to be included

l) Reports from any Resistograph/Tomograph testing must include copies of the charts, be clear and legible and have scientifically supported conclusions.

You may be required to submit other arborists reports such as aerial or canopy inspection, root mapping, a tree hazard assessment, tree transplant method statements and tree monitoring reports. However, you should not go to the expense of these reports before discussing it with Council first.

Obtaining a structural engineer’s report

Supporting evidence in the form of a report may be required from a structural engineer where:

  • There is alleged damage from tree roots to buildings or major structures; or
  • Alternative design is required to minimise tree root damage to a prominent tree that may be affected by construction works.
  • Council recommends that a report be prepared by an engineer with tertiary qualifications in structural engineering and a minimum of five years post graduate experience.

The following information is required in the preparation of a report from a structural engineer:

  • The client, specific author (contact and title of qualifications), purpose of report, subject site, date(s) of inspection
  • Methodology of techniques used in the report
  • A summary of findings
  • A site plan showing the location of all relevant trees, buildings, pathways, underground services etc. The site plan must accurately show the location of each tree
  • Detailed site description and site usage
  • Detailed description of the footings of the existing or proposed building and whether the footings comply with current building regulations
  • Geotechnical information
  • Detailed description of methods to isolate building foundations from tree roots
  • Discussion of all options available – why they are recommended or not recommended e.g. can the tree remain with minor modification of building design
  • Recommendation of the preferred option and the supporting reasons.

Additional arboricultural information may be required such as a root mapping report to support any recommendations.

Any report lacking in sufficient detail or applying incorrect analysis or subjective opinion may result in the application being refused or some or all of the recommendations rejected.

Obtaining a plumber’s report

If tree roots are suspected of contributing to blocked sewer or stormwater pipes a report from a licensed plumber may be required as supporting evidence. The report must be a balanced and objective assessment of the problem and is to include:

  • A clear and legible sewer or stormwater diagram
  • Exact site of suspected blockages in relation to location of the tree
  • Documented history of previous blockages together with photographic evidence of roots retrieved
  • Objective assessment as to the age and condition of the affected pipes
  • Balanced and objective discussion of practical methods of preventing further blockages e.g. replacing affected section of pipeline; re-lining of pipe.

Obtaining a pest control report

If pests are affecting the health of a tree(s), an additional report may be required from a licensed pest control operator in conjunction with a consulting arborist. The report is to include:

  • Evaluation and discussion of the impact of the pest on the long term health and structural condition of the tree
  • Recommended treatment and management program

Subscribe to our Environment E-news

Get the latest news and tips on creating an environmentally friendly community, plus free workshops and events. Read our latest blogs here.

Subscribe now