Apply for a permit to work on protected vegetation

Under the Natural Assets Local Law 2003 (NALL), you must get a Brisbane City Council permit before you can clear or work on protected vegetation that is not covered by an exemption

Vegetation clearing for fire management that may be considered exempted activity under the Queensland State Government Planning Regulation 2017 may still require approval under NALL. Find out more below.

Permit applications can be made for pruning or removing protected vegetation, undertaking construction works adjacent to or underneath the canopy of protected vegetation, minor pruning of street trees, and installing street tree lights (bud lights or fairy lights).

All permit applications are free.

Please note that an application does not necessarily indicate that the proposed works will be supported by Council. Find out more about how your application is assessed

To find out if your property has protected vegetation you can request a map and report online or contact Council.

Application types

There are three  types of permits you can apply for if you wish to prune or remove vegetation not covered by an exemption.

Two of the permit types relate to working on protected vegetation located on private property. These permits are suited to either one-off tasks, or long-term management of protected vegetation.

Short-term work

Suitable for one-off tasks that may interfere with protected vegetation. This could include one-off pruning or removal of an individual tree on private property, undertaking construction works adjacent to or underneath the canopy of protected vegetation or undertaking larger scale vegetation clearing.

Long-term work

If you are planning routine management and maintenance of protected vegetation applying for a long-term permit may be more suitable. These permits relate to work involving ongoing maintenance or hazard management of vegetation. Because long-term permits may be valid for up to 10 years, a protected vegetation management plan will be required to support an application.

Council street trees

The third permit type relates to carrying out minor pruning on Council street trees. Find out more about applying for a permit to carry out minor street tree pruning

Council tree removal

As living organisms, all trees go through a natural cycle of germination, growth, maturity, decline and death.

Council will only remove a tree as a last resort. Council may remove a tree for the following reasons.

  1. It poses a public safety or significant risk to property.
  2. It is in poor health which Council cannot remedy.
  3. It is blocking sightlines for traffic/pedestrian safety.
  4. It needs to be removed for essential Council infrastructure works (i.e. road and footpath upgrades).

Council will not consider the removal of a tree for any of the following reasons:

  • leaf, flower or seed drop
  • shading of private swimming pools or solar panels
  • improvement of views
  • overhead telephone or power cables
  • private trees overhanging footpaths.

However, minor tree pruning may be considered for the above reasons in some cases.

How to apply

Private property permit applications need supporting documents and images to be provided.

Before applying for your permit, review the applying for a permit fact sheet (Word - 6.25Mb) for information on which permit is most appropriate for the work you are planning, how permits are assessed and information required. 

Complete the application to carry out works on protected vegetation online form. Alternatively, you can complete the hard copy form.

If you are issued with a permit, you will be asked to complete the declaration of compliance for approved works to protected vegetation online form.

Protecting vegetation penalties

Protecting our natural areas for the future is essential. Penalties will apply if an individual or corporation: 

  • interferes with protected vegetation without a Brisbane City Council permit
  • interferes with Council trees (including trees on footpaths), gardens or other vegetation (without a Brisbane City Council permit)
  • planting in a street unless in compliance with Verge Garden Guidelines
  • makes a hole or excavation for planting in a street unless in compliance with Verge Garden Guidelines
  • does not comply with a Council direction, compliance notice or  eradication notice.

Council may issue Prescribed Infringement Notices (PINs) for minor interference offences instead of prosecution. The use of PINs is often a more efficient form of enforcement for dealing with minor offences, while still retaining the option to pursue more serious infringements in court, through the legal complaint and summons procedures.

When seeking remittance for protected vegetation damaged without a permit, Council has a number of options including rehabilitation, restoration and/or compensation. Council also has the ability to recover costs incurred when it rehabilitates damaged protected vegetation.

Penalties are subject to change by the Queensland Government.

Additional points to consider when applying for a permit

Subdividing and developing land or building a house

If protected vegetation is proposed to be affected, you will need to apply for a permit in conjunction with any building or development application. Find more information on development and building applications.

Prior to submitting your application, you are encouraged to contact Council to discuss your proposed plans. Once your building or development approval has been finalised, an application to carry out works on protected vegetation may be submitted for assessment. 

Other construction works

Any construction works proposed adjacent to or underneath the canopy of protected vegetation may require a permit. Undertaking construction or development works around trees can have detrimental impacts on the health of the vegetation.

Construction works that may impact vegetation include (but are not limited to):

  • Construction of a new building or driveway
  • Excavation or fill for a retaining wall
  • Storage of fill or machinery
  • Trenching for plumbing or services

An Arboricultural Impact Assessment may be required when proposed works are expected to have a significant impact on vegetation. Find out more about arborist reports.

Significant landscape trees

Significant Landscape Trees are trees that are typically prominent in the landscape or have historical or cultural significance.

A permit is required for any works, other than minor dead wood removal, to a Significant Landscape Tree. This includes removal of the tree, any major or minor pruning works, and any construction works occurring adjacent to or within the root zone of the tree. Because these trees are highly significant, arborist advice may be required to support a permit application. Find out more about arborist reports.

Pruning a tree not on your property

If the tree or vegetation is on Council land, such as in a park, you should contact Council to request work.

If the tree or vegetation is a street tree, you can apply for a permit to carry out minor pruning work. Find out more.

If the tree or vegetation is protected and is on a privately owned property you can apply for a permit, but generally the property owner will be required to sign the application or provide their written consent. Contact Council for more information.

Disputes between neighbours over protected vegetation

There are times when disputes between neighbours over protected vegetation can be satisfactorily resolved through pruning or maintenance of the vegetation via the permit application process.

If a resolution cannot be reached unfortunately, these matters fall outside the jurisdiction of the NALL and should be referred to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT). Any concerns you have regarding the impacts associated with vegetation, regardless of its protection status, can be referred to QCAT as they are the only authority able to make decisions in relation to these and other neighbour disputes.

Managing risks to people or property

In relation to ongoing maintenance of protected vegetation, the NALL does not stop you from undertaking works to the vegetation. Protected vegetation can be pruned and managed for ongoing maintenance purposes or to manage a hazardous situation. You may however need to have a permit to undertake the works. The permit application process is free.

Bushfire management and protected vegetation

Queensland’s bushfire season traditionally runs from August to November each year. In many parts of the city, vegetation management is necessary for the protection of property and promotion of healthy vegetation communities. Regular prescribed burning in certain areas helps to maintain or increase vegetation diversity, protect sensitive plant communities and native animal habitat, and reduce the risk of wildfire due to a build-up in leaf litter and other vegetative material. Weed management and fuel reduction can also play a role as part of bushfire preparedness. Property owners who live in bushland areas are encouraged to prepare and protect their property from bushfire.

It is important to remember that vegetation management is only one aspect of bushfire preparedness, and if you live in an area at risk of bushfires, you should have a Bushfire Survival Plan. More information on bushfire preparedness is available on the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services website.

Council has prepared a bushfire factsheet (Word - 144kb) to help guide you through fire related vegetation management activities, and when you may require a permit.

You can find out more about preparing for bushfire hazards on Council's bushfires page. Information is also available about Council’s planned burning program.

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