Significant and regulated trees

The legal requirements on this page apply to trees growing in metropolitan Adelaide and townships in the Adelaide Hills Council or parts of the Mount Barker Council.

Regulated trees

A regulated tree has:

  • a single trunk with a circumference of 2 metres or more - when measured 1 metre above natural ground level
  • multiple trunks with a total circumference of 2 metres or more and an average circumference of 625 millimetres or more – when measured at 1 metre above natural ground level.

Significant trees

A significant trees has:

  • a single trunk with a circumference of 3 metres or more measured at a point 1 metre above natural ground level
  • multiple trunks with a total circumference of 3 metres or more and an average circumference of 625 millimetres or more when measured 1 metre above natural ground level.

The legal requirement also applies to any tree identified as a significant tree in Part 10 of the Planning and Design Code.

The State Planning Commission has initiated the ‘Open Space and Trees Project’ to review the urban greening policies in the Planning and Design Code including a review of regulated and significant tree measures.

The rules that apply

The Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act 2016 provides that any activity that damages a regulated tree is development, and as such requires a development approval.

Specifically, development approval is needed for:

  • tree removal
  • killing or destruction
  • branch or limb lopping
  • ringbarking or topping
  • any substantial damage, including to its root system.

Contact your local council before carrying out any work affecting a regulated or a significant tree as exemptions could apply.

You do not need development approval for pruning if it is not likely to affect the health or appearance of a tree on your property. This is considered maintenance pruning.

Pruning a tree encroaching on your property

You can carry out maintenance pruning of branches or roots that are encroaching on your property without seeking approval. But only if it is not likely to affect the health or appearance the tree.

If it will affect the health and appearance, you will need development approval.

Examples requiring approval

The pruning removes more than 30 percent of the tree crown. This includes if removing:

  • dead or diseased wood
  • branches that pose a material risk to buildings or areas frequently used by people

The pruning affects the appearance of the tree and removes branches:

  • that are not dead or diseased
  • do not pose a material risk to buildings or areas frequently used by people

Before removing a tree, you will need to:

Contact your local council or seek independent advice if you are unsure about the requirements for removing a tree.

If approval is required you will need to lodge a development application.

Development applications do incur a fee.

The relevant planning authority will assess your development application against the relevant provisions of the Regulated and Significant Tree Overlay.

Following the assessment, the authority will either approve, approve with conditions or refuse the proposed development relating to the tree.

Approval is granted

A condition will be placed on your application that states either:

  • replacement trees are planted
    • 2 for regulated trees
    • 3 for significant trees
  • money must be paid into the urban tree fund.

Approval is not granted

You can appeal to the Environment, Resources and Development Court against a decision made.

This appeal must be lodged with the court within 2 months of the application decision.

In an emergency, work involving a regulated or significant tree can be carried out without development approval – this work is usually done by the State Emergency Services or the council to make the tree safe.

However, the owner of the tree must still lodge a development application as soon as possible.

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