10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code of Practice

The following information has been supplied by the Rural Fire Service.

10/50 vegetation clearing

New laws are now in place which help people prepare their homes for bush fires in NSW.

You can now find out if your property is in a 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Entitlement Area using our online tool.

The new laws allow people in a designated 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Entitlement Area to:

  • Clear trees on their property within 10 metres of a home, without seeking approval; and
  • Clear underlying vegetation such as shrubs (but not trees) on their property within 50 metres of a home, without seeking approval.

Image showing the clearing of trees within 10 metres of a home and vegetation within 50 metres of a home

The new laws are supported by the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Code of Practice.

A series of frequently asked questions has been published to provide additional information and can be accessed below.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does the 10/50 rule allow me to do?

If you live in a designated ’10/50 vegetation clearing entitlement area’, the laws will allow you to:

  • Clear trees on your property within 10 metres of a home, without seeking approval; and
  • Clear underlying vegetation (other than trees) such as shrubs on your property within 50 metres of a home, without seeking approval.

There may be other restrictions that apply, such as if your property is on a slope, or there are items of Aboriginal or cultural significance in the area. Find out more below.

Who do the new rules apply to?

The 10/50 rule applies only to properties that are in a designated 10/50 vegetation clearing entitlement area. This includes private and public land.
However, clearing can only be done if you are the landowner or you have the approval of the landowner.

How can I find out if I’m in a 10/50 vegetation clearing entitlement area?

You can search for your property to see if your property is in an entitlement area.
The online tool will also let you know if there are restrictions due to items of cultural significance, or waterways.

How do I locate my property using the online tool?

The online property search operates under Google. When you type in your address you should select your address from the drop-down list. This list contains addresses recognised by Google. Once selected you should see a marker placed on your property. If this is your property then click the ‘Get Results’ button to determine whether your property is in the clearing entitlement area.

What should I do if I cannot locate my property using the online tool?

If you search for your property and you see a pop-up error box that reads ‘We cannot locate your address on the map’ then you should consider the following:

Google may not recognise your address. This may be because Google has your suburb or street identified differently to the name you use.  For instance, Google will not recognise your address as a single number if your address is actually hyphenated e.g. you may know your address as 65 Jones Street but Google may have it mapped as 65-67 Jones Street.  Additionally, Google may not recognise your address if your property arises from a subdivision that has not yet been mapped by Google.

If this is the case, then firstly click on the ‘OK’ button. Then click on the marker and drag to your property. You may need to zoom out to get your bearings on the map prior to dragging the marker to your property. If your property is part of a larger land parcel (i.e. your subdivision has not yet been mapped) then select that larger land parcel that includes the location of your land and then click on the Get Results button.

If you still cannot locate your property, then enter and search on the name of the closest cross street, and select from the drop-down list. You should then be able to drag the marker to your property.

Google will show your address on the map at a standard scale.  This means that you may not see the boundary of your land on the map if you have a large block.  If this is the case, then zoom out to the scale that enables you to see your whole block so that you can confirm it is the right block.

If you continue to have difficulty with the online tool you should consider downloading and using Google Chrome as your web browser.

Do I have to clear vegetation if I’m in a vegetation clearing entitlement area?

No. It is an entitlement to clear, not a requirement. You may contact your local NSW RFS District Office if you are seeking advice regarding your property and bush fire hazard management.

What if the vegetation is on a neighbouring block?

The new rule only applies to your property. You may not clear neighbouring property without that property owner’s consent.

However, you can ask neighbours to clear if the vegetation on their property is within 10 metres or 50 metres of your building. However they may only clear if their property is also in a clearing entitlement area.

Your neighbours (public or private) are not required to clear simply because they are in the 10/50 clearing entitlement area or because you would like them to.

If you believe there is a bush fire hazard on neighbouring land that is not being addressed then you can make a hazard complaint by contacting your local NSW RFS District Office.

You may prune branches within 10 metres of your building where those branches are overhanging your land from a tree on your neighbour’s property, however you will need to comply with a range of conditions.  For more information refer to the Frequently Asked Question below – ‘Are there any conditions when pruning trees?

Can I clear vegetation on my property if the building I am seeking to protect is on my neighbours land?

You may clear vegetation in accordance with the 10/50 Code if your property is in the clearing entitlement area, and the neighbouring residence (or high risk facility) is within 10/50 metres of the area you are clearing. You do not need your neighbour’s consent to clear vegetation on your own land.

What kind of buildings does the 10/50 rule cover?

You can clear vegetation near the external walls of a building containing habitable rooms such as a home, tourist or visitor accommodation, caravans that are in caravan parks, and manufactured homes installed in manufactured home estates.

You can also clear vegetation near the external walls of high risk facilities including child care centres, hospitals and schools (but not tertiary institutions such as universities or TAFE).

The building must also be one that has been approved with provision for habitable rooms by a Development Consent or other lawful authority. If the building has been constructed without consent, the 10/50 rules do not apply.

More information on the definition of a habitable room is contained in the 10/50 Code of Practice.

Can I clear vegetation if my house is not yet constructed but I have Development Consent?

No. You may only clear once the building has been constructed.

Where do I measure the 10 or 50 metres from?

The distance is from the external walls of the building. It includes permanent fixed structures such as decks or garages that are attached to the building. It does not include detached garages, sheds and the like.

How do I know which conditions apply to my property?

You may only clear in accordance with the 10/50 rules in the Code of Practice. You must read the Code and apply the conditions to your property. If your property has the potential for Prescribed Streams, Aboriginal heritage or other cultural heritage the online tool will identify this in the results.

Can I burn vegetation under the 10/50 rule?

You cannot use the 10/50 Code as an exemption from, or to obtain approval for, burning vegetation.
Refer to the NSW RFS publication ‘Before You Light That Fire’ or contact your local NSW RFS District if you are seeking further information on burning and the types of approvals that may be required.
It is against the law to dump any vegetation.

Are there any conditions when pruning trees?

You can prune any vegetation within 10 metres of the building, or any vegetation other than trees within 50 metres of the building.

Pruning of trees must be in accordance with AS 4373-2007 Pruning of amenity trees. AS 4373-2007 is an Australian Standard for tree pruning that provides for trees to remain safe after branches are pruned. A copy of the Standard can be purchased from Standards Australia through their website www.standards.org.au.

If the trunk of a tree is greater than 10 metres from the building you may clear any branches within 10 metres of the building. However, you may only prune in accordance with the Australian Standard.  This may mean that you need to prune branches beyond the 10 metre boundary in order to balance the tree and meet the Australian Standard.  If this is the case, then you should confirm with Council as to whether they require approval for the pruning that is greater than 10 metres.  You will need to do this before you commence any pruning of the tree.

If you plan to prune branches from a neighbour’s tree that overhangs your property, you will need to determine whether pruning of the branches on their side is also required in order to balance the tree and meet the Australian Standard.  If this is the case, then you will need their consent to prune the trees on their side.  You will need to do this before you commence any pruning of the tree.

In addition, if your property is on a slope of more than 18 degrees, pruning can only be done if at least 75% of the canopy is retained, except if there are conditions identified in a Geotechnical Engineer Assessment Report.

Should I seek the services of a professional when pruning or removing a tree?

It is your responsibility to ensure tree removal and pruning is undertaken safely. You should always use reputable and professional tree services.

You should consider hiring only trained tree removal services. There are professional associations such as Tree Contractors Association Australia, the National Arborist Association of Australia, and Arboriculture Australia, that can provide advice. Be aware that membership of an association does not always guarantee qualifications.

Tree removal does not require a trade licence in Australia. You should assure yourself that operators are appropriately qualified for the work being undertaken. TAFE NSW delivers training ranging from a Statement of Attainment, Certificate II, III and IV to Diploma level (also known as AQF levels 1-5. Be aware that untrained people may claim to be qualified. Therefore you should sight evidence of their qualifications.

You should check that any quotes from contractors include reference to meeting the NSW WorkCover Code of Practice for the Amenity Tree Industry. This provides a minimum set of standards for work place safety.

You should check that the service provider you use has current and appropriate insurances such as workers compensation, and personal and public liability insurance. You can also contact the insurance company to check that the policy is current and covers the type of work being undertaken. Your home insurance policy is unlikely to cover tree works. Tree removal services should also be licensed as a business.

What is considered a tree?

Under the Code, a tree is a perennial woody plant having a single stem or trunk that is three or more metres in height, and has a circumference of more than 30 centimetres at chest height.

A tree does not include a shrub, which is a small low growing woody plant with multiple stems, or a vine which is a woody plant that depends on an erect substrate to grow on.

Remember that you can only remove trees within ten metres of the building but not outside of that boundary. Note that part of the trunk must be within 10 metres of the building.

Does the 10/50 Code override Tree Preservation Orders and Development Consent conditions?

Yes. You may clear trees that would otherwise be protected by a Tree Preservation Order if you clear in accordance with the 10/50 Code. You are not required to advise your local Council.

Equally, you may clear vegetation under the 10/50 Code despite any conditions in your Development Consent.

I rent or lease my property. Can I clear vegetation?

Clearing can only be done if you are the landowner or you have the approval of the landowner. If you rent your property, you will need to get the approval from your landlord first.
It is recommended you keep written evidence of the approval.

What if there’s a land management agreement covering my property?

Clearing under this 10/50 Code cannot be inconsistent with any of the following land
management agreements:

  • any conservation agreement entered into under Division 12 of Part 4 of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974,
  • any Trust Agreement entered into under Part 3 of the Nature Conservation Trust Act 2001,
  • any property management plan approved by the Director-General of the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service under section 113B of the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995, or
  • any Property Vegetation Plan agreement entered into under Part 4 of the Native Vegetation Act 2003, or
  • any Biobanking Agreement entered into under Part 3 of the Threatened Species Conservation (Biodiversity Banking) Regulation 2008.

Contact the Office of Environment and Heritage if you are seeking further advice regarding the above land management agreements.

Do I need to consider impacts on threatened species?

The 10/50 rule does not require you to consider threatened species or ecological communities that would otherwise be protected under NSW laws.

However, you need to be aware that clearing in accordance with the 10/50 Code of Practice does not provide you with an approval under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). State laws cannot override Commonwealth laws. As such, the NSW RFS online tool does not provide advice on these matters.

The Commonwealth Department of Environment has prepared a Fact Sheet on Bushfire Management and National Environment Law. This Fact Sheet highlights that the ‘clearing of a defendable space around a home or rural asset in accordance with state/territory and local government requirements’ is unlikely to require approval by the federal government. They also advise that whether a particular activity will have a significant impact must be considered on a case-by-case basis.

You should contact the Commonwealth Department of Environment if you are seeking advice on the EPBC Act.

What if my property is on a slope?

Some land may be susceptible to erosion or landslip. You cannot remove trees on slopes greater than 18 degrees on your property except in accordance with conditions identified in a Geotechnical Engineer Assessment Report.

In addition, if your property is on a slope of more than 18 degrees, pruning can only be done if at least 75% of the canopy is retained, except if there are conditions identified in a Geotechnical Engineer Assessment Report.

If you are unsure as to whether the tree you want to clear is located on a slope of more than 18 degrees you should seek professional advice ie from a surveyor or other appropriately qualified professional.

Are there any restrictions on clearing methods?

You can not use clearing methods that disturb the soil profile, such as graders, ploughs or dozers.
You cannot use the 10/50 Code as an exemption or to obtain approval for burning vegetation.

Refer to ‘Before You Light That Fire’ or contact your local NSW RFS District if you are seeking further information on burning and the types of approvals that may be required..

Can I clear vegetation near waterways?

The clearing of vegetation is not allowed within 10 metres of a Prescribed Stream. The online tool will identify whether there may be a Prescribed Stream on your property.

How will I know if there is heritage on my property?

The online tool will identify whether there may be Aboriginal heritage or other cultural heritage on your property. If there is heritage identified on your property you will need to contact the Office of Environment and Heritage on the contact details provided to obtain advice.

How can I get a copy of the 10/50 Code of Practice?

You can download the Code of Practice from this website..

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