A guide to protected trees

​Trees are a valued community feature as they provide visual amenity, soften the built landscape and contribute to a sense of heritage - a living symbol that connects past, present and future. Trees also provide food and important habitat for a range of different species. 

The Waipā District, particularly Cambridge, contains a number of significant specimen trees, of historic, botanic and amenity value, many of which date from early European settlement. 

Why have protected trees?

Cambridge, in particular, is fortunate in having many mature trees on private property. Most of these trees are introduced species which were planted in the late 19th Century, as there were very few trees in the vicinity of Cambridge at the time of European settlement in 1864.

The Proposed Waipa District Plan (PDP) contains provisions in Section 23 which seek to protect trees which have been identified as having high historic, botanic and amenity value. 

The focus in this section is on the protection of listed specimen trees on private property, from inappropriate pruning, trimming, removal, or inappropriate development within their root protection zone. 

How are the trees chosen?

Each tree is inspected, evaluated and scored by an arborist using the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture tree evaluation method . Features included in the inspection cover the general health of the tree, form, rarity, size, location, age and the presence of other trees.

How are trees added to the list?

If the owner of a tree, Council staff, or anyone else believes that a particular tree is worthy of protection, an assessment can be made to establish whether it meets the requirements for protection. Should the tree be confirmed as having significant value and meet the Council criteria for protection it will be the subject of an application for a Plan Change to be included in Section 23 of the District Plan. 

This process is publicly notified so that any interested person may comment on the proposal. Trees are also removed from the list by Plan Change process.

Where are the protected trees located?

Most of the trees are located in Cambridge with a few in Te Awamutu, Pirongia and Ohaupo. The most reliable means of identification is by checking Appendix N4 of the Proposed Waipa District Plan. It is advisable to acquire a Land Information Memorandum (LIM) prior to purchasing a property. The LIM will include details of any protected trees on the property.

What are the rights and responsibilities of the owner?

The tree/s (and the space around it) may be used and enjoyed as usual (including lawn mowing and gardening), provided that the tree, including the root system is not damaged in any way. 

Should the tree lose the qualities for which it was protected or if it becomes structurally unsound, contact Council staff for advice.

What if I want to prune the tree?

Contact Council, who will assess whether the tree requires any work. Remedial pruning and tree maintenance is undertaken by Council under the direction of and in accordance with the recommendations of a professionally recognised arborist.

A Resource Consent is required for the pruning or shaping of a protected tree where the works are not undertaken by Council. The Resource Consent must be obtained before any work can begin.

Under what circumstances might a tree be removed?

Council staff may approve the emergency removal  of a protected tree where the  tree is causing an imminent hazard to life or property.  

Furthermore, Resource Consent is required for the  removal of a protected  tree for the following reasons:

  • If the tree is dead or dying
  • The tree is causing a significant hazard to life or property
  • The values associated with the protected tree have significantly deteriorated
  • The tree is subject to a court order

Who is liable for costs?

Council will cover the cost of pruning a protected tree only if Council considers that the health of the tree, or the safety or people or property is compromised. 

Please note that these costs will only be covered where written landowner consent is provided to Council (and its contractors) to access the property. In other circumstances, all costs are met by the owner or in the case of a resource consent, by the applicant. 

What if I don’t want the tree to be protected?

If an owner, another person, or Council staff believe that a tree should not be on the register, a change to the Proposed Waipa District Plan is required.

If professional advice is provided that the tree no longer meets the requirements for protection or is a danger to people or property, Council may meet costs incurred in the Plan Change process. Usually, if the owner of the tree wishes to have the tree removed from the list he or she must lodge the Plan Change application and pay all costs.

What are the consequences if someone breaks the rules of the district plan regarding protected trees?

If you remove, prune or work near a protected tree on your property without first applying for resource consent, you may incur a fine under the Resource Management Act.

What about the debris from protected trees?

Councils remedial and preventative pruning programmes are intended to reduce in incidence of larger debris such as branches falling from trees. Leaf fall, as a natural occurring process is not considered debris.  An example of remedial pruning is removing dead and broken branches from a tree as they occur. 

What if the tree causes damage to private property?

The New Zealand Insurance Council have advised Waipa District Council that private house insurance should cover damage caused by trees on your property, this includes protected trees.  If a tree close to th​e house has a history of branches dropping that could damage the house, you should disclose this to your insurance company. 

If not there is a possibility that a claim could be declined, however the insurance company has to prove this.  If in doubt or if you require further information contact your insurer.

Need to know more?

For more detailed information about protected trees please get in touch​.  For enquiries about maintenance of protected trees contact the Parks Team, for enquiries about consents and protection contact the Consents Planning Team.

Page reviewed: 15 Nov 2018 3:33pm