Trees are a major part of the city’s character and amenity.

There are rules in the Christchurch District Plan (external link) to protect a number of the city's most significant trees, as well as trees in Council owned roads, parks, reserves and public open spaces.

One of the objectives in the District Plan is to maintain and enhance the contribution of trees to the amenity of the community while also providing for the reasonable use and enjoyment of property. 

Trees are identified as being significant because they have particular botanical, heritage, amenity, landscape, cultural, ecological and/or environmental values. 

List of significant trees on private property

Significant trees and groups of trees on private property are listed in Appendix 9.4.7.1 (external link) of the Christchurch District Plan. 

These trees are also identified on the Planning Maps. 

Rules for significant trees on private property

General pruning

Pruning is permitted if it meets the following criteria:

  • Roots less than 25mm in diameter at the point of cutting
  • Removal of broken branches, deadwood or diseased vegetation
  • Removal of branches with structural faults, e.g. cracks, splits, decay, cavities, torsion, bleeding/sap flow
  • Removal of branches less than 50mm in diameter at point of cutting in the bottom third of the tree (measured from ground level to the top of the canopy), where the natural shape, form and branch habit of the tree is retained. 

The following additional pruning work is permitted only if it is carried out by a qualified 'works arborist', or in accordance with advice from one:

  • Removal of branches physically interfering with existing buildings or pedestrian and vehicle accessways
  • Removal of branches 50mm - 100mm in diameter at point of cutting in the bottom third of the tree (measured from ground level to the top of the canopy), where the natural shape, form and branch habit of the tree is retained
  • Removal of foliage in the top thirds of the tree, of no more than 10% over any 3-year period, with the maximum amount removed in any one year limited to no more than 5%, and the natural shape, form and branch habit of the tree is retained. 

If a tree is causing a hazard to electricity lines or airport approach slopes it should be pruned to remove the hazard. The work must be carried out by or under the supervision of a qualified arborist. For electricity clearance work, the arborist must be engaged by the utility company. 

Felling of dead or hazardous trees

A significant tree on private property may be removed if it:

  • is dead
  • has a loss of structural integrity where the defects cannot be rectified and maintenance practices cannot improve the framework of the tree or mitigate threats to the safety of persons or property
  • does not comply with airport protection rules. 

Prior to felling the tree, a Tree Removal Certificate (P-024) (external link)  must be submitted to the Council confirming that the tree meets the above criteria for removal. The certificate must be prepared by a qualified technician arborist and contain the information outlined in Appendix 9.4.7.3 of the District Plan.

Technician arborists are available at the following companies:

Gardening

Gardening, including planting of scrubs, flowers, ground cover and other small plants, and covering ground in lawn in bark, is permitted within the dripline of a significant tree as long as it does not involve:

  • Mechanical cultivation
  • Planting of trees
  • Altering existing ground levels or disturbing land other than to the extent necessary to undertake the gardening.

The dripline is shown in this diagram:

Dripline diagram for spreading and columnar canopy trees

If in doubt about which to apply, use whichever of the two measurements is greater.

With irregular shaped trees (e.g. leaning trees), the dripline is calculated by taking the greatest radial spread of the canopy from the truck in a full circle around the tree.

Resource consent for other work

A resource consent is needed for any pruning, gardening or felling not listed above.

Trees on public land

The District Plan included rules relating to pruning and felling of trees on public land, including roads (street trees), parks and reserves, and other public open space.

These trees are owned by Council and no work should be carried out without the appropriate permission. Please contact the Council if you have any questions about trees on public land, or report a problem (external link) .

You can read the full set of rules relating to Significant Trees in Chapter 9 of the Christchurch District Plan (external link) .