Tree Disputes with Neighbours

A community unlike any other

Explore inspiring articles, discover events, connect with locals and learn more about Coffs Harbour City Council.

Beach Patrol Times

Swim Between the Flags

Stay safe at the beach this summer and swim at our patrolled beaches ...

Read more
New Library Gallery

New Library Gallery

Register to receive project updates.

Read more
Community Workshops

Planning for the Future

Do you have great plans for your club or community group but need help with getting started ...

Read more
View all news

Latest News

Young people get creative

Young People Encouraged to Get Creative

Young people in the local area are being given to opportunity to showcase their creativity...

Read more
Have your so on service delivery

Have Your Say on Service Delivery

Coffs Harbour City Council is currently undertaking a review of the 2012-2016 Library Service Strategic Plan and developing a Regional Gallery Strategic Plan.

Read more
Clean Up Australia

Sign Up for the Big Clean Up

Clean Up Australia Day 2018 is on Sunday, March 4, and there’s still plenty of time to register to take part.

Read more
View all news

Upcoming Events

2018
Regional Gallery

JADA on Exhibition

Read more
2018
Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Read more
Feb 18
Oztag

Oztag Junior State Cup

Read more
Feb 2018
Library Lovers

Library Lovers Day

Read more
Feb 2018
Ipads and biscuits

iPads and Biscuits

Read more
Feb 2018
Festival of Small Halls

Community Group Planning Workshop

Read more
View all events

Tree Disputes with Neighbours

Council's Role in Tree Disputes

It is important to note that approval may be required from Council for the removal of native vegetation.

  • Step 1 - Talk openly and honestly about your concerns.
  • Step 2 - Mediation
  • Step 3 - Local Court
  • Step 4 - Land & Environment Court
  • Council's role in tree disputes

Step one

Try to avoid confrontation with neighbours by talking openly and honestly about your concerns. A friendly letter is also suggested if verbal communication is not within your best interests. Negotiate with your neighbours about the best solution to fix the problem.

The laws regarding tree disputes are not always completely clear about levels of responsibility - especially costs. It is always recommended that you check with Coffs Harbour City Council about any restrictions that may apply to the tree or trees in question.

Please Note If you are unable to contact your neighbour, either they do not live at the dwelling in question or the block is vacant land, Council can assist. If you draft a letter to the neighbour, Council will forward the correspondence on your behalf.

Make sure your letter discusses the issues regarding the tree or trees, what concerns you have and what the implications are. Also include your contact details and any attachments like arborist reports or photos.

Attach a cover letter directed to Council, requesting that the letter be passed on the landowner of the nominated property on your behalf.

Step two

If talking or letters do not solve the dispute, then you might like to seek the help of an independent person who can discuss the issues with both parties and point the way to agreement.  The mediation process with your neighbour is not legally binding, is made in good faith and has no minimal costs. The Community Justice Centres (1800 990 777) can fulfil this function (refer to Community Justice Centre Information and contacts for more advice). If you feel that negotiation is not an option or has failed, it is permissible, under the "right of abatement", to cut a neighbour's overhanging branches or intruding roots back to the property boundary line. Make sure the tree is not subject to any restriction by Council prior to commencing works. 

Please note the following considerations if you take this course of action:

  • The neighbour is not obliged to contribute to the pruning cost.
  • The neighbour owns the overhanging branch, fruit or root material.
  • The person carrying out the pruning would be liable if the tree is damaged, as a result of the pruning.

Professional advice is also worthwhile. If you needlessly kill the tree or make it structurally unstable you may be liable. Even though you may have been entitled to cut off the branch overhanging the property boundary and the tree's death was unintentional, you may find you will have to compensate you neighbour. The removed limbs and roots remain the property of your neighbour - so set an agreement on the disposal of material with your neighbour prior to the start of any works.

Always remember - crossing the common boundary without permission from your neighbour is trespassing.  

Step three

If the neighbour's tree has caused damage to your property - such as lifted concrete driveways, damaged foundations or branches that have destroyed your roof. The next step is to apply to the Local or Magistrates Court for an order requiring your neighbour to remove the tree. Just remember this involves court proceedings and evidence will need to be gathered. If a request to enter the neighbour's property to carry out the pruning is refused, an application may be made to the Local Court under the Access to Neighbouring Land Act 2000. 

Access for pruning or removal of a neighbour's tree is considered under the Trees (Disputes between Neighbours) Bill 2006. Always remember - the situation is more likely to be resolved if you approach it fully informed and ready to negotiate. 

Step four

The Land and Environment Court. The Trees (Disputes between Neighbours) Bill 2006 applies only to trees on land identified:

  • as "residential", "village", "township", "industrial" or business" in Coffs Harbour.  Under this action, the affected land owner may "...


apply to the Court for an order to remedy or prevent damage to property on the land, or to prevent injury to a person, as a consequence of a tree situated on adjoining land."

The Court must be satisfied with physical evidence that the affected landowner has made "...a reasonable effort..." to reach agreement with the neighbour and that the tree has caused, or is likely to cause, damage to property or injury to a person.

Under the Land and Environment Court's definitions, the following must be proven:       

  • A neighbour's tree may be considered to be causing a nuisance if its roots or leaves block or damage pipes or cause other damage.  (Any activity that interferes with, or damages the right to enjoy or use one's property, is a nuisance).       
  • A neighbour may be considered to be negligent, and therefore liable if a tree or branches cause damage to an adjacent property, and no effort has been made to address the dangerous state of the tree. 

Proving nuisance or negligence may be difficult, expensive and time-consuming. It is preferable to discuss any problems relating to trees with your neighbour before considering Court action.

Always consider mediation prior to considering court.