Neighbourhood tree disputes affect many people in the Victorian community and may become more common as our population expands and our gardens get smaller. Similarly, as our communities place increasing importance on the urban forest, and become more aware of climate change, there may be more objections about the removal of vegetation in our neighbourhoods.
Tree disputes are often about overhanging branches, encroaching roots, leaf litter, the presence of large trees close to boundary lines, and the loss of vegetation. Because of the proximity of neighbours and the tendency of these disputes to harm neighbour relations, it is important to resolve them quickly. Often this does not occur because the current methods for resolving tree disputes are unclear and confusing. As a result, disputes may remain unresolved and neighbourly relations may be strained. In exceptional cases, criminal actions may occur.
It is hoped that the recommendations made in this report will bring greater clarity to the law governing the resolution of neighbourhood tree disputes in Victoria.
The key recommendation is for the introduction of a Neighbourhood Tree Disputes Act that will assist people to resolve their disputes quickly, affordably and effectively. Management of the new Act should be given to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT). VCAT’s processes are informal, flexible and widely accessible, and its matters are concluded quickly.