The new Act came into effect late last year (2011) and it introduces new responsibilities and rights in relation to trees. The Act introduces the new expression of “tree keeper”. The tree keeper is the person who is responsible to maintain the tree and ensuring that it does not become a nuisance.
A person affected by an overhanging tree can still exercise the common law right of abatement (eg: by lopping branches and roots to the boundary). Now a neighbour can decide whether or not to return the lopped branches or roots or to dispose of the cuttings themselves. When exercising the right of abatement, neighbours must take care to comply with any applicable tree or vegetation protection orders.
If a neighbour wants the tree keeper to take responsibility for lopping the branches of their tree hanging over the boundary, then the neighbour can serve a notice for overhanging branches upon the tree keeper. This notice can be used for branches which are more than half a meter over the boundary and less than 2.5 metres above the ground. If the tree keeper does not respond to the notice, the neighbour can proceed to have the lopping done and recover from the tree keeper a max sum of $300.00 per annum. Importantly, responsibility is placed on the tree keeper to ensure their neighbour’s land is not affected by a tree growing on the tree keeper’s land. For the purpose of the Act, land is affected by the tree if a neighbour can demonstrate that the tree caused serious injury to a person, serious damage to land or property or interferes with their enjoyment of the land.
“QCAT” (Queensland Civil Administrative Tribunal) has jurisdiction to hear and decide any matter in relation to a tree in which it is alleged that the land is affected by the tree.