Adelaide’s urban tree canopy gets major boost with new protective regulations

Adelaide’s urban tree canopy is set to receive increased protection following the introduction of new planning regulations.

Adelaide’s urban tree canopy is set to receive increased protection following the introduction of new planning regulations by the South Australian Government.

The updated rules are aimed at preserving large, mature trees across the urban landscape and will take effect immediately.

Within the new legislation, the classification around what represents a regulated or significant tree has changed. Previously, a tree needed to have a trunk circumference of two metres to be considered regulated, and three metres to be considered as significant. These figures have now been changed to one metre for regulated trees, and two metres for significant trees.

The distance from a house or pool where trees can be removed without approval has also been reduced. The previous regulation allowed removal of trees within 10 metres, but the distance has now been reduced to three metres, further limiting uncontrolled tree removal.

Pruning regulations have also changed. Under the new guidelines, only 30% of a tree’s canopy may be removed every five years. This makes sure the natural benefits of mature trees, such as shade and environmental resilience, are not severely diminished by excessive pruning.

The fees associated with the destruction or removal of protected trees have seen a significant increase, with the fee for a regulated tree increasing from $326 to $1000. While for a significant tree, the fee has risen from $489 to $1500.

The revenue generated from these fees will contribute to either local urban tree funds or the State Government’s Planning and Development Fund, which intends to finance the planting and maintenance of new trees, or to buy land for future greening projects.

The urgent nature of these regulations reflects the government’s commitment to stemming the loss of green cover in urban settings. The decision is partly in response to community feedback which highlighted tree protection as a critical issue.

“South Australia will go from having the weakest tree protection policies in the country to the most comprehensive, as we deliver on our commitment to protect and improve our urban canopy,” Minister for Housing and Urban Development Nick Champion said.

“Conservation groups have welcomed these changes. Joanna Wells, Conservation SA Outreach Coordinator, praised the broad community involvement in achieving these outcomes and highlighted the multiple benefits of tree canopy, including contributions to mental and physical health and biodiversity,” Conservation SA Outreach Coordinator Joanna Wells said.

“These changes are a positive outcome toward better protecting trees across South Australia and are what the LGA has been calling for in our advocacy to government,” Local Government Association President Mayor Dean Johnson said.

Those with existing development applications or approvals will have a 12-month transition period to comply with the new standards, aiming to provide enough time for the implementation of the new regulations without disrupting ongoing development processes.

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