Need a good reason to remove a tree in your council application?

Not sure if you can remove your tree without council approval? Everything you need to know about removing your tree legally.

There is a good chance it can be removed without approval!

All local councils have what’s called a Tree Preservation Order (TPO), which outlines rules for tree maintenance and removal.

This allows you to check whether your tree can be removed without council approval.

Quickly and easily check now for yourself…

Download your local council TPO here

Pro Tip: There will also be rules about proximity to your home, tree size and the maximum percentage that can be removed if pruning the tree, all without council consent.

Example: Trees within 3m of your home’s foundations can be removed without approval. (most councils have a variation of this rule)

exempt trees for removal

TPO is outlining that trees less than 5m high or within 3m of your home don’t need approval.

Think you do need council approval?

If your tree is not exempt, then you need to put in an application to the council.

  1. Type this into Google “tree removal application form [your council]”
  2. Download .PDF
  3. Print and fill in the details.
  4. Pay any money required
  5. Wait 1 – 2 weeks for n officer to come out and have a look.

Good reasons to remove a tree for council application

If your reason on the application form for removing your tree is because it’s “lifting pavers” or “filling the gutters with leaves”, then you have literally no chance of getting approval. They will reject your application.

Councils will always do what they can to save the tree first.

Best reasons for removal

Dangerous: This is the best reason. Councils are always afraid of being sued. Basically putting them on notice that if someone gets hurt or killed, they will be held accountable as you want it gone should be enough to convince them.

If you can provide evidence of deadwood or branches falling this is a much stronger case. Always mention you have kids playing under the tree on a regular basis or pedestrians walking under the tree etc.

If your tree has a slight lean, maybe mention that it only happened recently and you are scared of it coming down.

Dead: Trees that have died do not need approval for council removal. Now I am not telling you to poison your tree. That’s illegal. Just letting you know that if it were to die you could remove the tree with no problem at all.

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Has your council asked for an arborist report?

This is where things can get a little dicey.

Some councils will ask for a report to be prepared by an independent arborist. The arborist will draw up a very detailed report on their ‘opinion’ on whether approval for the local tree removal should be granted.

Based on that report the council will make its decision.

Your next move is important...

There are two types of arborists. There is a consulting arborist and a working arborist. The former just does reports and the latter does reports and also does the hands-on work.

In my opinion/experience your best go with the latter, a working arborist.

When you think about it, it’s in their best interests that the tree is removed as they will probably get the job and earn more money if they approve it for removal.

They are on your side. A consulting arborist is a little more natural.

Disclaimer: This is not a rule of thumb, as every tree, situation and council are different, but it’s an observation of my 14 years in the industry.

What do arborist reports cost?

This can vary greatly from case to case.

It will also depend on what level of arborist is required (Cert. III arborist or Cert. V), the number of trees involved and how soon you need it.

Single Tree, Cert III – Cert. V Arborist, you will be looking at $400 – $700

Cost for professional removal after approval

The cost to cut down your tree varies greatly depending on a variety of factors.

Not only is tree height and spread a factor, but other things you might not have thought of such as the location of the tree on your property, and obstacles around it like fences and sheds. One of the biggest factors is access. If your tree is located in your backyard, it can cost double unless you grant good access to the tree service.

The average cost for tree removal so far this year is $871. But the range is anywhere from $750 – $2,500 on average.

What if the arborist say's the tree needs to stay?

Depending on the tree/ arborist/local council, the report might come back that the tree needs to stay.


If you’re not happy with that then get a second opinion! This can get expensive considering reports average around $500 for a single tree. So try and feel out the arborist to see what he thinks before you commission the report to be drawn up.

If you don’t think it’s going to be favorable for you, then get another one that’s singing the tune you want to hear.

thats your opinion

Still don't know what to do?

… Don’t worry

There are local contractors ready to help you with this.

Simply fill in the quick form on the right, and we can get you in touch with up to 3 local arborists who can give you:

  • Advice on your situation
  • The best way to proceed
  • A great price on tree removal or pruning

They are local, qualified and insured

Author: Ben McInerney is a qualified arborist with over 15 years of industry experience. He uses his in-depth knowledge of the tree service industry to give readers to most accurate information on tree service costs and helps to educate them about the benefits of using a certified arborist for tree trimming and removal work.