This article is based on an original article by Alex Kelly of 26 June 2016 and was updated by Madeline Bow on 2 August 2019
We have acted both for and against many people who have cut down trees and regretted it. As a matter of caution, contact your local council before you fire up the chainsaw. Legislative reforms introduced in 2017 changed how a person might answer the question “Can I cut down a tree in my backyard?”
Firstly, it’s important to note that just because your tree might not be native to New South Wales, does not mean you are immediately exempt from the laws regulating tree removal.
The clearing of vegetation in urban areas and land zoned for environmental protection is governed by the State Environmental Planning Policy (Vegetation in Non-Rural Areas) 2017. This includes land zoned R1 – R5 inclusive, but does not include most rural zoned land except for RU5 Village. Generally, a council’s development control plan will set out what vegetation a person must not clear without a council permit. You can usually find a council’s development control plan on their website.
The clearing of native vegetation on rural land is governed by the Local Land Services Act 2013. The Native Vegetation Regulatory Map classifies all land in NSW as either exempt land, regulated land, and vulnerable regulated land. You can look up your land on the Map to determine how your land is classified. If you think your land has been categorised incorrectly, you can (in most cases) make an appeal to the NSW Land and Environment Court.
You might also need to consider if the provisions of the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 affect your ability to remove vegetation. This Act aims to protect current biodiversity and regulate development on activities on land that might affect it. The implications of this legislation is more commonly a concern for developers, but depending on how much vegetation you intend to clear on your property, the type of vegetation, and the size of your property, this may affect you too.
Removing vegetation in contravention of the legislation can result in civil and criminal penalties (including fines of up to $1 million for an individual; $5 million for a corporation). You may also be required to revegetate the site of the clearing.
Call us today if you need more information or help.