Trees growing near buildings or high-traffic areas on public or private property should be inspected regularly to evaluate limb and root health. An inspection just before harsh winter weather sets in and at the beginning of spring will catch weak limbs and root systems early on. If these issues are not dealt with in a timely manner, the resulting damage may be extremely costly.

Weak limbs can easily be broken off the tree by high winds, causing damage to nearby buildings, vehicles and people who are unlucky enough to be passing by as the limb falls. Entire trees can become a serious hazard, especially if the root system has been weakened by disease. While hiring an Arborist may seem like an unnecessary expense, the possible consequences and high cost of repairs will make the Arborist’s fee seem like a drop in the bucket.

When there has been no obvious signs of disease, like bracket fungi or bark beetle holes, an Arborist with an AQF Level 3 should be capable of evaluating the tree and removing any suspicious limbs. If there are obvious signs of disease, an Arborist with an AQF Level 5 who specializes in tree diseases should be called in to do the evaluation.

All pruning must be done by a qualified Arborist and, depending on the tree, a permit from the City of Sydney may be required. Some species of trees and cultivars of these species can be pruned by an Arborist without a permit from the City as long as the tree is no taller than 10 metres and is not listed on the City’s Register of Significant Trees. There are also exemptions based on the location and size of the tree. For example, trees may be pruned without a permit from the City to maintain a clearance of up to 1 metre from an approved building if the limb is under 50 millimetres in diameter.

All tree pruning must be approved by the property owner. A neighbour may request a permit to prune tree limbs that are growing over his or her property line. The City will give the property owner two weeks to respond to the permit. It is best, however, to discuss the tree with the neighbor directly. That way, the Arborist’s fee could possibly be shared and the tree could get a proper all-over pruning rather than just the removal of a few stray limbs.