Your responsibility with trees

Did you know that many of the insurance claims relating to storm damage in New Zealand involve trees? It can be easy to blame the trees for falling over onto homes, roofing, fencing, and cars, but could the owners of those trees also be responsible?  

Believe it or not, when you decide to plant a tree, you are signing up for a whole host of responsibilities. It’s almost like becoming a tree parent. You have to research what you can grow, how tall you can grow it, how to take care of tree trimming, and what your local council has to say about it as well. Then, if you want to cut it down, you may find you can’t, or you have to do it in a particular way or talk to the neighbours. It’s clear to see that to own trees you have to do your homework.                                                                                                             

Fortunately, we’re here to help. Below, we outline some of the more frequent problems homeowners face with trees, and what their responsibilities are with them. From tree pruning and trimming through to council regulations and “check before you chop” rules, there is a lot to learn, so get reading!

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 Check Before You Chop

The Auckland Council created a public message known as Check Before You Chop. Essentially, it made homeowners abide by a set of rules relating to the chopping down of trees – and even tree pruning. You would need to ring the council hotline if you were unsure of your duty to the trees.

The Auckland Council didn’t put such rules in place to be difficult. Instead, they were making sure that trees that needed protection were protected.

These include:

  • Heritage or notable trees identified in District Plans

  • Trees in areas requiring an additional level of protection, such as cliff line tree amenity areas.

  • Trees under the protection of a covenant or consent notice

  • Trees outside urban environments

  • Trees in planning zones

If you plan on doing any chopping, tree pruning, tree trimming, or altering of any kind on your property, it may pay to check with your local council.

What About Tree Trimming, Chopping, or Pruning on a Neighbouring Property?

Trees make our air breathable, they conserve water, support slopes, protect properties from erosion, and absorb pollution. It’s clear to see they serve more of a purpose than adding shade for picnics during a hot summer’s day. However, there are also going to be occasions where they are more of a hindrance than a help. 

If you have a tree with branches or roots that cross your boundary into your neighbour’s property, then they have a right to cut and alter the tree. However, they fall under the same obligation of consulting council to see if it’s okay to do so.

If your tree is diminishing their property, endangering their property or their life, then they can not only ask you to remove it but can get a court order to undertake tree trimming or ask for its removal altogether. If you have a tree that sits directly on the boundary, both you and your neighbour own the tree. You both must take care of maintenance and any problems relating to the tree’s existence.

I Have a Problem with My Tree (And My Neighbour)

If you’re not on sugar borrowing terms with your neighbour all thanks to a tree, then it’s time to get the process for discussion underway. Firstly, talk to your neighbour about the problem tree. Be aware that trees can be a precious subject for some, make sure you discuss matters calmly and considerately to ensure you don’t endanger a relationship. If discussions come to nothing, then it’s time to talk to your council. Find out if the tree is protected under any of the “Check Before You Chop” regulations. If it’s not, then either you (or them, depending on who has a problem with the tree), can apply for a court order for tree pruning or its removal.

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How to Take Care of Tree Pruning?

If you don’t have time, patience, or the inclination for tree care, then you will be pleased to know there are plenty of tree trimming experts who can help. However, if you’re dead-set on taking care of business on your own, here are a few useful tree trimming tips that might help.

1. Carefully Examine Your Tree

It might seem silly, but you need to look at your tree objectively. Identify the structural branches that form the tree’s skeleton. The last thing you want to do during a “quick” tree pruning exercise is remove one of its vital ‘organs’.  

2. Remove Damage

Tree damage can occur for many reasons – such as poor weather or wildlife. Take care of the damaged, dead, dying, or diseased branches first. You will be surprised at how good your trees look once they only have healthy branches left.

3. Thin it Out

If your tree is getting a bit out of control, you may have to get heavy-handed with tree trimming. Identify dense areas with branches that interlock. They may be identifiable by fungus and insects. Clear this area to allow light and air through. If you’re unsure about doing this, consider hiring a professional and get a tree trimming quote.

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4. Remove Dangers

If you are taking care of tree trimming because your tree is becoming a danger, then make sure you remove all those hazards immediately. Low lying branches that could impinge on walkways are a must-fix, while any high branches that reach into your neighbour’s property or onto roofs, power lines, etc., are also in the firing line for removal. You may like expert help for this part also.

5. Not Too Much

Don’t get too excited with your loppers – you may do more harm than good. Cut no more than a quarter of your tree’s branches off if you can avoid it.

 If you are having problems with your trees growing out of control, then it might be time to get professional help. Talk to the council and then speak to a Crewcut professional about tree trimming prices and how you can manage your trees now and into the future.

Emily Fly