The Development Act 1993 (SA) provides that any activity that damages a significant or regulated tree is development.
A ‘regulated tree’ is:
- Any tree in Metropolitan Adelaide or townships in the Adelaide Hills Council or parts of the Mount Barker Council with a trunk circumference of 2 metres or more. In the case of trees with multiple trunks, those with trunks with a total circumference of 2 metres or more and an average circumference 625 mm or more. The circumference is measured at a point 1 metre above natural ground level.
A ‘significant tree’ is:
- Any tree in Metropolitan Adelaide or townships in the Adelaide Hills Council or parts of the Mount Barker Council with a trunk circumference of 3 metres or more. In the case of trees with multiple trunks, those with trunks with a total circumference of 3 metres or more and an average circumference 625 mm or more. The circumference is measured at a point 1 metre above natural ground level.
- Any tree identified as a significant tree in the City of Adelaide, City of Burnside, City of Prospect or City of Unley Development Plans.
Any activity that could damage these trees is prohibited without development approval. Under the section 4 of Development Act 1993 (SA) ‘tree damaging activity’ is defined as:
- killing or destruction; or
- removal; or
- severing of branches, limbs, stems or the trunk of a tree; or
- ringbarking, topping or lopping; or
- any other substantial damage.
In addition, excessive pruning can also meet the definition of ‘tree damaging activity’. Under reguation 6A(8) of the Development Regulations 2008 (SA) pruning that does not remove more than 30% of the crown of the tree and is required to remove dead/diseased wood or branches posing a risk to buildings or persons is excluded from the definition.
There are heavy penalties for doing prohibited work on a significant or regulated tree without permission. Urgent work may be done if necessary to protect persons or buildings, but must, so far as is reasonably practical, be undertaken to cause the minimum amount of damage to the tree. Approval must be applied for afterwards [Development Act 1993 (SA) s 54A].
There are a number of exemptions listed in the Development Regulations 2008 (SA) which exclude certain trees from the provisions concerning regulated and significant trees.
Council approval is not required to remove a significant or regulated tree if it is:
- one of the 22 species of exotic trees (such as Box Elder, Silver Maple, London Plane, Weeping Willow) listed in regulation 6A of the Development Regulations 2008 (SA), or
- located within 10 metres of an existing dwelling or in-ground swimming pool (except if the tree is either a Willow Myrtle or any Eucalyptus), or
- within 20 metres of a dwelling in Medium or High Bushfire Protection Areas, or
A council may either approve an application, approve it subject to conditions or refuse it. No notice of applications will need to be given to neighbours unless the tree is on council land. The normal application fees apply for tree owners but there is no fee for an affected neighbour seeking approval to lop on their side of the boundary.
If approval has been given to remove a regulated or significant tree, the council may make it a condition that replacement trees are planted or that money is paid into an urban tree fund. An applicant has the right to appeal to the Environment, Resources and Development Court within two months of the council's decision.
For more information see the SA government webpage on Regulated and significant trees.
The content of the Law Handbook is made available as a public service for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as a substitute for legal advice. See Disclaimer for details. For free and confidential legal advice in South Australia call 1300 366 424.