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Building near trees in the Bush Capital

Canberra was designed in 1913 as a planned garden city, incorporating large areas of natural vegetation that have earned it the title of the "Bush Capital".

For Canberrans, this means a mix of public parks, high-quality gardens, tree-lined streets and open spaces. It means we are constantly surrounded by trees and have an appreciation for the beautiful tree canopy that covers so much of our city.

But for homeowners, this can backfire when it comes time to look at renovating, extending or rebuilding on an established block. Many of the trees planted when suburbs were first constructed are well and truly large canopy trees now and classed as "protected" under ACT legislation.

This can greatly restrict a homeowners options when it comes to developing on their own block.

There are two types of protected trees:

A regulated tree is a tree that is either:

  • 12 metres or more in height; or

  • 1.5 metres or more in circumference at 1 metre above ground level; or

  • with two or more trunks and the total circumference of all the trunks, 1 metre above ground level, is 1.5 m or more, or

  • 12 metres or more in crown width.

A registered tree is a tree that has been identified as being exceptional for its:

So what does it mean if you want to REMOVE a protected tree on your block?

It will not be as simple as grabbing a chainsaw.

You need to apply to the conservator in TCCS for its removal and it needs to be substantiated, you need to have a good reason that fits one of the numerous criteria listed in the Tree Protection (Approval Criteria) Determination 2006. For example, the tree may have short life expectancy, cause an allergic reaction or substantially impact on a home's solar access. Whatever reason will need evidence by a professional for the conservator, who grants a approval, to consider.

And what if you just want to extend your home near it?

You need to be aware of restriction on ground work within the tree protection zone, and complete an application to undertake a tree damaging activity if you wish to do prohibited groundwork in that zone.

The tree protection zone includes:

  • The area 2 metres beyond the canopy (or beyond the drip line) and/or

  • The area 4 metres beyond the trunk as measured at 1 metre above ground level.

If you wish to do work in this zone, you will need a tree management plan to minimise damage to the tree. This plan will need to include measure such as hand cutting of any roots with arborist tools and not ripped or pulled (so no excavation works).


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