Transport Canberra and City Services

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Total Fire Ban Thursday 21 November 2019.

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Management of Trees on Public Land

Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS) is responsible for managing and maintaining trees on public land. This includes trees on suburban streets, in parks, at local shopping centres, on major road nature strips and medians and parks and in open spaces in Canberra. The key objectives of urban tree management are to enhance the landscape setting for the city, to maintain a safe and sustainable urban forest and to conserve the natural environment.

TCCS achieves these objectives through the regular:


Trees in the urban areas of Canberra are inspected periodically from ground level, to monitor tree health and identify potential hazards. Trees in high use areas such as town or district parks and shopping centres are regularly inspected for hazards that could pose a risk to public safety. Inspecting trees regularly ensures that structural defects and/or other risk factors are identified and dealt with in a timely and targeted manner. When a member of the public expresses concern for the safety or health of a particular tree on public land, a site visit is arranged and the subject tree or trees are assessed against a series of criteria by suitably skilled personnel.


Routine pruning is carried out to enhance public safety and urban amenity and to improve or maintain tree health. Priority is given to trees in areas of high public use, such as streets, car parks, shopping centres and picnic areas.

Qualified staff carry out the following pruning activities:

  • formative pruning of young trees in the first five years following planting, including the removal of multiple leaders;
  • pruning to avoid interference with power lines, street signs, street lights and other services;
  • removal of lower branches up to a height of three to five metres to give clear pedestrian and traffic access as well as clear sight lines, particularly for vehicles entering and leaving driveways or approaching intersections;
  • removal of lower branches to a maximum height of five metres on main roads and major streets;
  • thinning of tree crowns to minimise hazards caused by wind and rain;
  • general pruning and shaping to give a balanced weight distribution in the tree framework; and
  • removal of dead, diseased, cracked, hollow or otherwise unsound wood.


TCCS adopts a conservative policy towards the removal of live trees on public land.

Trees are removed when:

  • they are dead, damaged or in irreversible decline;
  • they constitute a traffic hazard/other identifiable hazard to public safety which cannot be corrected by pruning; or
  • they are interfering with above or below-ground services such as power lines or water pipes and the problem is likely to require repeated remedial action.

Trees are considered for removal when:

  • the tree is an unsuitable species for where it is planted, for example poplars and willows near storm water lines;
  • they are deemed unsuitable for a location in conflict with the design intent of the landscape;
  • they are part of a dense planting which requires thinning to promote the health of the remaining trees; or
  • they were designated as temporary in the original landscape design and have reached the end of their intended life span.

Trees are not removed due to:

  • householder preference for no street tree or for a different species;
  • appearance (unless this is related to very poor tree health);
  • concerns about leaf litter or twigs; or
  • tree roots protruding above the ground or competing with lawns.

If it is necessary to remove individual living trees from nature strips, regardless of whether the tree was planted by the ACT Government or the householder, the householder will be notified as to the reasons why the tree is to be removed. Where a group of trees are to be removed the level of consultation will be more extensive. Where the removal of a street tree is associated with the redevelopment of a block it will be replaced with a new tree of an appropriate species in a similar location.


Tree replacement is an important part of the maintenance of Canberra's public landscape. The timely replacement of dead or missing trees in newly developed landscapes, regular replacement of established trees, and replanting programs that follow the removal of ageing trees ensures the look and feel of the urban landscape is retained for future generations. TCCS encourages the community to become involved with the establishment and care of new trees in their neighbourhood. Where trees are identified and/or scheduled for replacement, every effort is made to consult with the community about the reasons for replacement.

Young trees

Trees are planted at the rate of at least one street tree per residential frontage in new suburbs. This ensures that formal streetscapes are established as the city grows. Depending on the availability of funding, missing trees are replaced with the same or similar species as originally planted. Residents are encouraged to monitor and care for young trees on their nature strip to maximise survival rates.

Routine tree replacement

Trees in parks or streets that have been removed or are missing are routinely replanted in a later planting season. This ensures that the original landscape design intent is retained as plants mature.

Ageing trees

Ageing trees in parks and streets are subject to strategic tree replacement programs. Parks and streets where aging trees need to be removed and replaced are identified and, subject to funding, these sites are included on the annual tree replacement program. This ensures the original landscape design is retained for future generations. Local residents are informed of the reasons for the replacement of street trees and consulted to ensure their wishes are taken into consideration.


Trees are watered to ensure their establishment and survival. Trees under three years of age in non-irrigated areas are watered monthly from November to April or as specified by TCCS. During unusually dry weather, trees may receive additional water. Residents are urged to water young trees in their neighbourhood to help them become established. This assists in the continuation of Canberra's urban forest.

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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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