Tree clearing on private property
  • Last updated:
  • 26 Oct 2022

Trees contribute to the health, character, and identity of our communities. They shade, cool and balance our built environment. They also provide vital habitat for our native animals and plants.

Vegetation clearing is 'development' (operational work) under the Planning Act 2017. It is regulated by the Sunshine Coast Planning Scheme 2014. Refer to the vegetation management code.

Some vegetation is protected from being cleared in our region. Use Site Report to find out if your property has protected vegetation and trees.

You must get a permit from council to remove protected vegetation.
This includes:

  • cutting down trees
  • chopping into or damaging the trunk of a tree
  • pruning to the extent that the tree is likely to die
  • clearing of plants within under storey areas (below the tree canopy).

To apply to remove protected vegetation, submit a completed DA form 1 to council.

Fees apply for assessment of operational works vegetation removal. Refer to councils fees and charges.

For more information, refer to:

It is an offence to damage or remove certain protected trees and areas of vegetation on private property. Penalties may apply.

Vegetation may be protected by:

  • vegetation management code within the Sunshine Coast Planning Scheme 2014
  • vegetation covenants
  • biodiversity, waterways and wetlands overlay code
  • drainage easements
  • development approval conditions

Find out if your property has protected vegetation and trees under the Sunshine Coast Planning Scheme 2014. 

 In addition to the planning scheme, vegetation protection requirements may apply in:

  • Australian Government legislation, and
  • Queensland Government vegetation management legislation.

You may need to obtain approval under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 if your proposed clearing may impact on matters of national environmental significance, such as threatened species or ecological communities.

Visit the Queensland Government vegetation management website for state government information including:

  • state planning assessment provisions
  • protected plants
  • koala protection
  • marine plants, such as mangroves
  • revegetation as part of a condition of approval or formal offset
  • intact native bush and heath land.

You can clear vegetation within three metres on your property side of a boundary fence. Clearing must be reasonably necessary within the three metres. You should let your neighbours know before you start.

Before you clear any vegetation, you should confirm with council that the vegetation is not:

  • protected as part of a development approval, or
  • within a vegetation covenant.

Trees located on property boundaries are subject to the Neighbourhood Disputes Resolution Act 2011.

Under the Act, proper care and maintenance of a tree is the responsibility of the owner of the tree. The Act provides advice and choices to help resolve disputes about trees and overhanging branches.

Before you clear vegetation to build or extend your house, you need to check a few things.

If you have mapped vegetation on your site, you must comply with the acceptable outcomes in the planning scheme. Specifically the Biodiversity, waterways and wetlands overlay code - Table Requirements for accepted development. 

You need to lodge an application and obtain approval from council, where your proposed vegetation clearing:

  • does not comply with the acceptable outcomes and
  • is not ‘exempt vegetation clearing’.

Check if the Biodiversity, waterways and wetland overlay applies to your land. 

If you have mapped vegetation located on your property, you can only clear within the approved building envelope, except for the purpose of driveway access. Check Development.i to find out if you have an approved building envelope for your property.

Where there is no approved building envelope for your property, vegetation clearing must not exceed a total area of 600m² and can only be carried out:

  • 20 metres from a building or structure, or
  • 1.5 times the height of the predominant tree canopy, as measured from a building or structure, where in a bushfire hazard area.

The total vegetation cleared areas of 600m2 needs to accommodate all structures associated with a dwelling house. This includes sheds, pool, and other structures.

For any dwelling house extensions and additions, like a pool or secondary dwelling, you will also need approval from council to clear vegetation. This includes when the proposed work:

  • requires clearing outside of the original clearing area for a dwelling house, and
  • will result in clearing more than 600m² in total for the existing and proposed extension of the dwelling house and associated structures.

Where there is a cleared area of vegetation already on your property, it is preferable that the dwelling house is located within this area. If the partially cleared area does not amount to a total of 600m², additional clearing up to 600m2 may be undertaken. This is subject to complying with the acceptable outcome in the Biodiversity, waterways and wetlands overlay code. It may include planting a vegetation offset to compensate for the loss of vegetation.

As part of your building work approval, your private building certifier should be able to assist with any application to be lodged with council for vegetation clearing.

There are some vegetation clearing activities you can carry out without obtaining council approval.

'Exempt vegetation clearing' is defined in the Sunshine Coast Planning Scheme 2014.

You don't need a permit from council if the vegetation clearing is associated with a building work approval. A copy of your building work approval must be submitted to council for our records and the total amount of clearing must not exceed 600m2.

'Exempt vegetation clearing' can be part of a development approval, subject to the clearing being carried out in accordance with the conditions of approval.

For a full list of exemptions, refer to Schedule1 (Definitions) of the Sunshine Coast Planning Scheme 2014.

The Queensland Government website also has information about exempt vegetation clearing work.

 Exemptions may not apply if the area proposed to clear is subject to:

  • development approval conditions,
  • a vegetation covenant,
  • a biodiversity offset,
  • a voluntary declaration, or
  • restrictions as a result of unlawful vegetation clearing.

It is important you prepare your property for an emergency as best as possible. Talk to your neighbours about your bushfire plan and look out for each other.

You may be able to undertake vegetation clearing to mitigate the impact of natural disasters. You should notify the QLD State Government before starting to clear.

During a bushfire emergency you must follow the directions of the authorised fire officers. You must advise council as soon as possible of any vegetation you cleared under the direction of fire officers.

Special provisions apply to clearing for fire management. These provisions specify the amount and type of vegetation clearing for:

  • necessary fire management lines
  • firebreaks to protect buildings and other structures (other than a fence, road or vehicular track)
  • works performed under a Queensland Fire and Emergency Services (QFES) permit. (exempt from council approval)

Please consult with QFES regarding what potential clearing is necessary.

Once cleared, this can create a grassy or shrub layer which can be more flammable and prone to fire ember attack. Unnecessary clearing may present a greater long term risk.

Make sure you follow the requirements of the State Government accepted development vegetation clearing code

More information

If you are concerned about trees or vegetation being cleared on private property, please complete a request for service form in MyCouncil.

For more information contact council's development services