Trees on public property
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Why trees matter in Merri-bek
Trees are important for many reasons. Not only do they make our streets more attractive, they also provide shade, cooling, and homes for birds and wildlife. As our city gets hotter with the urban heat island effect, trees play a vital role in cooling down the city by providing shade to properties and streets.
We are responsible for trees in streets, on nature strips, and in more than 170 parks and reserves in Merri-bek.
Report an urgent issue with a tree that is dangerous
We carry out emergency works on trees in public areas. Following storms and bad weather, we receive many requests about branch and tree damage.
We respond first to issues that cause a risk to personal safety or threaten the health of a tree:
- When a branch has fallen over a road or is obstructing access to a property
- When a tree or branch has fallen onto an overhead electrical wire
- When a tree is in danger of falling
- When a large branch is in danger of falling or damaging a property.
We then respond to reports of large branches obstructing a footpath.
Once emergency works are complete and trees are safe, we remove debris and branches and respond to other tree-related requests. During periods of emergency works, we place our regular tree maintenance program on hold.
Call us on 9240 1111 to report an urgent tree issue.
Report urgent tree damage on private property to the Victoria State Emergency Service (SES) by calling 132 500.
To maintain the health of trees in streets, on nature strips, and in parks and reserves, we have a regular tree care and maintenance program.
Pruning of trees in these public places may only be carried out by an authorised Merri-bek arborist or contractor.
- The tree is dropping leaves, seeds or gum drops
- We will not sweep residential footpaths for seed and leaf drop
- Spiders or other insect issues that are not affecting the health or viability of the tree.
- Problems associated with birds, bats or possums living in a tree.
- The tree is on private property. This is the responsibility of the property owner
- The tree is blocking a view
- The tree is blocking light into a resident’s property or onto solar panels.
- Tree is obstructing a satellite or other telecommunications signal.
- Tree branch movement is activating a resident's movement direction light.
- Tree obstructs street lighting into a resident’s property.
- To provide for views of business or real estate signs.
- When a letter is received from a utility company (e.g. Jemena, Citypower) requesting pruning of private trees for powerline clearance.
- The tree is rubbing or leaning against a building
- The tree is significantly overhanging a building and a practicable pruning outcome can be achieved without removing structural limbs
- The overhang within the property or over the road is less than 3 metres high
- There is a Council tree branch which is hazardous or obstructing electrical wires, or
- The tree is near power lines on Council land
We are planting trees in as many streets and open spaces as possible in our municipality. This is to achieve our canopy cover targets set in our Urban Forest Strategy (2017-2027).
You can request for Council to plant a new tree by clicking here.
We will plant trees unless:
- There is not enough space in the existing nature strip outside your home for planting a tree/s.
- There are above or below-ground utility services that limit our ability to plant a tree/s.
- We become aware that there are unique circumstances that prevent us from planting a tree in the proposed location. Such as a resident living in a nearby home believes that the suggested tree planting will impact their quality of life.
Find out more information in our Urban Forest Strategy.
Council’s tree planting consultation process includes:
- contacting those who live very close to the proposed tree planting sites
- offering affected residents an opportunity to talk about concerns they may have about proposed tree planting.
You can always contact Council to discuss tree planting. Our qualified and experienced arboriculture officers will review your request. They will help decide if there are unique circumstances to consider. You may need to provide evidence of your circumstances. Such as a My Aged Care or National Disability Insurance Scheme approval letter. You may need a letter from a medical specialist if the proposed street tree will affect your medical condition. Such as asthma or hayfever.
For residents who were told by Council that their property is on the ‘No Tree Register’. Please note it was phased out on Tuesday 30 August 2022. The Register was in place before the Urban Forest Strategy was endorsed.
The ‘No Tree Register’ was phased out because the annual turnover of residents is approximately 18%. Each year Council needs to check with residents to make sure who still lives there today.
Raise a concern about a new tree
For more information please visit our Conversations Merri-bek
Urban Forest Strategy Update page.
Insects in trees
Most insects which live in trees are harmless. Some insects can cause damage to a tree, but this is often temporary and does not cause long-term harm.
Finding insects or termites in a tree does not necessarily mean that we will remove the tree.
Wood boring insects are often the most harmful to trees. Signs of a borer infestation include entry or exit holes in the bark and small mounds of sawdust at the base.
If insects are discovered in a public tree, our arborists will assess the tree and the extent of any damage, and may choose to carry out insect removal. The type of works carried out depends on the significance of the tree, its structural integrity, and how much damage has been done to the tree.
If an outbreak occurs that threatens the survival of a tree, we will investigate our options, such as insecticide stem injection, to keep the number of insects in check the following year.
You can help by mulching and watering the tree, physically removing the insects where possible, and fertilising the tree using seasol or carbohydrate (molasses or sugar 25g - 70g/lt).
Please note we are not responsible for insect infestations on private property. If you find an insect infestation on private property, you should consult a professional.
Report a tree health or maintenance issue
Our regular tree care and maintenance program visits every neighbourhood in Merri-bek every 2 years to prune and maintain our trees.
We also have a special program to clear trees around power lines, which is managed through our Electric Line Clearance Management Plan, and visits each area once a year.
Find out when trees near you will be maintained on our tree works program schedule.
Sometimes we need to change the regular tree maintenance program schedule as a result of storms, extreme weather or other urgent work.
We also carry out formal inspections of all trees within our parks and reserves to identify hazardous trees and branches. This helps ensure that our parks remain safe for users and reduces the need for reactive works.
You can report a tree maintenance issue online. Upload a photo of the tree to help us respond to your request. Alternatively you can contact us.
After you report the issue, an arborist will assess the tree or branch. We will notify you of the outcome if requested.
If the health of the tree is at risk (such as through disease, pests or damage) we will carry out necessary tree pruning and repair.
Other pruning is scheduled as part of our regular tree care and maintenance program, which visits every neighbourhood in Merri-bek every 2 years.
We do not prune trees on private property. For more information visit Trees on private property.
Requesting removal of a tree
Preserving existing trees is of great importance to us.
Unauthorised removal or suspected poisoning or vandalism of public trees is a serious issue that we vigilantly investigate. Offenders are fined under the Merri-bek Local Law. The fine includes:
- tree valuation,
- removal of the tree, if required,
- tree replacement, and
- maintenance for the initial establishment period.
- If the tree is diseased or dying and there are no remedies to save the tree
- If the tree presents a safety hazard
- If the tree has been planted by a resident and doesn't meet our guidelines
- If we approved the tree’s removal as part of a streetscape plan or works program
- If a different tree is needed in the streetscape after powerlines are changed
- If a tree is indicated in a property development plan - to our required format and standard - and is approved by us, provided the developer meets the cost of tree valuation, removal and replacement
- If the tree is causing damage to property or public utilities and the cost of ongoing remedial works becomes uneconomical, i.e. the cost of ongoing repairs outweighs the value of the tree and there is no reasonable alternative to solve the problem.
- Falling leaves, bark, gumnuts or flower debris
- To provide a better view
- If the tree is growing over a property, blocking light, or shading lawn or a pool
- If the tree is considered too big or too old
- If the tree blocks access for solar panels
- If the tree shades the nature strip or garden
- A perceived danger that a tree may fall in a storm or has dropped a limb
- You would like an alternative species of tree
- Droppings by birds, bats, possums or other wildlife living in the tree
- Insect issues, such as spiders, bees or ants in the tree
- Surface root growth restricts mowing heights.
In the case of allergies as a reason to remove a tree, medically-verified allergy testing results need to be provided to us before we will consider a request to remove a tree for this reason.
For blocked pipes and drains, see stormwater drains and sewerage for information about your responsibilities and the reporting process.
For property damage by tree roots, see claims reporting process.
Sometimes a property development proposal may include removal of a public tree. If this is the case, you must indicate this in the property development plan when applying for a planning permit.
If you don't tell us that you plan to remove a street tree, you will need to submit a revised planning permit application.
When designing a development plan, you should always consider alternatives that do not require removal of existing street trees.
If we approve the removal of a public tree as part of a property development plan, the developer must pay for the cost of tree valuation which includes amenity value and the cost of tree removal and replacement.
To determine the costs that apply to you please contact our Council team on 9204 1111 to arrange further assessment and inspection.
We are vigilant about protecting trees in areas where development occurs. We always enforce protection orders and ensure compliance with conditions of a planning permit.