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Correct Pruning is a Part of Our Collective Responsibility

Updated: May 15

There is a wildly romantic, yet wildly outdated, old quote relating to property law that states, ‘Whoever owns the soil, holds title all the way up to the heavens and down to the depths of hell.’ Whilst this was never actually true, it’s become even less so since technology has significantly altered the way that land can be interacted with, whether that’s via cranes, drones or open cut mining. The reality of property law is actually quite gray and there are many strange features, such as the concept that Crown Land Grants issued after 1891 typically limit land ownership down to around 15 metres below the surface. Further to this, any gold, gas, petroleum, coal, copper or anything else you might imagine could be found on your land is the property of the Crown. There goes those Beverly Hillbillies’ dreams of striking Texas Tea. Now, this is all very interesting but I can hear you asking, ‘What on earth does this have to do with tree pruning Sydney?’ 

Well, Dr Cait Storr, a lecturer in property and legal theory at Melbourne Law School, argues that property law is not really about our private rights over things. “It’s about managing collective access to scarce resources. It’s about our relationships with each other.” This is a great way to think about your responsibility when managing the trees on your property.

Trees are a large and complex living structure that can take decades to reach maturity. Poor tree work can not only be dangerous to you, others and property but it can also cause irreparable damage to something that is simply not easily replaceable. With this in mind, it’s crucial to understand that there are significant penalties for tree pruning Sydney without a permit. Severity depends on the seriousness of the offence but maximum penalties range into the hundreds of thousands of dollars for individuals and potentially even more for businesses. It’s understood that trees may require maintenance during their lifetimes but it is crucial that you engage a qualified arborist to undertake these works. 

What to look for when engaging an arborist?

When engaging in tree pruning Sydney, councils will only accept tree reports prepared by consultant arborists with a qualification equivalent to the Australian Qualification Framework Level 5. So, don’t be caught out by engaging an arborist without these qualifications. There are no fixed rates for tree reports, as obviously the amount will differ depending upon the type of report and the scope and number of trees to be assessed. Once the cost has been agreed upon the only areas you may find where additional costs can mount is if root mapping is recommended, which would require additional work. 

Specifics relating to pruning 

Tree pruning Sydney requires that a pruning specification be completed. This details the specific pruning work needed, such as; branch sizes, locations and the percentage of the crown to be removed. Specific photographs are included that clearly highlight the specific branches that are to be pruned and lists the pruning class against the law under Australian Standard 4373 (2007) Pruning of Amenity Trees. There are some trees in Sydney that are exempt, not requiring a permit or development consent to be pruned or removed. However, the requirements to satisfy these exemptions are also highly significant and require a great level of expertise in trees and related law. So, with the penalties so severe for pruning a tree without a permit there is really no reason why you would not engage a qualified arborist to undertake the work correctly. As Dr Storr said, property law is all about managing access to scarce resources for our collective benefit and the collective value of trees cannot be overstated. 

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