Protecting Trees on Development Sites – City of Stirling

site demolishon Karrinyup 007












Finally a serious move to protect trees on privately owned land in Perth?  

This Tuesday the 8th of March at 6pm, the City of Stirling’s Planning and Development Committee will be initiating the discussion/process of changing their Local Planning Scheme to enable the city to better protect trees on privately owned residential and commercial development sites.

This is very significant for the whole of Perth, because the City of Stirling is the largest most densely populated council in Perth and therefore, it is very influential.  Other councils take note of what the CoS does.

Here is a PDF of the Agenda Item – TREES AND DEVELOPMENT – LOCAL PLANNING SCHEME NO.3 AMENDMENT AND POLICY – INITIATION , the full Agenda can be found here (see page 124).

Sorry about the late notice, but we need to show that there is huge community support for tree protection, please try to pop in to the meeting. Council Chambers are at 25 Cedric Street, Stirling See map.  We will be outside at 5.30pm encase anyone would like to discuss the following;

The Council Meeting

CoS Committee Meetings tend to move along fairly quickly, once the item has been discussed we can leave.

However, you may be interested in sticking around for this meeting, because the following this item they will be discussing the CoS’s submission on the State Government’s horrendous Perth and Peel Green Growth Plan for 3.5 million , which will badly affect the urban forest.  There is nothing in this draft plan about the need to protect urban trees on private land.  Submissions on this plan need to be in by the 8th of April.  The CoS’s submission can be found on the same Agenda (on pg 147).  Also note, many LGs have not bothered to put their submissions for this plan out for public comment on Agendas like this, it great the CoS have chosen to do so.

At CoS Committee Meetings, one spokes person from each group can speak for 3 minutes, either for or against any item that is on the Agenda.  The Councillors can then ask that person questions. A little later Councillors discuss each item in turn and either opt to deal with it the issue at a future meeting or they make some recommendations which then go to the full ‘Ordinary Council’ meeting.

The next Ordinary Council meeting is on Tuesday 15th March at 7pm, please put this in your diary encase we need to go.

The next Ordinary Council meeting, where this item is discussed, will be very important.  This is where they will vote to approve or disapprove recommendation.  All Councillors, Executives, various managers and the media will be there.   At the CoS Ordinary Council Meetings anyone, even people who live outside of the city can ask up to 3 questions, after that the council will discuss and possibly change the recommendation and the vote to approve or reject recommendation, etc.. We will need a large contingent of supporters at the meeting.   Here are the Council and Committee Meeting Dates for 2016 .


The Process of Introducing Tree Protection Laws

  1. The process will take a while, changes to LG Local Planning Schemes require public consultation and quite few council meeting decisions etc..
  1. Any changes to the Local Planning Scheme must be approved by the WAPC.  This is where we see this becoming a WA wide campaign?

You often hear that Local Governments are unable to enforce tree protection on private land, because there is no provision in State Government’s Planning and Development Act of 2005  which allows them to do so?  However in Schedule 7 (pg 15) of the Act, lists “Matters which may be dealt with by planning scheme”.  Point 4 is “Preservation and Conservation”, which can be found on pg 209.  It reads as follows;

       “4. Preservation and conservation

(1) The preservation of places and objects of cultural heritage significance, including control of the demolition and alteration of any building, structure or works.

(2) The conservation of the natural environment of the scheme area including the protection of natural resources, the preservation of trees, vegetation and other flora and fauna, and the maintenance of ecological processes and genetic diversity.

(3) The conservation of water.”

Some suggest the problem is that  Local Planning Schemes traditionally have not contained any provisions to back up Councils’ conditions of approval that trees are removed indiscriminately.  What is needed in Local Planning Schemes is a head of power that authorises Councils to control/regulate tree removal.  The extent of control should be left to individual Councils, with each local government deciding what is specified in its planning scheme and what is covered by policy/regulations.  Matters such as the size of trees, species, pruning, etc. are best detailed in policies or local laws.

Other planners believe that the word “trees” or “green infrastructure”, needs to be included in the definition of “development” in the State Government’s Planning and Development Act of 2005, see Part 1.4, which currently states;

“development means the development or use of any land, including —

  • any demolition, erection, construction, alteration of or addition to any building or structure on the land;
  • the carrying out on the land of any excavation or other works;
  • in the case of a place to which a Conservation Order made under section 59 of the Heritage of Western Australia Act 1990 applies, any act or thing that —

(i) is likely to change the character of that place or the external appearance of any building; or

(ii) would constitute an irreversible alteration of the fabric of any building;”

The definition of the word “development” may needs to include trees and large plants over 1.5m (?) in height”?

Rejection of the amendment?

Should the State Government reject a CoS Local Planning Scheme amendment to protect trees on development sites, they would clearly be failing in their duty to protect the people of the City of Stirling , by not allowing the CoS to protect the urban tree canopy to mitigate dangerous urban heat.

Removing trees and vegetation and replacing them with a hard surfaced built environments, significantly increases urban temperatures.  This is undeniable, see what  NASA and the US EPA have to say about the Urban Heat Island Effect.   Increasing urban heat is a serious health threat now, it causing debilitating heat-stress, hospitalizations, deaths and reduced economic productivity.  Heat related deaths in WA exceed the road toll.

There would be no other way to view a rejection of such an amendment by the WAPC, other than to view it as a “Failure of Climate-Change Mitigation and Adaptation” and a “Failure of Urban Planning”.  See the Global Economic Forum – Global Risk Report for 2016.

This report identifies 28 risks to humanity.  The “Failure of Climate-Change Mitigation and Adaptation” is considered one of the greatest risks.  As Australia has been identified by CSIRO and other scientific institutions, as likely to be the country most severely affected by climate-change (specifically by extreme heat and drought), it is mandatory that action to mitigate urban temperatures be taken now, as killer heat is already a serious issue.


  • The City of Nedlands did implement tree protection laws back in the 90’s on privately owned land, which were in operation for  two years, before the their Planning Scheme was amended to delete the tree protection requirements.  It was quashed by the far right Private Property Rights group (the NRA of the WA property industry), lead by former Liberal MP Bill Hassell.  Bill Hassell is now the Deputy Mayor of Nedlands and Nedlands has suffered huge tree loss, see Western suburbs not-so-leafy … Nedlands loses 12 hectares of tree cover.

“Council Resolution 1114/017 Moved Councillor Jenkinson, seconded Councillor Michael

That the City SET a target of an average of 18% canopy cover across the City by 2030, as a means to measure the effectiveness of the Million Trees Program and other initiatives to increase the City’s canopy cover. The motion was put and declared CARRIED (7/4). 

For: Councillors Italiano, Jenkinson, Michael, Proud, Re, Sargent and Stewart. 

Against: Councillors Boothman, Caddy, Tyzack and Willox.”

  • Nothing happened for almost a year. The item remained in the ‘Memorandum of Outstanding Business’, of the CoS Community and Resources Committee Agenda for nearly 12 months, as it had been agreed that no further decisions could be made until a workshop had been held to bring Councillor up to speed on the urban forest situation. A workshop date was finally set after the Stirling Urban Tree Network requested, at a Council Meeting, that a date to be set for the meeting to get things moving.  A date was then set and a workshop for Councillors was held on the 9th of November 2015.
  • Officers prepared a report and presented it Councillors at the workshop on the 9th of November 2015. Not all Councillors attended and some left after the presentation before discussions commenced.   Apparently the report revealed some disturbing projections.  In a nut shell, the city has worked out that, even if they continue to plant thousands of street and park trees on council owned land, costing tens of millions of dollars, the tree canopy of the city will end up less than it is now by 2030, unless something is done to address the removal of trees on development sites.  Tree removal from privately owned land for development and infill, is the major cause of tree removals in the city.  R40 zoning has been identified as the biggest culprit.   They project that some R40 zones will end up with canopy covers as low as 1.5% by 2030.  But all suburbs in the city would end up with less trees than they have now.
  • On the 2nd of December at the 202020Vision Perth Masterclass, which was attended by an impressive contingent of Officers and Councillors from the CoS, Ian Hunter, the Manager of Parks and Street Trees, announced that the CoS would start developing an Urban Forest Strategy.
  • As it stands developers in the CoS seem to bulldoze entire sites from boundary to boundary and then submit their plans to council for approval. Treeless blocks of land or new homes go on the market, without the seller knowing whether or not the new owners would have preferred to keep the tree/trees or even have paid a premium for them?

This image below is of a property in on North Beach Road in Karrinyup.  It was subdivided into 3    lots.  The owners cleared it of all trees and vegetation in September 2013, prior to putting all 3 lots on the market.

Residental subdivision North Beach Rd Karrinyup

site demolishon Karrinyup 006  site demolishon Karrinyup 001

Quite a few mature trees were removed as you can see from the images above. The large white barked gum tree on the right, was right over on the western boundary. It was bigger than the remaining gum tree on the neighbours property.  It would have shaded all 3 lots from the hot afternoon sun?  This would have allowed new home owners to enjoy shade in their outdoor areas in summer from day one?

  • We believe that many trees could be saved if we had more public education around the importance of trees and if the planning process was changed;

Before designing buildings a site analysis should to be conducted by a qualified Arboricultural Consultant first.  This would determine which trees are healthy and worth saving and providing significant shade.  The site analysis could also identify potential locations for new trees to be planted.  After the site analysis, the city could make its recommendations and determinations and the designers could then go to work on the buildings.


Any extra cost to homeowners from having to building around trees, would be justified by the increased value of the property, improved quality of life (for example, enjoying a cooler, more pleasant outdoor living environment), reduced air-conditioning costs, greater overall comfort and a lower risk of heat related illness in the event on an extended black out during heatwaves.  The general public need to realise that, as urban temperatures rise and the public become better educated on the importance of trees, properties with trees will become more sort after and even more valuable, than they are today.  Money really does grow on trees.  Planting the right tree in the right position could increase the value of a property by thousands of dollars each year.

Image source architizer com

The general public, urban designers, architects and builders need to learn how to  build around trees and work with the natural contours of the land, as they have in the past and as they already do over east and in other countries with similar climates, like California, in the US for example.  How to protect trees on development sites is laid out well in the Australian Standard for Protecting Trees on Development Sites. 




Significant Tree Registers

A few people have mentioned Significant Tree Registers as a possible means of protecting trees?  The National Trust has developed a Significant Tree Register for all states and some LGs have managed to protect trees to some extent, by making a scheme amendments to heritage provisions and introducing provisions for significant tree protection.

However, the Significant Tree route only protects a limited number of trees and does not take into consideration a trees urban heat mitigation value (i.e. volume and density of the canopy).  Many big healthy mature trees do not make it on to Significant Tree Registers, for example, see this article about trees in the City of Fremantle.

Following is how the City of Cockburn amended their Local Planning Scheme;


RESOLVED that the Council, in pursuance of Section 75 of the Planning and Development Act 2005, amend the above Town Planning Scheme by:

  1. Including a new clause 7.6 as follows:

‘Planning approval is required prior to the removal, destruction of and/or interference with any tree included on the Local Government Inventory Significant Tree list.’

(Dated this 8th day of July 2010)

Excerpts from the City of Cockburn  Heritage Conservation Design Guidelines Significant Tree List


The City of Cockburn Local Government Inventory (“LGI”) identifies places within the City of Cockburn that have cultural heritage significance. The compilation of a Local Government Inventory is a requirement of Clause 45 of the Heritage of Western Australia Act 1990. Those places on the LGI with the greatest heritage significance are also included on the Heritage List pursuant to the Scheme.

The City of Cockburn’s LGI includes a significant tree list, and these trees are protected under the City of Cockburn Town Planning Scheme No. 3 (“the Scheme”).

Significant Trees means trees that are included on the Significant Tree List (contained within the LGI) for their significance, which includes characteristics such as outstanding aesthetic significance, horticultural value, historic value, and/or unique location or context.”

(4) Significant Trees

Under the Scheme planning approval is required prior to the removal, destruction of and/or interference with any tree included on the Significant Tree List, and as such the following policy provisions apply:

  1. Significant Trees may be pruned as part of routine maintenance in accordance with the International Society of Arboriculture standards, provided the pruning would not reduce the tree’s height or crown or diameter, alter the trees general appearance, increase the tree’s susceptibility to insects or disease, or otherwise increase its risk of mortality.
  1. The removal of a Significant Tree will only be supported where it is necessary to protect public safety or private or public property from imminent danger and the onus is on the applicant to demonstrate that this is the case. This may require the submission of a report prepared by a suitably qualified arborist.
  1. Proposals for substantial pruning to a Significant Tree may require the submission of an arborist report prepared by a suitably qualified consultant demonstrating that the proposal is acceptable and will not endanger the tree’s survival or fore-shorten its life expectancy.

We don’t believe a Significant Tree Register would have much impact on protecting our urban forest in the City of Stirling.  Areas where heritage protection is the focus, such as Mt Lawley, Menora and Coolbinia are already leafy, with canopies around 18%.  The CoS has Guidelines for heritage areas – See Policy Manual 3.1 – CHARACTER RETENTION GUIDELINES MT LAWLEY, MENORA AND INGLEWOOD .  These areas will also lose significant percentages of canopy cover if the trees are not properly protected.


The Stirling Urban Tree Network – (Draft) Strategy

  1. Help raise public awareness about the importance of trees for public health, particularly for mitigating dangerous urban heat.
  1. Help raise awareness of the danger of heat-stress on human health.
  1. Help raise awareness around the importance of trees and cool green streets, suburbs and commercial areas for our economy (amenity value, productivity and livability ratings which attract tourists and businesses).
  1. Raise awareness around ways to building around trees and build on the natural contours of the land.
  1. Push for better regulation of the ‘Tree Services Industry’ in WA. To make it easier for consumers and Governments to identify properly qualified;
    1. Arboricultural Consultants, who can diagnose and prescribe treatments for tree health and write Arboricultural Reports;
    2. Arborists who do professional pruning of trees to the Australian Standards and safe removal.

There are far too many cowboys in this unregulated industry and consumers and trees deserve better.

  1. Lobby and inform City of Stirling executives and Councillors about the importance of tree protection and what we would like to see them do about it.
  1. Request a moratorium on tree removal on private land, until the details of the amendments to the Local Planning Scheme have been made.
  1. Encourage groups and community members to get involved by attending important council meetings, writing emails etc. to the CoS, sharing social media posts on the subject with their family and friends and drop flyers in their streets and local communities.
  1. Liaise with the media and try and to generate publicity.
  1. Should the CoS council fail to agree to making an amendment to protect trees on development sites, we will call for a Special Meeting of Electors and continue fighting.
  1. Start a crowd funding campaign, with other tree groups, with objective of taking the WA Government to court if they were to reject a CoS amendment, for failing to protect citizens from increasing urban heat.

See In Landmark Case, Dutch Citizens Sue Their Government Over Failure To Act On Climate Change

Please let us know if you have any ideas or comments?


CoS Email lists

Please keep writing emails to the CoS.   Ward information and contact details for all 14 Councillors can be found on the CoS website and here are the Executive Officer profiles and the organizational structure , following are email lists ready to cut and paste into your emails;


Councillors on the Planning and Development Committee are;

(Cr. Samantha Jenkinson is the Presiding Member and Cr. Stephanie Proud is the Deputy Presiding Member)

Full email list of Councillors, starting with Mayor Italiano;


CoS Executive Officers, starting with Mr Jardine (CEO), see executive profiles;


Manager of Parks, Reserves & Street Trees;





One thought on “Protecting Trees on Development Sites – City of Stirling

  1. I am extremely pleased to see this initiative taking place in the City of Stirling. Having lived in Melbourne for a number of years, City of Banyule, where tree protection legislation exists it was devastating to see the extent of tree removal taking place on sites across Carine and Gwellup in the name of progress. The value of our city comes not only from proximity to the city but the amenity of its older suburbs, open green spaces and good canopy cover in many suburbs. The value of this is not truly understood or appreciated until its gone.

    I encourage all of our Councillors to recognize the economic, social and environmental value of conserving our existing urban forest and extending it for future generations. These include reducing heat island impacts, improving air quality, increasing property value, active (healthy) communities, maintaining biodiversity, enhancing public amenity and national/international recognition as a highly desired place to live and visit. In summary, there are many benefits of being a world leading sustainable city and few drawbacks.

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