Council is responsible for trees in streets and on nature strips, as well as in more than 170 parks and reserves in Merri-bek.
Trees are an important community asset. They make our streets more attractive, provide shade, and are a home for birds and wildlife. As our city gets hotter with the urban heat island effect, trees play a vital role in cooling down the city by providing shade to properties and streets.
Urgent works and impact of storms
To report an urgent issue with a tree, such as a fallen or hanging branch which is dangerous, phone Council on 9240 1111 (24 hours).
Council carries out emergency works on trees in public areas. Report tree damage on private property to the Victoria State Emergency Service (SES).
Following storms and bad weather, Council receives many requests about branch and tree damage.
We first respond to issues with a risk to personal safety or where the health of a tree is threatened:
- A branch has fallen over a road or obstructing access to a property.
- A tree or branch has fallen onto an overhead electrical wire.
- A tree is in danger of falling.
- A large branch is hanging and is in danger of falling or damaging a property.
We then respond to reports of large branches obstructing a footpath.
Once emergency works are complete and trees made safe, Council then removes debris and branches and responds to other tree-related requests. During periods of emergency works, our regular tree maintenance program is placed on hold.
How Council cares for trees
The preservation of existing trees is of prime importance to Council and practical techniques are used to maintain the health of our trees.
Pruning of trees on streets and in parks may only be carried out by an authorised Merri-bek Council arborist or contractor.
When Council will prune a tree
Council carries out pruning of Council trees as part of the regular tree care and maintenance program where:
- The tree is rubbing or against a building
- The tree is significantly overhanging a building and a practicable pruning outcome can be achieved without removing structural limbs
- The overhang within the property or over the road is less than 3 metres high
- There is a Council tree branch which is hazardous or obstructing electrical wires, or
- The tree is near power lines on Council land.
When Council will not prune a tree
Council does not prune trees for any of the following reasons:
- Trees growing from within private property. This is the responsibility of the property owner.
- Tree leaf, seed or gum drop.
- Tree is blocking a view.
- Tree is blocking light into a resident’s property or onto solar panels.
- Tree is obstructing a satellite or other telecommunications signal.
- Tree branch movement is activating a resident's movement direction light.
- Problems associated with birds, bats or possums living in a tree.
- Tree obstructs street lighting into a resident’s property.
- Spiders or other insect issues that are not affecting the health or viability of the tree.
- To provide for views of business or real estate signs.
When a letter is received from a utility company (e.g. Jemena, Citypower) requesting pruning of private trees for powerline clearance.
Council does not sweep residential footpaths for seed and leaf drop.
Insects in trees
Finding insects or termites in a tree does not necessarily mean that the tree must be removed.
Most insects which live on trees are harmless. Some insects can cause damage to a tree, but this is often temporary and does not cause long-term harm to the tree.
Wood boring insects are often the most harmful to trees. Signs of a borer infestation include entry or exit holes in the bark and small mounds of sawdust at the base.
If insects are discovered in a tree on Council land, Council arborists may assess the tree and the extent of any damage, and choose to carry out insect removal. The type of works carried out depends on the significance of the tree, its structural integrity and how much tree damage has resulted.
If an outbreak occurs that threatens the survivial of a tree, Council investigates options, such as insecticide stem injection, to keep the number of insects in check the following year.
Residents can help by mulching and watering the tree, physically removing the insects where possible, and fertilising the tree using seasol or carbohydrate (molasses or sugar 25g - 70g/lt).
Council is not responsible for insect infestations on private property. If you find an insect infestation on private property, you should consult a professional. Council is not legally responsible for any damage insects or other pests may cause to private property.
Council regular tree care and maintenance program
Council has a regular tree care and maintenance program which visits every neighbourhood in Merri-bek every two years, to prune and maintain Council trees.
In addition, Council has a special program to clear trees around power lines, which is managed through the Electric Line Clearance Management Plan (PDF 1Mb), and visits each area once a year.
Enter your address to find out when Council is scheduled to visit your area.
We sometimes need to change the regular tree maintenance program schedule as a result of storms, extreme weather or other urgent work.
Council also regularly carries out a formal inspection of all trees within Merri-bek’s parks and reserves to identify hazardous trees and branches. This program helps ensure that our parks remain safe for users and reduces the need for reactive works.
How to report a tree issue
To report an urgent issue, such as a fallen or hanging branch which is dangerous, phone Council on 9240 1111 (24 hours).
What happens after you report an issue
After you report the issue, a Council arborist may assess the tree or branch. Council notifies you of the outcome if requested.
If the health of the tree is at risk, such as through disease, pests or damage, Council will carry out necessary tree pruning and repair.
Other pruning is scheduled as part of the Council regular tree care and maintenance program which visits every neighbourhood in Merri-bek.
Pruning trees on private property
Council does not prune trees on private property, it is the responsibility of residents to prune trees on private property.
Where permission is required to prune a tree on private property
You can prune a tree on private property without Council permission, except in the following circumstances:
Mature or significant trees
If you want to prune a mature or significant tree on private property in Merri-bek, you must first obtain a Tree Works permit from Council.
Trees protected by a planning permit or an overlay
If a tree on your property is protected through the provisions of a planning permit or an overlay in the Moreland Planning Scheme, you need Council permission before undertaking any works. See Tree Works permit for further information.
Residents need to make sure footpaths, laneways, rights of way and roads that adjoin your property are free of obstructions to pedestrians and other road users.
Trees on private property need to be trimmed to a clearance height of 3 metres. Branches, shrubs and other vegetation must be pruned back to your property line. This is for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists, to allow clear visibility and to prevent damage to vehicles.
Property owners are responsible for inspecting private overhead power lines on their property to ensure they are clear from trees or branches. If you receive a letter from Jemena asking you to prune trees on your property, this is the property owner's responsibility. Please note that Council does not prune trees on private property.
Reporting overhanging branches from a private property
If branches overhang from a private property onto a footpath, laneway or road, report the issue through the Council website or contact Council. A Council officer will inspect the property and then contact the property owner to request they cut the branches. Property owners may be fined if they do not comply with the request.
Council does not have the power to deal with trees or branches that are overhanging from a private property onto another private property. Disputes between neighbours about trees are covered by common law and are best resolved by talking directly to your neighbour.
If talking to your neighbour is unsuccessful, you can contact the Dispute Settlement Centre of Victoria. This is a free service and can help you resolve your dispute without having to resort to taking legal action. Interpreters are provided.