New rules to protect Adelaide’s tree canopy coming into effect immediately

SA Gov

The South Australian Government is taking immediate action to better protect Adelaide’s urban tree canopy and safeguard large, mature trees from destruction.

New planning regulations have been introduced to protect a greater number of trees, delivering on the government’s commitment to implement Australia’s best practice tree protections.

Taking immediate effect, the new regulations will protect trees with a smaller trunk circumference. The trunk size for regulated trees will be reduced from two metres to one metre, while significant trees will go from three metres to two.

Exemptions for trees based on distance from homes and pools has also been reduced. Now only trees within three metres from a home or pool will be able to be removed without approval, whereas the old regulations allowed the removal of trees within 10 metres.

The new regulations place pruning limits on regulated and significant trees allowing only 30 percent of the tree’s canopy to be removed every five years.

The changes also provide flexibility to adapt the exempt species list to local needs and community views through a notice on the PlanSA website.

Fees for destroying or removing protected trees will also increase, better reflecting the cost of tree replacement. Offset fees for a regulated tree increase from $326 to $1000 and from $489 to $1500 for a significant tree.

The money collected from the removal of trees goes into either local councils’ urban tree funds or into the State Government’s Planning and Development Fund. The money is used to either plant, establish and maintain trees, or to purchase land to preserve or accommodate the planting of new trees.

These actions recognise the important role Adelaide’s mature trees play in promoting community wellbeing, supporting biodiversity and reducing the urban heat effect.

These changes were guided by bipartisan recommendations from the Environment, Resources and Development Committee of Parliament which had been asked for advice on further tree protections following their Inquiry into the Urban Forest.

The new regulations were also developed with advice from the State Planning Commission, based on University of Adelaide research, and recommendations from the Expert Panel reviewing the implementation of South Australia’s planning system.

The Minister for Planning has also requested that the State Planning Commission:

  • Prepare a design standard to provide minimum urban tree planting and maintenance requirements for public areas in greenfield developments.
  • Amend planning rules to also consider a tree’s urban canopy contribution as part of assessing whether it can be removed.
  • Strengthen planning rules to support design innovation and flexibility to retain large trees.
  • Investigate ways to fast-track approvals for tree removal within three metres of a dwelling or swimming pool where offset fees are paid.
  • Extend urban tree canopy protections to greenfield developments in ‘Master Planned Neighbourhood Zones’ and townships.
  • Extend regulated and significant tree protections to townships, capturing urban areas beyond metropolitan Adelaide.

Existing development applications and approvals will have 12 months to be actioned before being impacted by these changes.

A table outlining some of the key changes can be found below and for further information visit the PlanSA website.

As put by Nick Champion

South Australia will go from having the weakest tree protection policies in the country to the most comprehensive, as we deliver on our commitment to protect and improve our urban canopy.

Tree protection is the number one issue that is raised with me, and these new policy additions means a greater number of trees in this state will be protected from the chop.

These changes support work to create the first urban greening strategy for Adelaide and help deliver the government’s commitment to increase greening in our neighbourhoods, improve urban biodiversity and address the loss of mature trees.

The new regulations will come into effect immediately to safeguard all trees that are protected under these changes.

As put by Joanna Wells, Conservation SA Outreach Coordinator

Conservation SA congratulates the State Government on delivering these much-needed tree laws to all South Australians. They represent a significant body of work, by community members, the conservation sector, and the government.

Conservation SA is pleased that South Australia now has tree protections that recognise the need to protect existing canopy.

Tree canopy and biodiversity is recognised as significant contributors to both mental and physical health: when our trees win, we all win. This is indeed a huge win for the people of South Australia, on so many fronts and across so many portfolios.

These are significant improvements on current legislation and the further work required of the State Planning Commission will see creative thinking to enable the retention of even more trees become ‘business as usual’ for developers.

We’re pleased that the government has embraced the evidence-based approach taken by this community campaign for tree protections and worked to halt the loss of canopy across Adelaide.

As put by Mayor Dean Johnson, Local Government Association President

These changes are a positive outcome toward better protecting trees across South Australia and are what the LGA has been calling for in our advocacy to government.

Councils have made it clear that under the current regulations, it was far too easy to remove trees or excessively prune them with little consequence. These amendments take meaningful steps to close these loopholes.

To achieve the tree canopy cover target outlined in the Greater Adelaide 30-Year Plan and the Urban Greening Strategy, it’s critical we increase tree plantings on both public and private land.

The local government sector looks forward to continuing working alongside the State Government to achieve this.

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