Protected vegetation frequently asked questions
What is a Vegetation Protection Order (VPO)?
A Vegetation Protection Order (VPO) is one category of protected vegetation. VPOs were first introduced by Brisbane City Council in 1991 as a way of slowing vegetation loss on specific properties. The Natural Asset Local Law 2003 (NALL) was introduced in 2003 to include more categories of protected vegetation on more properties. A VPO may be made under the NALL, or another local law administered by Council.
While the NALL includes general criteria which may result in vegetation on properties being protected, a VPO may be made by Council at any time to require a land owner apply to Council before interfering with vegetation on their land.
A VPO is not:
- a long-term preservation order for vegetation. A tree or trees may still be removed following approval by Council
- a land use control. It does not prevent you from exercising your private property rights but will require that you apply to Council before interfering with vegetation
What is protected vegetation?
Protected vegetation is identified by Council under the NALL. The local law helps to protect our natural assets, including bushland areas, wetlands, waterway corridors and trees in urban areas. It does this by requiring land owners apply to Council before interfering with protected vegetation.
Does my property contain protected vegetation?
Your property may have protected vegetation if it:
- is located near or in the Brisbane River or a waterway corridor
- is located in a bushland area or rural area
- contains large trees even in an urban area
- has heritage values
You should check with Council before interfering with vegetation on your property to ensure you don’t require a permit to prune or remove trees.
Why have a protected vegetation local law if Council still approves the removal of the vegetation?
The local law requires a land owner apply to Council to interfere with protected vegetation. Without a local law, vegetation could be cleared indiscriminately across the city. The community places a high value on Brisbane’s vegetation as one of the values which makes Brisbane a subtropical, liveable city. While Council may ultimately approve vegetation to be removed or pruned, the local law provides the opportunity for Council to discuss the values of the vegetation on a property with the land owner, and to negotiate to protect this vegetation.
What does ‘interfering with protected vegetation’ mean?
Examples of interfering with protected vegetation include removing, lopping, poisoning, ringbarking, damaging roots or undertaking changes to the drainage of the land supporting the vegetation.
Do I have to apply for permission every time I want to carry out work to protected vegetation?
Generally yes, however there are a number of exemptions. A person may carry out work to protected vegetation without a permit, for the following reasons:
- pruning of trees, except a Significant Landscape Tree, as long as no more than 20 percent of the canopy of the tree is removed in any 12 month period and the tree is not left lopsided. All tree work must conform to Australian Standard 4373: 1996 Pruning of Amenity Trees. Most arborists work to this standard. You can purchase a copy from Standards Australia
- on a property of 4,000 square metres or less in area – removal or pruning of a tree, except a Significant Landscape Tree, if the whole of its trunk is within three metres of an approved building
- on a property greater than 4,000 square metres in area – removal or of a tree, except a Significant Landscape Tree, if the whole of its trunk is within six metres of an approved building
- mowing, slashing or grazing of yards, pastures and paddocks – as long as regular mowing or grazing was occurring before the introduction of the Local Law
- maintenance of a garden, except if the work could damage a Significant Landscape Tree or a tree with a trunk greater than 30 centimetres in diameter (measured one metre above the ground)
- removal of weeds, where the work is done without damage to adjacent protected vegetation, without disturbance to soil profiles and otherwise complies with guidelines for managing weeds issued by Council from time to time
- pruning to accommodate overhead or underground services in accordance with standards agreed between Council and the utility provider e.g. Energex
- the removal of vegetation due to an accident or emergency, or where it is presenting an immediate hazard to life or property, e.g. split tree trunks or leaning trees with broken roots and soil
How do I apply to carry out work on protected vegetation?
- downloading the Application to carry out works (including interfere with) protected vegetation (PDF - 150kb)
- phoning Council on 07 3403 8888
- visiting Council
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When is a tree considered dangerous and what can I do about it?
If a tree poses an immediate danger to life or property, e.g. it has a split trunk or is leaning over with broken roots; it can be removed without Council approval. You will need to take a photo of the dangerous tree before it is disposed of, and send the photo to Council. You can phone Council on 07 3403 8888 for advice.
Will the local law stop me from exercising my existing land use rights, or subdividing my land?
The local law is not a land use control, however along with the City Plan, it does require landowners to consult with Council to determine what vegetation should be retained during land development.
My property falls within the Valued Urban Vegetation category. What vegetation on my land is protected?
The Valued Urban Vegetation category concentrates on the protection of large, healthy trees in urban areas, and contributes to the character of the neighbourhood or suburb. If you are not sure which trees are protected on your land, phone Council on 07 3403 8888. A Local Laws Officer may need to visit your property to confirm what vegetation is protected. If you have any concerns you should phone Council on 07 3403 8888 prior to interfering with vegetation.
How do I manage my land to avoid or reduce the risk of bushfires?
Council is aware of the need for fire protection. If the exemptions provided for boundary fencing and house clearance zones are not enough, you will need to make an application to Council to clear vegetation for fire management purposes. Council will assess your application, along with information provided by the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service.
Do I apply for a permit to remove vegetation before or after I make an application for building a house?
It is best to apply before finalising your building plans, so Council can discuss all necessary matters with you before you apply for a building approval.
Do I apply for a permit to remove vegetation before or after submitting a development application?
If protected vegetation is proposed to be affected, you will need to apply for a permit in conjunction with any development application.
My property falls within a waterway corridor or wetland. How am I affected?
The vegetation growing within the waterway corridor or wetland area on your land is protected under the Local Law. Waterways and wetlands are identified in the Brisbane City Plan 2000. While a range of exemptions apply, the removal of weeds in waterway corridors and wetland areas requires Council investigation. Phone Council on 07 3403 8888 for further information on weed management.
How do I know what types of weeds I have on my property?
You can search a list for common types of weeds.
I have protected vegetation on my property with weeds growing through it. If I am served a notice to remove these weeds, can I clear vegetation from the whole property?
No, a notice requiring the removal of weeds does not allow you to clear other protected vegetation. Phone Council on 07 3403 8888 for advice on the best methods of weed control.
Can I clear any weeds without permission?
Yes, as long as the clearing works do not impact on adjacent protected vegetation, cause soil erosion or siltation of waterways.
Does the local law prevent me from mowing my grass?
Not unless you want to mow a protected vegetation area that was not been subject to regular mowing or slashing prior to the introduction of the local law. If so, you will require a permit.
Can I harvest my vegetable garden or prune my roses if the local law covers vegetation on my property?
Yes, you can carry out these tasks.
I want to introduce stock, such as horses or cattle, onto my property in an area that has protected vegetation. Am I allowed to do so without a permit?
Only if that part of your property has been subject to the keeping of stock and/or grazing prior to the introduction of the local law. If not, you will need to get a permit.
Can I use timber on my property for firewood and fencing?
To use timber on your property for firewood and fencing, you will need to make an application and get a permit. If your application is approved, you will not need to get a new permit every time.
What if I’m advised to clear bushland on my property by an authorised fire warden?
Landowners won’t be penalised under the local law when complying with the requirements of other state government legislation, such as fire breaks required by written notice from the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service.
How do I find out more information on maintaining protected trees?
Phone Council on 07 3403 8888 and ask to speak to a NALL officer.