As a property owner, you may have many reasons for wanting to cut down a tree. But regardless of your reasons, the New South Wales government requires you to first seek their permission for certain trees.

Failure to do this attracts hefty fines starting at $5,000 and going up to $110,000 for each offense.

Below you will see which trees are safe to remove and which need a permit.

Ideally, homeowners are free to cut down trees within their private property if they meet their municipality’s regulations.

Most local authorities in NSW require you to obtain a permit from their office before cutting down the trees. However, their specific regulations differ between councils.

Each law is guided and decided through the Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs) and Local Environment Plans (LEPs). If the tree is listed as an Environmental Heritage Item, you will need to apply for a Development Application consent (DA).

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How long does it take to get approval?

Your permit for tree removal from the local councils may take anywhere from 2 weeks to a month, depending on the volume of applications received by the council. In some areas, a tree inspector may visit your tree after a week or two.

When can you remove a tree without a permit in NSW

The only exceptions to getting permits before tree removal would be when pruning or maintaining the trees and whenever they’re considered a pest.

Some tree species shorter than 10m may also be exempted from a permit during removal.

If you live in a region close to bushlands, you’ll also be subject to the Rural Fire Service’s 10/50 clearing rule. The rule allows you to clear any vegetation excluding trees up to 50 meters from your home without a permit.

Is illegal tree removal a criminal offence?

Yes. The illegal removal of a tree is regarded as a violation of the TPO set by the local authorities. It’s, therefore, a criminal offense unless the tree is exempted from a permit.

The penalty for such an act includes criminal conviction and/or hefty fines from $1,000 up to $1.1 million.

Keep in mind: It’s still illegal to remove a heritage or significant tree, even if it’s on your property.

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List of exempt species in my area

The NSW state government has exempted several tree species from requiring a permit. Their only requirement is that these trees should be at least five meters tall and around 300mm in trunk diameter.

The exempted species include:

  • All species and cultivars of Bamboo species
  • All varieties of citrus
  • Rubber tree
  • White cedar
  • Umbrella tree
  • African Olive
  • Cotoneaster
  • Wild honey locust
  • African Olive
  • Willow
  • Cocos Palm
  • Banana
  • Mulberry
  • Norfolk Island Hibiscus


To determine which tree can be pruned or removed without a permit in your area, always check the area’s Register of Significant Trees.

Can I legally remove a tree that has fallen over?

Yes. If a tree has fallen over to your property, the NSW tree removal laws allow you to remove it without seeking a permit.

However, good practice dictates that you hire a tree removal expert to handle the removal for you. This is because the job is dangerous and involves many sharp tools.

The tree expert will assess the situation and conduct the job safely to ensure you don’t pose a danger to your home or neighbors.

Can I remove a dead tree without a permit?

Yes. The NSW tree regulations allow homeowners to remove dead trees without permits since such trees are considered dangerous. If left on the ground for a while, the tree will eventually rot and get eroded by wind and water.

However, some county regulations still demand a permit for the tree removal of such a tree. Therefore, always consult a local arborist to help you know if you need the permit.


In most cases, yes. Every town and city in NSW has its TPOs and regulations, which all homeowners must follow when removing a tree.

Generally, you’ll need a permit to remove most trees in your area. Working without a permit may cost you highly in terms of fines and penalties.

The average cost of removing a tree without a permit ranges between $450 – $4,500, depending on the size and number of branches on the tree. The national average stands at $1,150.

Yes, you can! If a tree located on public land is affecting your property, you can alert the local council, and they may remove the entire tree. If the tree is partly on your land and partly on public land, the council may pay for at least half of the costs.

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.