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Local councils and trees

Information about when the council may get involved in a dispute about trees.

Local councils rarely get involved in disputes between neighbours about trees and roots unless there is a danger to public health.

Councils have local laws and planning schemes, which vary between councils. These laws regulate:

  • trees that overhang onto a council footpath or laneway (generally these must be a certain height from the ground)
  • certain significant trees (often trees of certain species and trunk circumference or height)
  • nature strips
  • local parks.

When to contact council

Council tree overhanging or causing damage to property

A person can contact their local council if a council tree is hanging over into their property, or over a footpath, or if a council's tree roots have lifted the footpath creating a trip hazard because of an uneven surface.

This includes trees growing in nature strips. People should not prune trees on nature strips without permission from their council.

Neighbour's tree overhanging onto council land

The council may fine a neighbour if their vine or tree hangs too low onto council property.

Before pruning a tree

Check with the local council to make sure that a tree is not a protected tree before using self-help to remove overhanging branches. A tree may be protected even if it is on private property. So a person could be fined even if they prune of cut down their own tree.

Tree that is dangerous to public health

Any person affected may notify the council of something they believe is a nuisance that is dangerous to public health. Once notified, the council must investigate.

See s. 62—Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic)

If a neighbour has a tree that is a danger to public health, then this is something that a local council may get involved in. Local councils have delegated power to make sure that no one causes a nuisance to exist on or to emanate from any premises owned or occupied by a person. According to Fitzroy Legal Service's Law Handbook, the kinds of things most likely to be considered to be nuisances under the Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 include:

  • houses that are likely to fall down due to disrepair
  • premises used for keeping animals or birds
  • too much rubbish accumulating
  • overcrowded or infested houses.

Although trees are not mentioned on this list, it is possible that a very large tree that has previously lost limbs onto public land, could be viewed by the council as a public nuisance.

What council may do

If council believes that there is a nuisance to health, they may serve a notice on the person responsible. The notice will clearly state what work must be done, and when the action is due.

If the required action is not taken, the council can take the person to court. The person responsible could be fined up to 120 penalty units. They may also be ordered to pay the council's court costs.

Once a court order is made, the council may enter the property and take whatever action is necessary to fix the danger. They may then seek repayment of the cost of taking this action from the person named in the court order.

See ss. 60, 61, 197—Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic) and The Law Handbook—Neighbours and noise.

Other trees on public land

Some trees on private land may not be managed by the council. This includes trees situated:

  • on main roads
  • on public transport land
  • in state parks.

More information

Legislation

Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic)

  • s. 60—duty of council
  • s. 61—offence of causing a nuisance
  • s. 62—notification of nuisance
  • s. 197—special provisions relating to nuisance

See Public Health and Wellbeing Act 2008 (Vic).

Reference

Finding a local council

To find out what local council see Know your council—Find your local council.

Parks Victoria

See Parks Victoria

VicRoads

See VicRoads

VicTrack

Contact the government's VicTrack if a tree that a person wants to complain about is on public transport property.

See VicTrack—Contact us

Updated