How close can you build to a tree QLD?

by | Feb 21, 2023 | Advice & inspiration, Building basics & regulations, Building tips

Depending on where you buy, vacant lots may have trees that you’ll have to contend with when building your new home. When it comes to where trees are located on your property, it’s more than just an aesthetic issue, it could play a role in how your home is designed and the steps you take during site preparation. In this article, we’re taking a deep dive into how close you can build to a tree while also branching out into the intricacies of the rules around tree removal.

Can you build near and around trees?

Yes, but there will be council guidelines and rules you may need to follow. Whether or not you think cutting down a tree is a big deal, it could land you in some hot water if you break any council rules. Some trees will fall under protected vegetation, which means you either can’t trim or remove them or there will be a lot of loopholes to jump through.

Local councils vary when it comes to their rules, so your best bet is to look for your council’s Vegetation Protection Order (VPO) or Tree Protection Order (TPO), which will outline what vegetation and trees can be removed and how close you can build to them. If in doubt, chat directly with someone from your council.

Your neighbour’s tree

Those new to buying land or development may not think that the trees on their neighbour’s land had anything to do with them. However, along with being one of the most common causes of neighbourhood disputes, a neighbour’s tree can affect where you’re able to build, depending on the TPO. This works both ways, meaning your tree could have a similar impact on someone else’s property.

How close can you build a home around a tree?

Below is a general rule of thumb for how close trees should be to buildings. Again, each council will have their own distinct rules and regulations, so always check.

Tree at height of maturityDistance from Building
Below 8 metresMinimum three metres
8-15 metresAt least 4-6 metres
Over 15 metresAt least 10-15 metres

When building near a tree, you need to keep a few details in mind including:

  • Location of tree root system and effect this has on your property foundation.
  • The overhanging branches and whether they’ll interfere with any powerlines.
  • Whether the tree has fully grown or whether it’ll get bigger in the future.

What are the rules & regulations for building near trees in QLD?

The basic concept you need to understand when it comes to building near trees is that there are some trees you can remove and some you can’t. You must figure out whether you’re allowed to remove the trees and also whether any of the trees are significant trees (see below). Knowing the above plays an important role in creating a blueprint of your options and what your design can be. Places you should look include:

  • Your local council website. Look at any Vegetation protection order or Tree Protection Order.
  • The Significant Tree Register

Any new house, whether it is near a tree or not, needs council approval to go ahead. Your builder, architect or designer will help you create a design that will be safe and functional without disturbing the trees

What’s a significant tree?

Significant trees are any tree listed on a register through your local council and have been deemed a top priority to be retained and protected. This can apply to trees on public and private land, so don’t assume just because you own the land that you can do whatever you want. There are a variety of reasons the council will protect trees including:

  • Horticultural or genetic value
  • Unique location or provides a unique contribution to the landscape
  • Provides invaluable habitat for wildlife (for example, provides a major food source or breeding area for a species of animal.)
  • Is a council tree
  • Rare species or localised species (a tree unique to this area or very few areas)
  • A particularly old tree or one with historical significance. Trees that pre-date European development of the area will likely fall into this category.
  • Connection to Aboriginal culture.
  • An outstanding example of a species

Even a dead tree could be considered a significant tree if it meets any of the above criteria so be sure to get approval before removing a tree.

This is one of those things that will be very specific to each area, so you’ll need to talk to your local council to find out whether a tree is significant or not. There can be some hefty fines and prosecutions for anyone who removes a significant tree, with some districts issuing fines as high as $110,000.

Tree Keeper

If the tree sits on your property, you’re legally considered a ‘tree keeper’. This means the council considers you responsible for tree maintenance and it is your responsibility. When a tree sits on the borderline of two properties, both landowners will be considered tree keepers and both will be responsible.

Issues caused by trees being too close

  • Falling branches and leaves.
  • Fire hazard.
  • Attracts pests and wildlife.
  • Roots can damage the foundation of your home.
  • Too much shade could diminish natural light in your home.

Tree assessment steps & process

Identify the name of the tree species

The first thing you’ll need to determine is what type of tree you’re dealing with, especially any that may interfere with or need to be removed on account of building or renovation. Nowadays, there are plenty of books, apps and online databases that can help you determine the species of tree. You’ll likely need to provide the botanical name of the tree in your submission.

Assess its significance in your local council area

Once you know the type of tree(s) you’re dealing with, you’ll need to find out whether these trees are ‘significant’ or ‘canopy’ trees. Significant trees may seem like a pain in the short term but can be a selling point if you choose to sell in the future.

It’s not impossible to get permission to trim or even remove a tree protected by a VPO, but you’ll need a solid case. Something along the lines of endangering people is a good reason. It’s spoiling your view, however, won’t fly.

Consult with an arborist

An arborist is someone who specialises in arboriculture, which is the study, cultivation and management of individual trees, vines, shrubs and other woody plants. As you can imagine, if you can’t identify a tree, an arborist probably can. People hire an arborist when a tree is:

  • causing an obstruction
  • located in an area where new construction is taking place
  • crowded by other trees
  • potential risk and needs an assessment
  • in need of pruning that won’t risk the health of the tree.
  • in need of emergency care.
  • tree roots need to be cut without damaging the tree

An experienced arborist can determine the structural root zone, tree protection zone and crown dripline of any tree on your property.

Key considerations when removing trees for construction

Only remove trees that need to be removed

Tree removal is a delicate procedure that can have risks and an impact on your land. For that reason, along with the costs, we recommend only removing trees if you absolutely have to. These include trees that obstruct construction, that will be a hazard, dead trees, and tree roots that will compromise the foundation of your home.

Falling tree branches

Though you may think of a tree being cut at the base and tipping over, the reality is this isn’t usually how trees are removed in residential areas. Instead, trees will be removed piece by piece, especially in urban areas or when trees are near buildings. The standard approach to removing a tree is to remove any branches before lopping the tree. Even a relatively small branch from a low height can cause damage, so contractors will play it safe. It’s sometimes not possible to guess where a branch will fall, so be sure to stand clear and remove any items you can to avoid damage.

Tree removal application with the local council

Tree removal is something you’ll need to run by your local laws. Most council websites will have a link to submit an application. You can also contact the council directly if you wish. If you’re part of a master community, you may need to speak to body corporate.

Environmental Impact

With climate change and environmental concerns being more relevant than ever, most experts recommend planting trees or maintaining existing trees. There is a range of benefits including providing homes for wildlife, reducing carbon dioxide and helping cool your surroundings.

Waste Disposal

Once the tree has been cut down, you’ll need to know what you plan to do with the debris. This will depend entirely on the tree you’re removing, but if the timber is valuable, you may be able to sell it to timber buyers. Otherwise, you may need to pay for the removal of debris.

How this will affect your neighbours

Overhanging branches that cross over into someone else’s property will need to be removed without causing any damage or too much disruption. You should inform neighbours that you’re planning to remove any trees on your property, both for safety reasons and to maintain good relationships.

Tree Protection Zone

The tree protection zone is a term used to describe the measures used to protect a tree during construction. This protects the entire tree including roots, trunk and branches.

Also, hire a professional

Removing a tree is more complicated than it seems and should be left to someone who knows what they’re doing. Poor tree removal can lead to soil erosion, damage to your property, or someone getting hurt.

How much does tree removal cost?

The short answer is removing a tree can cost anywhere between $350 to over $8,000. That’s quite a spread, but it really does come down to the specific job. To get an accurate quote, you’ll need to provide a professional with the details of your project.

There are a few factors that will affect how much your tree removal costs, which include:

  • Size of tree
  • Type of tree
  • Whether the leftover green waste is recyclable and the disposal costs if it isn’t.
  • Accessibility issues (location of the tree, where your property is, the accessibility of the property and how that affects the job.)
  • The difficulty involved in safely removing the tree
  • Equipment and amount of staff required for the job (for example, a job that requires a crane and several staff will cost you more).
  • The condition and health of the tree (this can play a role in the safest method to removing the tree).

Is stump removal cheaper than tree removal?

Generally, yes. For when removing a tree, stump removal prices will vary depending on the size of the job, but you can expect it to cost somewhere between $150 and $750.

Our top tips when building a home near trees

Do your research early on: Trees are something that can be overlooked during the design.

Check with your council before you do anything: It’ll let you know where you stand and save you a lot of trouble down the line.

Perform a topographical survey: This will provide you with a detailed survey of the land which will be invaluable for design purposes

Don’t forget, trees have their benefits: In the short term, trees might seem like they’re just getting in the way, but they also add beauty, nature and more to your property.

Looking for help with your site preparation and performing your due diligence? Click here for your free, impartial consultation.


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Building a Home

Knockdown Rebuild

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Building a Home

Knockdown Rebuild

Home designs

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