Tree Management Guidelines

Council is committed to maintain and manage the areas urban forest environment in as safe a condition as possible as funding and resources allow.  This policy provides for the planting, maintenance and when required removal of councils trees on council controlled land such as; streets, parks, and road reserves,

Mackay Regional Council exists in a tropical climate with a diversity of landscapes and vegetation types ranging from rainforest and open sugar cane fields with sparse trees to heavily wooded roadside areas to city streets and beachside vegetation. Trees provide many benefits including reducing temperatures in the built environment, adding value to properties, increasing aesthetic appeal, softening of hard lines of buildings, providing privacy and a sense security when used as visual screens, as sound barriers and screening unsightly views. Trees provide wildlife habitat, reduce stormwater runoff, reduce erosion, reduce dust, release oxygen, absorb carbon dioxide and air pollutants. Trees can increase the value of properties in areas with many trees as a street scape.

2.Tree planting  
Tree planting is performed on an as requested basis by residents or as a part of capital projects. A resident can request for a tree planted on the footpath in front of their property. The location is assessed as per the landscape guidelines for distances to various obstructions (driveways, corners, power poles and street lights) if a tree cannot be planted the resident is informed. The tree planted is generally based on the species of trees planted in the rest of the street and from the available species list. This may be changed depending on the suitability of the existing trees. A resident can only request a tree to be planted in front of their property.

Tree planting for new council projects is performed by the arboriculture crew or if unable to contractors will be engaged by Parks Technical Officer if budget permits. Tree planting for developer contributions are planted by contractors under the supervision of the Parks and Environment new estates Technical Officer. Trees will be selected as per the standard council preferred list depending on availability of standard size trees and suitability for location.

3.Tree maintenance
Trees require regular maintenance for various reasons including
safety, clearances for pedestrians and vehicles, line of sight, traffic signage.
Once a tree is planted there needs to be regular maintenance performed including watering until the tree has established roots capable of absorbing water from the surrounding soil. Pest and diseases may need to be addressed from time to time. Pruning is required to maintain clearances for roads, footpaths buildings and infrastructure. In a tropical climate trees can grow substantially in one growing season. Poinciana trees can grow downward branches of up to 4m long over several months during summer therefore selecting the correct tree for the location is essential.

If a resident requests a tree be pruned the tree is assessed by an arborist and if requiring pruning will be performed to the Australian Standards and the following parameters
*2.4m clearance above footpaths,
*3.6m for street sweepers,
*4.8m clearance above travelling lanes of roads,
*4.8m plus on highways.

The tree will be maintained in a balanced state. Any dead branches will be removed but small dead insignificant branches will not be removed. Seed pods and fruit will not be removed. No topping, flat siding or stub cuts will be done. No hedging or topiary will be performed on council’s trees.

Powerlines – Ergon is responsible for maintaining trees clear of powerlines.

4.Significant trees
Council has a significant tree register with many of the council’s trees on this register.

5.Tree removals
Mackay Regional Council will avoid removing trees wherever possible unless there is a legitimate issue to warrant the removal. All trees have a finite lifespan and require removal at some point in time and replacement if budget permits. Legitimate reasons for removal are:
*  Health and safety reasons for council staff,
*  Danger to road, footpath, park users, and general public,
*  To facilitate approved development
*  For the protection of infrastructure
*  If the tree is obviously dead.
*  If the tree is encroaching into other trees and inhibiting there natural growth or full potential
*  The tree is of such a poor state that removal enhances the area more so than the tree being present
*  The tree being an excessive public nuisance for randomly dropping excessive number of limbs.
*  Continual root problems with infrastructure
*  The tree is classed as a weed species.
*  At some point in time mature trees become unviable to continue to maintain and needs to be removed

When a resident requests a tree to be removed the request is assessed on a set of standard criteria. Trees will not be removed due to dropping leaves or minor twigs, overhanging properties, overhanging pools where a pool cover can be used. Trees will not be removed to improve a resident’s view or because a resident continually requests the removal of a tree that is deemed structurally sound.

Procedure for request to remove a council owned tree -  
The request is received and the tree is inspected by a Council Arborist of level 5 AQF.
All other possible options will be investigated to retain the tree.
Arborist will inform the resident requesting the removal by phone of the approval or rejection of the removal.
Any tree requested to be removed due to residents having allergic reactions must be accompanied with proof of medical/scientific testing to ascertain the tree requested is actually causing the reaction. Pollens can travel many kilometres and to state a particular tree is causing the issue in unfounded.

6.Response times – emergency, vision issue, other issue
The response times to tree requests varies depending on the priority of the request.
Emergency requests are to be dealt with immediately. An emergency is classed as

*Any tree or part of a tree that has fallen and is either totally blocking a road or part of a road causing traffic to stop or drive onto the wrong side of the road to pass the tree.
*A large branch that has broken in the canopy and is in imminent danger of falling onto a target area (playground, footpath road).  
*A tree or part of a tree that has fallen onto a footpath and cannot be easily shifted by pedestrians and is causing pedestrians to go onto the road (traffic lane) to travel around/past the obstruction.

Vision issue
If any tree or part of a tree is blocking vision at an intersection, or from exiting driveways, block all or part vision of traffic lights, stop signs or give way signs. It will be dealt with within two weeks where ever possible.

Other issue is any tree issue that is not a priority requiring dead wooding, crown raising or removal.
Dead trees in/over a target area are classed as a high priority

7.Private trees
Where there is an issue between two private residents regarding a private tree council will refer the requesting resident to the Queensland Government's Neighbourhood Disputes Resolution Act 2011 that provides advice for neighbours to help resolve disputes about dividing fences and trees.  According to the Act, it is up to the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) to deal with these issues.

8.Street trees
Trees adjacent to streets require regular maintenance due to the target areas such as footpaths and roads. Clearances are required for footpaths, roads, parking lanes for pedestrians and vehicles. Due to the busy nature of the street environment trees must be checked for deadwood, broken/hanging branches, and any issues that may present a danger to motorists and pedestrians.

9.Park trees
Trees within Parks require regular maintenance around playgrounds and paths.  Trees must be checked for deadwood broken branches and any issues that may pose a risk to Park users

10.Roadside trees
Trees on a roadside in the rural area fall under the responsibility of the Civil Operations section. The maintenance of these trees is reliant on budget allocations and the availability of the arboriculture section. In years past there has been funding that allowed for proactive clearing and pruning to be performed. With this current form of practice continuing there will be a large influx of country roads requiring major tree works therefore increasing the response time to these requests.

11.Main Roads trees
Trees growing on or adjacent to Main Roads fall under the responsibility of Main Roads Department. These trees are done on a priority basis depending on funding. Once a job is required the council Arboriculture staff performs the work or if too busy is given to contractors.

All council trees are the responsibility of council arborists to maintain therefore pruning, lopping or removing council trees is illegal and penalties apply.

13.Private trees encroaching over council land
Residents are responsible for any tree that encroaches over council land that interferes with the safe use of that land. If a private tree is to be found encroaching over council land the owner will be sent a letter informing them they have 28 days to rectify the situation or penalties will apply.

14.Tree inspection checklist
Inspections of trees are performed by council Arborists using a set criteria utilising arboriculture best practices. This inspection process does not take into consideration personal unqualified opinion from residents seeking a particular outcome. The inspecting arborist may ask the requesting resident for some historical information to ascertain a cause but will not consider personal opinion as sound arboriculture knowledge.

15.Root management
In the built environment trees are forced to grow in confined areas due to the small footprint available amongst all the infrastructure of a city street. This can cause issues with roots interfering with infrastructure especially on the older larger species planted many years prior. Roots may require remedial work to clear infrastructure. Exposed roots above ground can cause issue with pedestrian therefore top dressing is required to remove the trip hazard.

1.4.6 Hazardous Trees
Are defined as those trees that have a defect that may cause injury or property damage if not removed such as:

Structurally Unsound 
Bifurcation with high chance of failure within the next five (5) years, excessive borer activity, dying or dead

Exposed Roots 
Having a high potential as a trip hazard (provided no remedial action is possible)

Inappropriately Located
Tall tree species with structural defects under power lines; a tree leaning over road/paths/property whose form cannot be corrected by pruning or other arboriculture methods

Major Damage
Where tree branches/roots are causing significant damage to Council, utility, or private infrastructure and where this has the potential to increase significantly

1.4.7 Immediate Hazard
Immediate attention required if the tree has a condition, which makes failure imminent or the tree is deemed to be structurally unstable due to:

* Having the potential to shed a major portion of the canopy; or
* Tree is unstable in the ground and susceptible to wind-throw.

Decisions on hazard rating are made after the tree has been inspected and assessed by a suitable qualified person.

1.5.1 Authority levels for tree removals
Removal shall be seen to be the last resort when alleviating tree related problems. All other options are to be assessed and used in preference to removal wherever reasonable. Options include, root severance / barriers, pruning, increased sweeper services, drain cleaning, infrastructure modification or other management programs.

1.5.2 Removal of significant trees
The Senior Arborist or delegated officer(s) may authorise the removal of a tree identified as significant in order to avoid unreasonable risk or damage where a tree is assessed as being HAZARDOUS.

Where a tree is identified as an IMMEDIATE HAZARD removal shall be authorised by the Senior Arborist or delegated officer(s) and undertaken immediately.

Where a tree does not comply with the General Guidelines for Removal and its removal is required as part of a park improvement program, Capital Works project or similar, the Senior Arborist or delegated officer(s) shall provide a brief overview report to the Manager Parks and Gardens for approval.

1.5.3 Removal of non-significant trees
Parks, Environment and Sustainability Team Members and approved Contractors, may, without further authorisation, remove trees that are non-significant and are assessed as DEAD, NEARLY DEAD or HAZARDOUS. (See sections 1.4.6 & 1.4.7)

Where a tree is assessed as being non-significant and is inappropriately located, removal shall be authorised by the Senior Arborist.