Can I chop the tree in my backyard down?

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Can I chop the tree in my backyard down?

By Ivana Hayman and Alyce Kliese

If you have a backyard, you’ve more likely than not looked out towards your yard and wondered the following:

  1. “That tree can be clipped there, I don’t quite like the asymmetrical slant”;
  2. “Those roots are causing mayhem to my driveway, let’s cut that tree down!”;
  3. “These tree branches keep snapping and falling down, we better get rid of this tree before someone loses an eye”;
  4. “That tree is caving in our fence, why isn’t the neighbour doing anything about it, we better cut it down ourselves before it causes any more damage”.

Before you take any steps it is best to consider the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 and the Trees (Dispute Between Neighbours) Act 2006 (the Trees Act). Your go-to experts in all things trees are qualified arborists, who are the “tree doctors” of the world.

When dealing with trees that are the subject of a dispute between neighbours, individuals can apply to the Court for the removal of trees pursuant to section 7 of the Trees Act. Commissioners handle these cases and often the commissioners are themselves suitably qualified to understand and assess the issue at hand.

The case of Lally v Grubisa is a 2022 decision by Commissioner Douglas that exemplifies the approach taken by the Land and Environment Court when it comes to tree disputes heard as part of Class 2 of the Court’s jurisdiction. In that case, the tree in question was located on the shared boundary of Lally and Grubisa  in North Turramurra.

Commissioner Douglas considered a number of matters and ultimately decided that the tree should be removed by poison. These considerations included (and are not limited to):

  1. The location of roots;
  2. The damage caused by the tree in question, and whether factors other than the tree may be responsible;
  3. The history of correspondence between the neighbours and attempts to reach agreement;
  4. Risk of injury;
  5. Method of removal and whether removal should be in part or whole;
  6. Council’s comments and thoughts on the matter;
  7. The trees contribution to amenity, shadowing and privacy; and
  8. The contribution of the tree to local biodiversity.

Need help with a tree on your property? Get in touch with Shaw Reynolds Lawyers to discuss the considerations today.