In early 2024, we asked our community for feedback on proposed updates to local law that protects significant and canopy trees on private property. Community consultation is now closed.

About 64% of Boroondara's tree canopy is on private land. Boroondara has more than 1,000 significant trees.

We’ve proposed updates to the Tree Protection Local Law 2016 to:

  • make the law clearer
  • keep it up-to-date
  • deter illegal removal and damage to protected trees.

These proposed changes would help us protect Boroondara’s distinctive trees and tree canopy on private property.

About protected trees

Boroondara protects trees classified as canopy or significant. They are protected by a local law due to their historical significance, shade, contribution to biodiversity, ability to reduce temperatures nearby and more.

Being ‘protected’ means developers, builders and community members cannot remove these important trees without a permit. If they do they can be fined.

We know our community value tree canopy cover and keeping Boroondara green with healthy trees, including on private land, to support a thriving biodiversity. Community members told us this during the consultation with nearly 5,000 people to develop the Boroondara Community Plan 2021-31 as well as during our Climate Action Plan consultations.

Trees are a major part of the Boroondara landscape and offer us many benefits.

They contribute to our neighbourhood character, amenity and the liveability of our suburbs.

Boroondara's trees help to cool air temperatures in hot weather, increase property values, provide privacy, define the leafy character of our suburbs and contribute to biodiversity.

Canopy trees

Canopy trees are defined by their larger size, with measurements set in our local law.

Canopy trees on private land provide privacy and shade, and they contribute to our neighbourhood character and liveability. They also benefit the environment as they:

  • reduce impact of heat generated by hard surfaces (e.g. roofs, driveways, roads)
  • reduce stormwater runoff and absorb pollution
  • reduce temperatures in and around buildings
  • help lessen the effects of climate change
  • provide habitat and promote biodiversity.
Significant trees

Significant trees are outstanding and worthy of protection because of their impressive:

  • size
  • age
  • rarity
  • ecological value
  • cultural significance and/or
  • historical significance.

The Tree Protection Local Law exists to protect canopy and significant trees from damage and destruction.

When we grant a permit

When we grant a permit to remove a protected tree, it's usually because the tree is in poor condition. We almost always require a replacement tree to be planted. We currently issue approximately 600 permits to remove trees each year.

Canopy trees are defined by their trunk measurements. We may grant a permit for removal if the tree is considered a weed, the tree is in poor health or the tree is causing unreasonable damage to a property.

You don't need a permit to prune a canopy tree, but the proposed changes mean you must not damage the tree, for example, through pruning. We recommend hiring a qualified arborist.

Permits for significant trees are usually granted for pruning or works carried out near the tree. We rarely grant a permit for removal but, when we do, it’s usually because the significant tree has been illegally damaged, which led to the tree’s poor health or the tree posing a risk to property.

We receive about 1,000 applications each year to remove or work near protected trees. Each application is assessed by a qualified arborist in accordance with assessment guidelines. We typically make a decision within 10 business days.

How to apply for a permit
  1. Before doing works, check if the tree is protected.
  2. Apply for a permit if required.
    If your permit application is rejected and you want to appeal this decision, use the online form to provide new information and evidence.
  3. Meet the permit conditions, which may include replanting a tree.

Read about the process on our Tree works permits page.

Breaches and penalties

Our Urban Planning Forestry team investigates and enforces about 300 potential breaches of the local law each year. The team do site inspections, direct replacement tree planting, issue fines and refer matters to the Magistrates Court.

Under the local law, we issue the maximum fine for all offences – 20 penalty units for each offence. The exception is if the offence is for a dead tree – this is 5 penalty units. See the Proposed changes section for more details.

  • Significant trees have cultural, heritage and ecological value.
  • More than 50% of Boroondara's land cover is hard surfaces, such as buildings and roads.
  • Hard surfaces and lack of vegetation create 'urban heat', increasing temperatures.
  • Large trees that contribute to heat reduction, shade and biodiversity are called canopy trees.
  • 64% of Boroondara's tree canopy is on private property.
  • Boroondara has over 1,000 significant trees.

Proposed changes to improve the local law

Read the draft local law in the Document library on this page.

  • Increase fine for illegal tree removal and damage

    Clause 16(2)(b):

    • Current: $100 penalty unit*, so the maximum fine is $2,000.
    • Change: $192 penalty unit, as set in the Local Government Act 2020, so the maximum fine increases to $3,840. Allow this to increase with the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

    * See note below.

  • Make it clear what 'damage' to a tree means

    Clause 7:

    • Current: Unclear definition, 'interfering' with the tree so it's not 'viable'.
    • Change: 'Damage' means to 'impair the tree's health, structure or stability'.
  • Make it clear that 'works' includes demolition

    Clause 7:

    • Current: Limited definition with examples included.
    • Change: Specify that 'demolition' counts as 'works'.
  • Strengthen protection for replacement trees

    Clause 8(3)(e):

    • Current: When you’re required to replant a tree (due to illegal works or your permit conditions), that tree has no protection. You could replant the tree and remove it later.
    • Change: Make it clear that a replanted tree cannot be damaged or removed without a permit.
  • Align canopy tree measurement with national guide

    Clause 7:

    • Current: Measure the trunk at 1.5m above ground level.
    • Change: Measure the trunk at 1.4m above ground level, as set in the Australian Standards 4970-2009 definition of measuring a tree. No change to other measurements.
      Condition: Canopy trees that are currently protected will remain protected (remeasuring is not required).
  • Clarify permit for works near a neighbour’s tree

    Clause 11(2):

    • Current: Unclear definition, references earlier clause.
    • Change: No change to intent, just a clearer definition.
      If your neighbour has a protected tree but you need to prune it on your side or do works near it (within the 2m Tree Protection Zone), apply for a permit. Your application must include the property owner's permission for you to do the works.