The Cairns region's tropical trees, rainforest and greenery are a defining feature of the region, but can also be a cause of conflict. Disagreements about trees and vegetation crossing property boundaries are a major cause of neighbourhood dispute.
Council's planning scheme contains instruments (overlays) to protect vegetation from inappropriate damage, protect significant trees, and to maintain, protect and enhance the region's biodiversity, ecological values and habitat values. To find out if your property is affected by an overlay, refer to our planning scheme online mapping.
Advice on tree disputes
The Neighbourhood Disputes Resolution (Dividing Fences and Trees) Act 2011 allows residents to resolve neighbourhood disputes more easily. It also encourages residents to be good neighbours and resolve their disputes concerning trees and fences in a friendly and timely manner.
Council does not have responsibility for enforcing the Act. For more information on dealing with tree disputes, visit the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) website, email QCAT at firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 1300 753 228 (weekday business hours).
Talk to your neighbours
In neighbourhood disputes, the best approach is always try to reach an amicable agreement. Generally, liaising with your neighbour is better than using a third party, however an objective mediator can assist neighbours to reach a mutual agreed solution. Mediators are available through the Dispute Resolution Centre or the Citizens Advice Bureau. Legal Action should be a last resort as it can be costly and tends to worsen neighbour relations.
Every year, thousands of Queenslanders find themselves in the middle of a neighbourhood dispute about a tree or a fence. The Act outlines the rights and responsibilities of all parties involved. Under the Act the proper care and maintenance of a tree will be the responsibility of the tree keeper. The Act provides greater choices for neighbours about trees affecting their property.
The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) has jurisdiction to hear and decide any matter in relation to a tree in which it is alleged that the land is affected by the tree. QCAT provides a single tribunal through which the community can access justice. QCAT provides the community with a more accessible, informal and responsive means of resolving neighbourhood disputes.
The Act does not apply to all trees
The Act does not apply to trees situated on rural land, land that is more than four hectares in size, or land owned by a Local Government that is used as a public park. It also excludes trees planted or maintained for certain purposes such as for commercial purposes or as a condition of a Development Approval.
The application of the tree provisions is limited to urban areas and to cases where the land affected by a tree adjoins the neighbour's property or where the lands are separated by a road.
If you need further information or assistance, the following agencies may be able to help.
Tree and vegetation removal
On private property
You should take care of your trees and shrubs to ensure they don't affect your neighbour’s property and amenity. This includes cutting and removing any tree branches which overhang your neighbour’s property. When pruning, follow correct techniques or seek the advice of a qualified arborist. Incorrect pruning can make a tree unstable, cause disease or decay, or cause larger roots to develop towards your property. See our Responsible tree management fact sheet ( PDF, 0.39 MB ) for more information.
If a dispute over a tree develops with a neighbour you should aim to find a solution quickly. Talk to your neighbour about it and if necessary seek help in resolving the issue. See the information above for advice on tree disputes.
Before you remove trees from your own property, check if it is covered by any vegetation overlays under the CairnsPlan 2016 (planning scheme). You may need to seek permission from Council prior to removing trees.
On beaches, foreshores & parks
Removal of vegetation from Council controlled beaches, foreshores and parks is prohibited. If you observe this occurring, please contact Council for investigation on 1300 69 22 47.