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Can I clear dangerous trees in my backyard?

What legislation do I need to know about?

The Native Vegetation Act 2003 governs clearing of native vegetation on rural land in NSW. Rural land includes land that is zoned Environmental (eg. E2, E3 and E4) as well as land zoned R5 'Large Lot Residential', RU1 'Primary Production', RU2 'Rural Landscape' and RU4 'Primary Production Small Lots'.

The Local Land Services is the consent authority for the Native Vegetation Act. We provide advice on what clearing is allowable without consent and undertake assessments to determine if consent can be granted when it is required.

In some cases Local Environment Plans (LEPs) require landholders to also gain consent from Council in order to clear native vegetation. This varies from one Local Government area to the next so check with your local Council to determine your specific circumstance.

If you are unsure of what land zoning area you are in, please contact your local council.

Do I need approval or authorisation from Local Land Services to remove a dangerous tree?

There are clearing allowances under the Native Vegetation Act called Routine Agricultural Management Activities (RAMAs) that do not require consent from Hunter Local Land Services. Clearing that is considered necessary to remove or reduce an imminent risk of serious personal injury or serious damage to property is a RAMA, provided it is undertaken to the minimum extent necessary. 

You do not need to notify or seek permission from Hunter Local Land Services to apply a RAMA. It is advisable, however, for landholders to keep evidence that justifies the use of the imminent risk RAMA. Evidence could include photographs or a report from an arborist that demonstrates that the tree poses serious imminent risk. Please note, you can only implement RAMAs on your own property.

What does 'minimum extent necessary' mean?

Minimum extent necessary means you only remove vegetation that is fully justifiable. If you are able to remove the imminent risk posed by a tree through pruning branches and upper parts of the tree then complete removal of the tree is not justified or allowable under the imminent risk RAMA.

What if I just want to prune the tree?

Pruning which does not result in killing vegetation does not trigger the Native Vegetation Act. It is advisable to consult with an arborist if you plan to prune large trees to ensure that the pruning doesn't unintentionally result in the death of the tree.

"It's ok – it's just one tree…"

Many large eucalypts and associated wildlife habitats are removed on a daily basis across the Hunter Local Land Services region so it's worth taking a moment to think about how your proposed activities will contribute to this loss. As eucalypt trees age they start to develop hollows, which are a highly valuable type of habitat.

In NSW there are over 170 animal species that rely on tree hollows for shelter and nests and 40 of these species are considered threatened. Eucalypts generally don't form large hollows until they are well over 200 years old. Before choosing to remove an entire tree, look carefully to see if there are any hollows present. It may be possible to reduce serious hazards through pruning limbs whilst retaining valuable habitat in the main trunk of the tree. For more information visit the value of hollow trees

How do I find out more about RAMAs?

There are a range of RAMAs available to landholders for infrastructure such as fencing and tracks. For further information visit routine agricultural management activities.

If you wish to undertake clearing which is beyond RAMA allowances, please contact Hunter Local Land Services for further advice. It is illegal to use RAMAs to progressively clear land for a purpose outside the scope of the RAMA.


Factsheet - Can I clear dangerous trees in my backyard?

Further information:

Jesse Gollan, Taree Ph: 6551 8994 ext 221

Paul Melehan, Muswellbrook Ph: 6542 4434

Nicolai Cooper, Tocal Ph: 4938 4945

Geoff Foster, Taree Ph: 6551 8994 ext 243