Working near trees- tips on what to look out for

Most of you will have had the experience of driving down a beautifully tree lined road, enjoying the privacy that trees can bring, or going for a relaxing walk through a tree- filled park. Developing land that’s got trees near or on it can however bring about a whole new set of considerations; what needs consent and what doesn’t?


Changes to the Resource Management Act removed the Council’s ability to protect a lot of urban trees. These changes haven’t however removed all tree protection, and you should check how these affect your site and development before you start. You may need resource consent for something you didn’t expect, and its always best practice to amend your proposal or obtain resource consent before you start and avoid the Council taking enforcement action.


So, what ways could tree removal or works to trees be controlled by district plans?


Notable or Scheduled Trees

Notable or Scheduled trees are those that the Council has specifically identified as important for reasons such as historical value, visual prominence or ecological value. To schedule these trees, the Council has gone through a specific assessment and evaluation process; they are important and removing these trees or doing work to them requires detailed assessment. These types of resource consent applications can be more complicated, and we suggest you get advice from a planner and arborist upfront. Early consultation with the Council is also advisable, such as via a formal pre- application meeting.


Notable or Scheduled trees are shown on the planning maps and will usually have an individual number or other identifier. You can use this to find out more information about the tree/s, their values and why they’re protected.


Trees in Open Spaces

Trees in Open Space zones also have a higher level of protection, recognising the cultural, amenity, landscape and ecological values they contribute. Generally, a private individual wouldn’t be removing trees from an open space zone as part of a private development. However, they might be impacting on the root zone which could spread into an adjoining site. In the Auckland Unitary Plan, the term “Protected Root Zone” is referred to in relation to this. This is defined as:


The circular area of ground around the trunk of a protected tree, the radius of which is the greatest distance between the trunk and the outer edge of the canopy. For columnar crown species the protected root zone is half the height of the tree.


Within the Protected Root Zone, the size of roots that can be affected, the type of excavations, the way they’re undertaken, and the total areas affected are all controlled with the aim of minimising adverse effects on the trees.


Remember also, that in addition to resource consent requirements there are ownership issues to deal with (in this case, the tree owners being your local Council). You may need landowner approval as well as resource consent (i.e. two separate approvals).





Trees in the Road Reserve

In Auckland, some trees in the road reserves are protected by the Auckland Unitary Plan. The most common protection is for trees of 4m or more in height or 400mm or more in girth, where resource consent is required for removal. There are also limitations on works to trees that are under these sizes; please check before you start work.


Works in the Protected Root Zone are also controlled in the Auckland Unitary Plan. Again, this can extend into a private site, and also impacts on earthworks associated with new crossings, driveways and retaining walls. You may need a resource consent for what on the face of it, seems like quite minor works. This would also require the approval of the landowner, in this case Auckland Transport. We often see infringements of these rules in preliminary development plans.


Obtaining landowner approval and resource consent can take time and there are costs associated with the resource consent process. If you can, we suggest amending your design to meet the permitted activity rules and Standards. Otherwise, you should start conversations with the tree owner early in the development process, to avoid delays and the need for later redesigns.


Significant Ecological Area (SEA)

In Auckland, the Auckland Unitary Plan specifically identifies areas of important vegetation; these are called Significant Ecological Areas or SEA’s. We discussed these in a blog a few weeks ago; you can access it here. SEA’s have specific and high values- works here need to be considered in detail. You should try to minimise the works in SEA’s, and if you can’t realistically avoid them the works should be very sensitively designed (including specific construction methodologies) to minimise potential effects. In addition to planning advice, you may also need input from an ecologist, but your planner can guide you on this.


Owner Approval

As we’ve discussed above, keep in mind that you might not own the tree; you may need landowner approval to do works. Early consultation is the key here; go and see the owner, talk to them about what you want to do and why. You’d be surprised how accommodating a landowner can be when you speak to them up front.


Further Advice?

If you’ve got a development in mind that will require the removal of trees, or works near trees, get in contact. We will always provide realistic advice so you can make informed choices and reduce risks. You can contact us on hello@planningplus.co.nz or 09 427 9966. You can also find a wealth of information in our other blogs and free e-guides.

Disclaimer

As with all our blogs, the information detailed here is general in nature and meant as a preliminary guide only. This should not be substituted for your own investigations or use of your own professional’s. Planning Plus is not liable for any errors or omissions.

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