Naturally Trees

Trees (Disputes Between Neighbours) Act 2006

The New Tree Legislation

Prior to the introduction of the Trees (Disputes Between Neighbours) Act 2006 (“Act”), all tree disputes that could not be resolved by the relevant parties and/or a local government authority could only be resolved in the Local, District or Supreme Court. 

As an example, if an applicant wished to prune, cut or remove a tree the usual procedure would be to make an application to the local council.  If council approved an application there was usually a condition requiring the applicant to obtain the neighbour’s approval before carrying out the relevant tree work.  If the neighbour refused consent there was little that the applicant could do to lawfully enforce the consent.  If a Council refuses the application or the neighbours are unco-operative, an applicant may approach the Land and Environment Court (“Court”) pursuant to the Act to commence proceedings. 

It is becoming more and more common for applicants to have these matters resolved in the Court, because a council’s decision relating to work to be carried out on a tree can often be vague, time delaying and not fully determinative, whereas, an application in the Court will bring the dispute to a final resolution, one way or another.

The Act was established for resolving tree disputes where trees causing damage to property or risk of injury permits the Court to make orders in relation to trees which have caused, are causing or are likely to cause damage to the applicant’s property or which are likely to cause injury to a person.  

NOTE:  It is the intention of the Act to ensure that wherever possible, people attempt to resolve disputes without resorting to court action - for example through discussions with their  neighbours or mediation. 

NOTE:  The Act applies to trees on all land except Crown lands. Therefore, if a tree located on Council land is perceived to be a problem, the Court does not have jurisdiction to deal with that particular tree.

 

This year, and in addition to the Act, the Amendment Bill 2010 (“Bill”) was established which revises the Act by giving the Court new jurisdiction to hear the following issues:

High Hedges

Disputes about high hedges that severely block sunlight to a window of a dwelling on adjoining land, or views from such a dwelling.  The objective is to create a mechanism by which neighbour disputes about high hedges can be heard and disposed of in a proportionate way, which balances the competing rights of neighbours to enjoy their property and ensures that the existence and health of urban trees can be maintained.  

This amendment does not apply to a single tree. It applies to groups of 2 or more trees that are planted to form a hedge and rise to a height of at least 2.5 m. 

The Court will be able to make orders it sees fit to remedy, restrain or prevent the blocking of sunlight or views caused by a hedge.

Zoning Residential/Rural Residential

Previously the Act only applied to urban land or land zoned as residential. The Bill extends the operation of the Act to trees on land which is zoned as Rural Residential. 

Dividing Fences

The Court can deal with a tree that has caused, is causing or is likely to cause damage to a dividing fence or a tree that forms part of a dividing fence and has caused, is causing or is likely to cause damage to the applicant's property or is likely to cause injury to a person. 

 

In summary, the Act now provides an effective and relatively cheap resolution to tree issues.  In addition, the Court utilizes its specialist knowledge to resolve tree disputes between neighbours.  

An Arborist report is usually requested to validate a party’s case.  Other documented evidence such as photographs, additional statements and evidence of an injury in the form of an allergy or similar medical condition must be filed in the court.

Call us today and ask about how we can assist with your tree disputes………