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Trees and Vegetation

Various legislative controls are in place to protect trees in metropolitan Adelaide and some Adelaide Hills area. It is important that you understand what these controls are and if you need approval to alter or remove the tree.

Gum trees along dirt road image

Significant tree

A ‘significant tree’ is a regulated tree that is:

Any tree in metropolitan Adelaide and/or townships in the Adelaide Hills Council or parts of the Mount Barker Council with a trunk circumference of 3 metres or more measured at a point 1 metre above natural ground level (in the case of trees with multiple trunks, it is those with trunks with a total circumference of 3 metres or more and an average circumference of 625mm or more measured at a point 1 metres above natural ground level).

OR

Any tree identified as a significant tree in Part 10 of the Planning and Design Code.

Regulated tree

Any tree in metropolitan Adelaide (which includes the Hills Face Zone and/or townships in the Adelaide Hills Council) with a trunk circumference of 2 metres or more, when measured at a point 1 metre above natural ground level or, in the case of a tree with multiple trunks, that has trunks with a total circumference of 2 metre or more and an average circumference of 625mm or more.

Do I need approval?

The Development Act 1993 provides that damaging a 'regulated' or 'significant' tree is development and requires Development Approval from Council. This does not include dead trees or trees within 20 metres of a house in a bushfire prone area.

The controls also do not apply within the following zones; Native Vegetation Council restrictions apply in these zones.

  • Watershed (Primary Production) Zone
  • Public Purpose Zone
  • Extractive Industry Zone.

Tree trimming

Maintenance pruning of less than 30% of a tree crown is not controlled where the pruning is required to remove dead or diseased wood, or to remove branches that pose a risk to buildings or areas frequently used by people. Refer to Australian Standard 4373-1996 'Pruning of Amenity Trees'.

My neighbour is cutting down / pruning my tree at the fence line

Pruning back a regulated tree's branches or roots that are encroaching on your property does not require development consent unless it is likely to affect the health and appearance of the tree. For further information please contact the Legal Services Commission.

Where cutting back the tree would result in damage to the tree (including root damage), you will be required to seek Development Approval from Council for any works on your side of the common property boundary.

Native vegetation

In South Australia native vegetation (not exclusively trees) is protected by the Native Vegetation Act 1991. In most cases the clearance of native vegetation requires the consent of the Native Vegetation Council. Under this Act 'clearance' may be interpreted similarly to 'damaging activity'.

The Regulations of the Native Vegetation Act list a number of exemptions where clearance of native vegetation does not require approval.

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