Council's proposed ban would see Aussies cop $2,000 fine for trimming trees

The Glen Eira Council in Melbourne's south-east has proposed a change to local laws to stop residents from tampering with canopy trees without a permit.

Panoramic aerial of Melbourne CBD skyline.
A Melbourne council is proposing fresh laws to limit tree pruning and removal. Source: Getty

Thousands of people living in Melbourne’s south-east may no longer be able to trim or remove trees in their own yard under a council’s proposed ban.

The Glen Eira City Council is working to change local laws so residents cannot prune or chop down canopy trees without explicit approval. A canopy tree is defined by the Victorian Government as having a circumference of over 140 centimetres and taller than five metres, with the new proposal intended to address the “serious problem” of urban heat in the suburbs.

“We want to make sure that we increase our tree canopy,” Mayor Anne-Marie Cade told 9News. “It is essential that we actually have some local laws in place. We have an urban forest strategy as well as a climate emergency.”

If the proposed change becomes law, the more than 150,000 estimated people living in the LGA will be required to have a permit before altering a canopy tree in their garden. The council's proposed amendment states it will “create offences relating to activities carried out without a permit”.

There will be no fee to apply, but anyone caught trimming or lopping branches without permission could reportedly cop a $2,000 fine.

“Being green and leafy is an important part of Glen Eira’s character,” the council’s website states. “We’ve increased the number of street trees from 30,000 to more than 50,000 over the past 20 years. Each year we replace around 1,000 street trees and plant 1,000 more in vacant sites.”

One resident told 9News that while she supported tree preservation, banning people from pruning them without a permit isn’t necessary.

“I bought this house because of the tree, so I absolutely love the tree,” Tamara De Silva said while pointing at the tall canopy tree in her yard. “Course I think you should be able to prune and maintain your tree to a certain extent, as long as you’re not cutting it down.”

Local Melbourne resident speaks about tree management.
Some residents say pruning shouldn't require permission. Source: 9News

However, others have accused the council of overreach. The proposal is still under consideration.

A lack of tree coverage — especially in urban areas and new housing developments — has contributed to record-high temperatures in already-scorching Aussie suburbs, including parts of western Sydney.

With the “unsustainable” issue becoming a matter of “human health” and safety, multiple councils across the country have implemented plans to introduce greener spaces, and often conduct free plant giveaways to residents to boost the local canopy.

In 2020, the City of Melbourne launched the Greening the City Project with the intention of planting approximately 150,000 native trees, shrubs and grasses.

New housing development in Manor Lakes, Melbourne shows a sea of black roofs, hardly any trees.
New housing development in Manor Lakes, Melbourne shows a sea of black roofs compared to the established suburb of Blackburn (inset). Source: Google

However, experts have warned that the landscape of Aussie suburbs will rapidly change as weather patterns force councils to replace plant species that have traditionally shaded us but won’t survive the effects of climate change.

Greening Australia’s urban expert Michael Vyse told Yahoo in August his team are working to conserve and restore landscapes by “thinking about which species will survive in the future if we put them in the ground now”.

“Most places are going to get dryer… as an example, Canberra could possibly have a climate like Dubbo in 20 years time. So do we select the species that are there now, or do we choose those that are better adapted to what the future climate scenario is?”

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