Featured artist: Shannon Crees

Street tree maintenance

Featured artist: Shannon Crees
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Street tree maintenance

Council is committed to the holistic management of Marrickville's urban forest and recognises the urban forest as an essential, living infrastructure asset and resource that provides a wide range of social, environmental and economic benefits.

Street trees will be pruned to:

  • Remove any dead, dying or dangerous branches
  • Allow clearance for pedestrians and vehicles
  • Allow clearance to buildings (where practicable)
  • Improve their health and structure

Street trees will not be pruned or removed:

  • To allow or improve a view or excessive solar access
  • To reduce fruit or leaf fall, sap drop, bird droppings or similar natural processes
  • Because branches overhang a boundary
  • For any other reason that may violate laws and regulations that protect trees

As part of living in an urbanised green environment, property owners are expected to be responsible for undertaking external maintenance of their property such as cleaning gutters of leaves. The benefits of trees far outweigh any minor inconveniences they may cause.

If you believe a street tree requires pruning, please review the relevant tree management policies first, then submit a request using this online form. The tree will be assessed and prioritised for work in accordance with appropriate maintenance program below.

Please do not prune street trees yourself. They are community assets, and it is Council's responsibility to look after them. Fines can apply.

Maintenance programs

Precincts Council undertakes maintenance of its trees in two types of ways:

  • Proactive maintenance based on an annual cycle and is carried out in within a precinct according to the calendar month, i.e. January is precinct one, February is precinct two and so on. Works done under proactive works are generally considered non urgent works such as dead wooding, clearance pruning, canopy lifting and low priority tree removals.
  • Reactive maintenance is for work that requires more urgent attention such as removal of dangerous branches or trees and is carried out on a prioritised basis.

See the precinct map (PDF) to see which precinct your house is in and when council will be in your area.

Street tree removal

Trees, like all living things, grow, age and eventually die. Whilst tree removal is a last resort option, public safety is always a priority. If council inspects a tree and decides to remove it for one of the reasons specified below, a sign is placed on the trunk and planned council works page giving the reason for removal and the replacement planting proposed. Contact details of the inspecting officer are also included.

Council will use the following assessment criteria when considering removal a tree (refer to Marrickville Development Control Plan, Section 2.20: Tree Management for more information):

  1. The health and structural condition of the tree/s
  2. If the tree/s presents an unacceptable level of risk that cannot be managed through pruning or other risk mitigation measures
  3. Any public infrastructure damage being caused by the tree/s, which is considered significant and which cannot be overcome by any other reasonable and practicable means
  4. Damage to significant structures on private property directly caused by the tree/s where remediation of the damage cannot be achieved by reasonable and practicable means
  5. Any other reason at the discretion of Council's staff, which can be justified either on arboricultural, technical or legal grounds according to particular circumstances

Tree roots and infrastructure

Tree growth is strongly influenced by below-ground conditions and can impact public and private infrastructure. Tree root growth is opportunistic and will proliferate wherever moisture, aeration, nutrition and soil structure are favourable. Tree root growth in the urban environment is highly modified and is not governed by property boundaries.

There are a number of common conflicts with tree roots in the built environment in all cases it is important to establish the cause of the problem:

Direct damage

Direct damage is the distortion of built structures as the growing tree root exerts pressure. Direct damage by tree roots is usually limited to light built structures such as pavements and low walls and can also be witnessed in buildings of sub-standard footings. 

Indirect damage

Indirect damage is the distortion of built structures as the growing tree root takes up soil moisture. Often there are multiple factors contributing to foundation movement and are seldom associated with tree root growth alone. For this reason, claims of indirect tree root damage must be accurately investigated.

Leaking pipes as a result of poor construction, old earthenware, faulty joints and degradation can create a moisture gradient that encourages tree root growth in the direction of the pipe. In a majority of cases tree roots are unable to enter sound and well maintained water or sewage lines. If tree roots are identified in water or sewer pipes, is most likely that the lines may be in need of maintenance prior to actual root incursion. The necessary repairs or replacement of the water or sewerage system should allow the retention of the trees.

Removal of trees for damage to sewer pipes/built structures will not be approved unless it can be demonstrated to

Council that all engineering alternatives have been investigated and have not been found feasible.

Council will seek to resolve tree root conflicts in the following manner:

  • All claims of direct tree root damage from public trees will be investigated. 
  • Marrickville Council will seek practical solutions to reduce the risk of damage to infrastructure from public trees. 
  • Tree removal will only be considered if no practical arboricultural solution can be found. 
  • Claims of indirect tree root damage to built structures will be investigated if an objective and comprehensive geotechnical or structural engineering report implicates tree root damage. The engineers report must discuss alternative options to stabilise building movement whilst allowing for tree retention.
  • Should tree root growth cause foundation movement, the Council will seek a viable arboricultural solution to rectify the situation and to retain the public tree. 
  • The removal of public trees for indirect property damage will only be considered if a geotechnical or structural engineer's report attributes the damage to tree root growth and if no practical alternative arboricultural solution can be obtained. The potential for soil heave as a result of tree removal must also be considered. 
  • Claims of property damage from tree roots must comply with Council guidelines for submitting a claim. 
  • Council will not remove public trees for unjustified claims of pipe or sewer damage from tree root activity.

Ausgrid power line clearance works to trees

Council does not prune trees for power line clearance, including main lines and residential lines. Ausgrid is responsible for pruning street trees in these circumstances and sets out the required clearance for its power lines.

Ausgrid are authorised to undertake this work to Council-owned and privately-owned trees under state legislation, and prune in accordance with Guidelines for managing vegetation near power lines.

See Ausgrid's website for more information.

If you have any questions, concerns or wish to comment regarding the works being undertaken by Ausgrid please contact them directly:

If you are unable to resolve the problem, or you are not satisfied with Ausgrid's response, you are entitled to contact the Energy and Water Ombudsman NSW.

The Energy and Water Ombudsman is an independent government approved dispute resolution organisation for New South Wales electricity customers, and they will aim to resolve your complaint.