Transport Canberra and City Services

Frequently Asked Questions about Urban Trees

Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS) is responsible for the management of street and parkland trees in Canberra. TCCS continuously assesses trees throughout the city and undertakes appropriate maintenance work.

Wondering who to contact for tree requests and enquiries?

Use the online feedback form or contact Access Canberra on 13 22 81 to request or report the following:

  • request street or parkland tree assessments and removals;
  • request the removal of a fallen tree or large branch on a nature strip or in a park;
  • request nature strip or parkland tree pruning;
  • report line of sight issues caused by trees;
  • request tree planting;
  • enquire about the claims procedure for property damage caused by an ACT Government tree;
  • report footpath damage caused by tree roots; and
  • nominate a tree to the ACT Tree Register.

Frequently asked questions

Condition assessment of existing trees

Who is responsible for the maintenance of trees on nature strips and urban parks?

City Services is responsible for the maintenance of all trees that are planted on nature strips and urban parks whether they are formal government plantings or private plantings.

How long will my request for tree maintenance take?

Tree maintenance issues are usually assessed within two weeks and work is then programmed according to the priority. Urgent work will be carried out as soon as possible while minor maintenance work will be placed on longer term work programs. If someone comes to assess the tree when you are not home, they will leave a calling card if no work is undertaken.

Tree maintenance

Can I prune my street tree?

No. Tree related issues can be directed to Access Canberra on 13 22 81, leading to an inspection of the tree to decide whether pruning is needed.

Who removes leaf litter and small branches outside my house?

The property owner is encouraged to remove leaf litter and sticks from their nature strip as a contribution to maintaining the neat appearance of their neighbourhood.

Am I allowed to water the street or parkland tree(s) outside my home?

Yes. Residents are encouraged to water street and parkland trees using non-potable water such as bath water. A bucket of water once a week during summer should guarantee the survival of young trees.

If I am in a newly developed suburb, who is responsible for the care of my street tree?

In new suburbs (or Greenfield developments) there is a period of time where developers are responsible for tree care after which City Services takes on responsibility. ACTPLA or LDA should be able to inform you of who is responsible for the tree prior to its handover to City Services.

I'd like to install solar panels and there's a tree shading my house.

While the ACT Government is actively promoting the use of passive solar energy in new developments and new development areas, issues relating to solar access in established areas will continue to be subject to assessment of individual circumstances. There is no intention to remove sound healthy trees solely to improve access to solar energy in established suburbs. However, where trees require pruning, this can, at times, improve solar capture capacity. Contact Access Canberra on 13 22 81 if you want to have trees near your home assessed.

What is a habitat tree?

Habitat trees are trees that are retained in urban parks, on non suburban road verges and the medians of main roads, and fringe areas adjoining hilltop reserves, urban parks and the urban edge. Habitat trees are created by retaining mature trees that have died or need to be pruned heavily, and cutting over the main branches to leave a 'totem' with exposed hollows to provide habitat for birds and animals. There are generally six main Eucalyptus species that are used for habitat trees because they are relatively rot resistant and resilient to the effects of the weather and aging. These trees are Eucalyptus melliodora (Yellow box), Eucalyptus polyanthemos (Red box), Eucalyptus bridgesiana (Apple box), Eucalyptus rossii (Scribbly gum), Eucalyptus mannifera (Red spotted gum) and Eucalyptus macrorhyncha (Stringy bark). More than 100 habitat trees have been retained within the urban area during the past 20 years.

Tree removal

Can I remove a public tree?

No. Residents must not remove public trees unless they have written approval to do so. At times City Services will provide formal approval to residents to remove trees that are not part of the formal street or parkland plantings or undesirable tree species such as pines, poplars and willows. The process to seek approval can be commenced by calling Access Canberra on 13 22 81 or by filling in a tree removal application, although there is no guarantee that approval will be granted.

What do I do if I have a dead wattle or shrub on my nature strip?

Residents are responsible for the maintenance of shrubs on the nature strip outside their home.

How long will it take to have my stump removed?

It will take between four to eight weeks.

Tree planting

Will I get a replacement tree if the tree on my nature strip dies?

The site will be assessed at the time of inspection and a new tree will be replanted following removal, subject to seasonal and site factors such as available space and surrounding infrastructure.

There are a number of trees outside my house and my neighbour has only one, why is that?

The number of trees on each nature strip will differ depending on a number of factors including the length of the nature strip, the spacing of the trees, whether previous residents have planted trees on the nature strip and whether trees have been removed and not replaced.

Can I change the species of tree on my nature strip?

No. The only time when the species of a street tree within a street will change is when City Services carry out a formal street tree replacement program where there has been a specific reason for a change in species.

Nature strips

Who is responsible for the maintenance of nature strips?

The householder is responsible for maintaining the nature strip except for trees.

How can I tell if the tree in front of my house is on the nature strip?

A rough guideline is if the tree is between the water meter and the kerb of the street. More exact measurements can be obtained by calling Access Canberra on 13 22 81 or using ACTMAPi.

Can I dig under the nature strip tree in front of my home?

Not without approval. Excavation under a tree's canopy may result in root damage and a subsequent decline in tree health. Strip trenching for the installation of irrigation systems or cabling can have serious effects on tree health and stability. You will need to complete a Nature strip development application

Mulch piles and wood dumps

What are mulch piles?

TCCS uses mulch produced as a by-product of its urban tree maintenance activities and bushfire hazard reduction programs to top up mulched areas and shrub beds across the city. Loads of mulch are strategically dropped at these sites and then later spread by TCCS staff or contractors.

The mulch serves a number of purposes including:

  • reducing weed growth and the need to use herbicides for weed control;
  • aiding in soil moisture retention;
  • providing nutrients to the soils and surrounding plants as the mulch breaks down; and,
  • reducing the size of mowing areas when mulch is used under established trees.

This "stored" or "stockpiled" mulch is not available to the community and TCCS' Licensing and Compliance section will take action if the community is seen removing this material illegally.

What are wood dumps?

TCCS' urban tree maintenance operations produce several thousand tonnes of log by-product each year. This wood is then stockpiled at storage sites in either Curtin or Mitchell. The stockpiled wood is processed into mulch for use in the urban landscape approximately every two years.

This 'stored or 'stockpiled' wood is not available to the community and TCCS' Licensing and Compliance section will take action if the community is seen removing this material illegally.

Trees on private land

Who do I contact about trees that are not on the nature strip?

Work on existing trees on leased land over a certain size may require approval. Your application will need to include a tree survey and report by a qualified arborist that identifies the trees and the impact on them. Regulated trees:

  • are 12 metres or higher or have a canopy 12 metres or wider and/or
  • have a trunk circumference of 1.5 metres or more, one metre above natural ground level and/or
  • have two or more trunks and the total circumference of all the trunks, one metre above natural ground level, is 1.5 metres or more.

Complete a Tree Damaging Activity Form (PDF 139KB) if you wish to undertake maintenance on trees that fit the above criteria.

My tree is on leased land but the branches are overhanging onto the footpath, who is responsible for trimming the branches?

The property owner must prune branches from trees and shrubs that overhang from leased land onto the nature strip causing an obstruction.

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We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the ACT, the Ngunnawal people. We acknowledge and respect their continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of this city and this region.

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