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The kookaburra sits in the old gum tree… But who is responsible for cutting the tree?

Hopefully, the tree isn’t on your fence line or overhanging on your neighbour’s property.

These days, the kookaburra is no longer the king of the bush, as the State Government has helped home owners out with legislation, a little document called the Neighbourhood Disputes (Dividing Fences and Trees) Act 2011.

This Queensland legislation outlines your obligations as a ‘tree keeper’ (i.e. if the old gum tree is on your property) and gives certain rights of neighbours to trim trees or even force them to be cut down, even without consulting Mr Kookaburra.

The legislation regulates trees largely in urban areas, which is pretty much most homes in our lovely town of Cairns, with a few exceptions.

I am the owner of the tree

If you own the tree, then you are under a positive duty to ensure the tree doesn’t injure anyone, damage your neighbours land or property or unreasonably interfere with your neighbours use or enjoyment of their land.

Typical concerns by neighbours are that shade is covering solar panels, interference with TV reception,  a significant effect from leaves or branches accumulating or they think the tree is going to fall down (despite it surviving Cyclones Larry and Yasi!).

I am affected by a tree

Start with good communication.  A big thing to remember, is that your neighbour might not know how you feel.  You need to approach them in a way which helps them see your perspective.

If you go at your neighbour like a bull at a gate, a simple tree issue might cause long term damage to the relationship and you may not want to share a beverage or rum ball at your Street Christmas party.

If you are unable to come to an agreement, then simply inform them that you are going to ask for an order, and ensure there is nothing personal, it is just about ensuring your health, safety and enjoyment of your property is enhanced.

If the branches are simply overhanging your fence line, and are 2.5m or lower, then you can cut those branches down which encroach on your property.  You will need to give them a Form 3 Notice for removal of particular branches.  You can do it yourself or via a contractor.

If the branches are above 2.5m, then you need to apply to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal.  This is a fairly simple process, but it takes time.

If the tree is used by protected wildlife, such as our fabled king of the bush, then you probably need tree clearing approvals from Department of Environment and Heritage Protection as well as Council approval.  It’s always best to check as QCAT will not approve the clearing without prior approvals being sorted.