The rules on what trees on private property may be trimmed or felled differ from council to council in the Wellington region.

Wellington City Council

The Wellington City Council views trees on private property as private property. Owners may trim or fell trees except listed trees covered below. In some circumstances, the council may require owners to trim trees back where public footpaths or roads are obstructed by overgrown shrubs and overhanging branches.

The only exception to this general rule is where a tree is listed as a “notable” or “heritage” tree. The Heritage List can be accessed on the council’s website. This list is specific and detailed. Owners will be able to immediately identify any listed tree by the address and species of the tree.

Hutt City Council

In the Hutt, the District Plan lists protected trees and notable trees. These lists are accessible through the council’s website.  Individuals also have the ability to protect trees on their property by registering a covenant on their certificate of title.  

If a tree in the Hutt falls into one of those two “protected” categories, any activity or site development which adversely affects the tree will require resource consent. Maintenance pruning of notable trees must be carried out by Council officers or experts. Property owners can contact the council to arrange this.

Trimming of trees is a permitted activity under the District Plan, however the removal of trees is subject to restrictions.

If the trees are indigenous removal is permitted if:

·         They were planted in a garden for amenity purposes;

·         They are within five metres of a home;

·         The trimming or removal is necessary to maintain utilities like tracks, access-ways, fences and network utilities;

·         Removal prevents loss of life or damage to property; or

·         It is necessary to remove dead or diseased vegetation.

If the trees are not naturally occurring in New Zealand, they may be removed if the area they are removed from requires stabilisation against erosion.

In all other circumstances, the removal of trees is discretionary. The removal will depend on whether there is an adverse impact on the visual amenity and the stability of the land, and whether there is an effect on biodiversity and the value of ecosystems.

Porirua City Council

The Porirua City Council recognises that trees are important for amenity, soil stabilisation, shelter, shade, landscape screening and biodiversity, as well as local character.

Maintenance of trees on private land is the owner’s responsibility. The council will only take action if they think an owner’s plants create a public nuisance or safety risk, like blocking roads or footpaths.

The Council notes that they will make a special efforts to protect notable or significant trees and vegetation on council land. The Proposed District Plan offers a schedule of notable trees and outlines the circumstances when these trees may be trimmed or pruned.

Removal is only allowed if the tree poses a serious imminent threat to the safety of people or property, or the tree is dead or in terminal decline. 

Kapiti Coast District Council

The Kapiti Coast District Council aims to protect urban forestry that acts as a carbon sink on private and public land in order to offset the effects of development. The Council also encourages the use of productive trees in the community.

The new Operative District Plan has changed the rules on the trimming and maintaining trees.

The trimming and modification of indigenous vegetation is generally permitted by the Council. However if the vegetation is classified as “significant indigenous vegetation,” trimming and modification may only occur if the tree meets the size criteria for diameter and height outline in the Operative District Plan. This varies between species of trees.

The Operative District Plan also lists the notable trees of the areas and indicates when trimming, modification and removal may occur. This is typically when the vegetation is damaged, dead, or dying, has sustained storm damage, or is fatally diseased.

The Resource Management Act

Since the 2009 change to the Act a district plan rule “may prohibit or restrict the felling, trimming, damaging, or removal of a tree or trees on a single urban environment allotment only if, in a schedule to the plan:

·         The tree or trees are described; and

·         The allotment is specifically identified by street address or legal description of the land, or both.”

Current rules either relate to listed trees, and to trees within defined areas.

How this law relates to Council plans for tree protection already in place is yet to be tested.

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