Why is it is so important to protect trees?
Trees are an asset often undervalued and not recognised. They add colour to streetscapes, soften the built environment, reduce carbon, and provide shade. In addition, street trees provide an additional fauna habitat for our native species and enhance the scenic quality of our beautiful region.
From an economic perspective, depending on the age, a tree can range in value from a couple of dollars for a juvenile plant, to many thousands and sometimes many tens of thousands of dollars for the more significant trees.
In other cases trees may play an important part of a community’s street or town’s identity. There are cases where towns are known and fondly remembered by the street trees that are planted along sections of roads.
What is our starting point?
The aim of the Southern Downs Regional Council is to deliver on our aspiration of providing a clean and green sustainable region for all who call this great region home.
As a result of this aspiration, our starting position is to wherever possible to retain the street tree.
It is from this point then we work down the decision making hierarchy. From retention of the tree, to reactive maintenance of the tree ie pruning, finally to removal where other options will not address the issue.
Why do we need a guide?
Through the adoption of this guide, Council will set in place transparent and consistent guiding principles that will be used in all circumstances in deciding when a street tree should be removed. This will remove confusion and inconsistency in decision making and strengthen our focus on the community and their expectations.
The Guiding Principles
This guide sets about establishing consistent principles that will be used in deciding when Council will remove a street tree. The City of Yarra (1998) for example has already gone through this process with issues such as the tree’s condition, suitability, value and significance, all requiring consideration prior to a decision being made.
To assist Council with its decision making, the following high level principles have been established, supported through an assessment checklist that will be used in all street tree removal decisions (see Annexure A of the Street Tree Removal Guidelines (PDF 24KB)).
The tree’s health, structure and form will be assessed to understand the current condition of the tree. If the tree is of good health, structure and form, then Council would not remove the tree.
In addition, just because a tree is not of good health does not necessarily mean that the tree requires removal. Prior to moving to the decision to remove, Council officers will also consider if informative pruning in accordance with AS 4373-2007 Pruning of Amenity Trees (PDF 493.3KB) is a viable option, ensuring the retention of our trees assets wherever possible.
Suitability and Value
Consideration will be required to understand if the tree in question is a significant tree, of historical or community significance or part of a bigger picture, such as a streetscape.
Often, the many trees in a streetscape give the street the scenic quality and value. The removal of a tree, whilst it may not initially appear significant, could have a broader impact on changing the streetscape and as such, the visual amenity of the street slowly evolves.
Impact on the surrounding environment
Items requiring consideration when looking at the impact on the surrounding environment include:
a) Is the tree a weed species?
b) Does the tree create a hazard?
c) Is the tree negatively impacting on Council’s or another authority’s assets?
d) Does the growth of the tree impede pedestrians, traffic or other users?
What will not be considered?
The following are not considered justifiable reasons for removing street trees;
- Impacts on views;
- Bark, twig, leaf or seed drop; and
- Minor damage to assets.
Who decides when street trees should be removed?
The removal of a street tree can be a contentious issue as there will be those who want the tree gone and those who want the tree retained. In addition, as we see more and more trees providing increased streetscape value, the decision to remove a tree should not be taken lightly.
It is considered that whilst an officer may make an assessment and recommendation, a more senior officer should make the decision. To address this it is considered that all assessments and recommendations must be signed off by Parks Supervisors, with only those in the position of Parks Coordinator or higher able to approve the recommendation to remove a street tree.
Process to Request a Street Tree to be Removed
To request for a street tree to be removed, you need to contact Council or lodge a service request and provide detailed reasons as to why you want the tree removed.
Download the Street Tree Removal Guidelines (PDF 24KB).