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Tree Disputes (Qld)

Neighbourhood disputes sometimes arise about one or more trees on adjoining properties. These disputes are regulated by the Neighbourhood Disputes (Dividing Fences and Trees) Act 2011. If a tree dispute cannot be resolved directly between the parties, it may be necessary to make an application to QCAT to determine how the situation is to be resolved. This article deals with tree disputes in Queensland.

Talk to your neighbour about the tree dispute

It is always best to resolve neighbourhood disputes directly with your neighbour. Disputes about trees can be avoided by being familiar with your responsibilities as a tree-keeper and carefully selecting trees that are suitable for your environment.

If you become involved in a tree dispute, the first step to take is to talk to your neighbour. If you are unable to resolve the situation directly, consider inviting them to take part in mediation at one of the Queensland government’s dispute resolution centres.

Overhanging branches

A tree-keeper is responsible for removing any branches of trees that overhang their neighbour’s land and for ensuring that the trees do not cause serious injury, serious damage to property or significant interference with a person’s use or enjoyment of their land.

If a tree is overhanging a person’s property, the person may give a written notice to their neighbour asking them to cut and remove the overhanging branches. The notice must give the neighbour a timeframe (no less than 30 days) for removing the overhanging branches and ask them to provide notice or when the work will be done and by whom. It should also give the neighbour permission to enter property to cut and remove the tree branches.

If the branches are not cut and removed within the timeframe given, the person may cut and remove the branches themselves, but may not enter the neighbour’s property to do so.  

QCAT and tree disputes

If a tree dispute cannot be resolved directly or through mediation, a person may apply to QCAT for resolution of the dispute. QCAT may make the order it thinks appropriate in relation to tree in order to:

  • Prevent serious injury;
  • Prevent serious damage to neighbouring land or property on it;
  • Prevent substantial, ongoing and unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment of the neighbouring property.

To achieve this, QCAT may order that work must be done on a tree on a one-off basis or on a regular basis, or that trees be maintained at a particular height or shape. It may also make other orders, including orders as to who is to pay the costs of carrying out the work, or an order for compensation to be paid for damage to land or property.

Protected trees

Some trees cannot be removed without a permit. These are trees that are of a specific species and dimension or that significantly contribute to the landscape character of an area. Trees that are protected in Brisbane include Jacaranda and Poinciana trees that are taller than 80 cm and fig trees that are taller than 100 cm. These trees are protected under the Natural Assets Local Law 2003.

If a person in planning work that may impact a protected tree, they should apply to their local council for a permit.

Verge planting

Different local councils have different rules about residents planting on the nature strips outside their homes. The Brisbane City Council permits the planting of shrubs and groundcover on verges. However, trees may not be planted on verges.

Verge gardens are on public land, but residents are required to maintain them. If a verge garden is not adequately maintained, the council may remove it.  

If you require legal advice or representation in any legal matter, please contact Go To Court Lawyers.

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Fernanda Dahlstrom

Fernanda Dahlstrom has a Bachelor of Laws from Latrobe University, a Graduate Diploma in Legal Practice from the College of Law, a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Melbourne and a Master of Arts (Writing and Literature) from Deakin University. Fernanda practised law for eight years, working in criminal defence, child protection and domestic violence law in the Northern Territory. She also practised in family law after moving to Brisbane in 2016.
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