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Review of the Tree Protection Act in the ACT

October 31, 2019

The Tree Protection Act 2005 sets out how the ACT protects individual trees on leased land in the ACT. The government has acknowledged that some members of the community have encountered issues with the current Act as it is inflexible and focused on the condition of the tree, without considering the broader context, such as whether the tree poses a safety risk to surrounding residents, obstructs a building or the impact on development potential due to its location within the block. It also allows trees to be removed with no requirement to replace them.

The government has said that the review of the Act will seek to better manage trees on private property and will support its Living Infrastructure Plan, released last month. It is also designed to work alongside the ACT’s Climate Change Strategy, including meting the goal to increase the urban tree canopy cover from 21 per cent to 30 per cent.

It wants to streamline application and assessment processes to improve the community's experience in applying to do works in relation to trees ranging from pruning to removal, and is seeking to introduce a tree offset program to replace trees removed due to development or issues they are causing at a residence.

Offsets are used to compensate for loss and would mean that when a tree (that meets a certain set of criteria) is removed, it needs to be replaced with another tree or trees, or other equivalent living infrastructure. Offsets work on a ‘no net loss principle’ and can be implemented in a variety of ways. The ACT is considering a system whereby when a tree is removed, a replacement tree or similar living infrastructure is planted on the same block, or instead an amount could be paid into an offset fund which would be used to plant trees on public land. A combination of approaches may be necessary to ensure offsets achieve a no net loss result in the short to medium term. It is important to take into account the time it will take for offset plantings to grow and predicted mortality rates of new trees. An effective compliance framework would also be required to ensure replacement plantings are achieved and retained.

Members can view the government’s discussion paper and can either send their views to HIA via g.weller@hia.com.au or directly to government at communityengagement@act.gov.au.