Draft Tree Policy

Our tree policy will provide consistency and clarity in decision making when maintaining, planting, removing and working around trees.

Project status: Decision made
Open for feedback: 14 September 2020 to 12 October 2020

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Consultation has now closed 

People were able to provide feedback from 14 September to 12 October 2020. 

During this time we heard from 70 individuals and groups. One more submission arrived in November. You can read all their feedback [PDF, 8.4 MB].

The Hearing Panel considered the staff report and heard deputations  on Monday 7 December. 

The agenda for this meeting , which includes a copy of the submissions and consultation analysis, can be found -  https://christchurch.infocouncil.biz/(external link)

The Hearing Panel’s recommendations were presented to Council for a final decision and the policy has now been adopted with the recommended changes.


Trees play an integral part in reinforcing our identity as the Garden City, a reputation which many Christchurch residents pride themselves on. As well as their aesthetic values, trees also provide a range of other essential environmental, economic and social community benefits. With the current challenges being faced through climate change, the vital role which trees play in sequesting carbon, cooling through shade and managing stormwater has never been more important. We understand the need to take a leadership role in the management of trees to ensure that the many benefits provided by such a vital resource are maintained for future generations. Through proactive management of trees on public land these benefits can be maximised and retained for the future.

We are currently developing an Urban Forest Plan which will address the strategic planning of our urban forest. Our Tree Policy will align with the Urban Forest Plan and should be read in conjunction with it once this is in place.


This policy provides guidance for the planting, protection, maintenance and removal of trees on land we own and look after. It aims to help manage trees to meet community aspirations, service requests and provide clarity for decision making while maintaining consistency in the approaches taken by us and our contractors.

Policy statement

The principle objective of this policy is to provide consistency and clarity in decision making when maintaining, planting, removing and working around trees.


Policy scope

This policy includes all trees on land we own and look after, including parks, reserves, roads and other public spaces.

The following activities are included in this policy:



Protection during construction or earthworks


This policy does not include trees located in the following areas:

On private land

On state highway land

Public land not owned or looked after by us

Other areas which are not included in this policy:

Native revegetation or regeneration

Plantation forestry

Riccarton Bush 


1.0 Tree planting

Tree Planting

Tree planting is an integral part of managing and developing trees on public land to achieve a long term sustainable canopy over the city. To achieve the appropriate canopy cover for the urban environment and to offset any canopy cover reduction an increase in planting numbers is required.  Improving the quality of the tree canopy will be achieved through planting “the right tree in the right place”.


We will actively seek new tree planting opportunities in suitable locations to maximise canopy cover and deliver ongoing environmental, economic and social benefits.

All projects we lead will prioritise the incorporation of new tree planting into their design. This may include but is not limited to installing new underground services outside of grass berms to allow sufficient rooting environment for new trees.

We will endeavour to plant the most appropriate tree species based on site suitability, aesthetic, functional and biological attributes, performance, longevity and the potential to contribute to landscape character.

In sites of ecological significance including non urban areas of Banks Peninsula, and the Port Hills, we will endeavour to strengthen and enhance existing indigenous biodiversity and ecological resilience by selecting native species provenanced to the local area or region for new tree planting except where other species are necessary for specified reasons.

Trees will be planted only in the road reserve where the species selected has sufficient space to grow into mature and healthy specimens without causing significant damage to existing infrastructure. Trees will be planted under power lines only where the species selected is able to grow to maturity without requiring line clearance pruning that results in poor tree form or structure.

All trees will have a minimum establishment maintenance period of 24 months.

The owners of property located directly next to new or replacement tree planting may have input into the final positioning of the tree, but not as to whether a tree is to be planted outside their property.              

The cost of planting and establishing street and park trees within new subdivisions will be covered by the developer for at least 24 months.

Tree replacement


We acknowledge that trees have a finite lifespan and may require removal for a number of different reasons. We are committed to ensuring that a tree renewal programme is maintained to ensure the canopy cover is not only replaced but is also increased for future generations.


1.9  For every tree removed a minimum of two new trees will be planted.

  • The canopy cover which is lost as a result of the removal will be replaced within 20 years through the  planting of additional trees.  
  • The location for the new tree will be based on the following:


Road corridor removals

(1)  In the same road corridor where the tree was removed; or

(2)   If no further planting in the road corridor is required, then in the closest road corridor that requires          either new or additional planting; or

(3)  Within the Urban Forest.


Removals outside of the road corridor such as reserves:

(1)  In the same reserve where the tree was removed; or

(2)   If no further planting in reserve is required, then in the closest road corridor or reserve that requires either new or additional planting; or

(3)  Within the Urban Forest.

Community planting

We support the community care and ongoing stewardship of public open spaces. Community planting is one way residents can become directly involved with the care of their local reserve. Community-initiated tree planting requires prior approval from the asset owner of the land (i.e. the specific Council unit) and the local community board. Information to be provided for approval should include the proposed site, planting locations, species, the perspective of surrounding neighbours and ongoing maintenance arrangements will be needed prior to approval being given.


We encourage community involvement and will endeavour to support and enhance community planting and engagement opportunities.

Note: This policy should be read in association with the Community Garden and Edible Tree Policies.

Commemorative trees

Commemorative tree planting is generally done to honour a particular person or for remembering an event. The type of tree and chosen location need to be appropriate for the person or event that it is commemorating. Commemorative planting should also contribute to the amenity of the location by ensuring the tree is healthy and complements
the surrounding environment.


We will consider requests for commemorative tree planting in public open space.

The species of trees used for commemorative tree planting may vary depending on the suitability of the site and any planting designs, plans, strategies and policies.

A minimum replacement period will be determined with the applicant prior to the tree planting. The tree will be replaced if it dies within this time period. Once the minimum replacement period has expired we will no longer be obligated to replace the tree.

While we will make every effort to retain a commemorative tree, we reserve the right to remove the tree for development purposes, or any other Council project. If this is done prior to the minimum replacement period we will plant a new commemorative tree in the closest available position and where possible with input from the applicant.

2.0 Maintenance of trees in public spaces

Tree maintenance

Trees provide a large range of benefits to both the city and their immediate surroundings such as cooling and filtering the air.
We will maintain our tree assets to maximise their benefits while minimising conflicts and disruptions.


We will maintain tree canopy clearances of our trees over footpaths, cycle ways, carriageways, vehicle crossings and onstreet car parks where it is practical to do so. Where this is likely to cause long or short term detriment to the tree we will prune the tree only to the extent required for the interest of public safety.

We will prune trees to provide necessary clearances to infrastructure such as power lines and other overhead services. Where the tree is considered significant or of high value and pruning is likely to cause long or short term detriment to the tree’s health and structure, we will engage with the network owner to explore alternative options to pruning such as the bundling of wires.

Where appropriate we will prune trees to improve public safety. This may include but is not limited to pruning to improve sightlines, or pruning for crime prevention purposes.

All pruning shall be undertaken by, or under the supervision of, a works arborist employed or contracted by us or a network utility operator.

We will not undertake full height reduction pruning to alleviate tree issues such as shading or debris, or the establishment, retention or enhancement of views.

We may consider other forms of pruning, branch removal or targeted canopy reductions, to alleviate boundary encroachment, for views, reduce shading or debris at the request of a resident, provided, in the opinion of a Council arborist, it does not negatively affect the health or structural integrity of the tree or the environmental, aesthetic, landscape or amenity benefits provided by the tree.

Where tree pruning has been approved by a Council arborist and the benefits of the pruning are considered to be solely beneficial to the property owner(s), we reserve the right to request the resident(s) meet(s) the financial costs of pruning. We will provide the expected costs for the works for approval prior to any works being undertaken.

Tree risk

We acknowledge the risk posed to people and property through failure of the whole tree or individual branches. While the risk posed by trees is inherently low, we will use reasonable endeavours to ensure that tree risk is managed in a proportionate and practical way.


We will maintain our trees to promote structurally sound growth and reduce branch and whole tree failure where it is likely to increase the risk to people and property to an unacceptable risk.

We will develop and adhere to a tree risk management procedure to manage the risk posed by trees in a proportionate and practical way. This will include the following:

How to identify high risk trees

Details of different types of assessments

Frequency of assessments

How these trees will be managed

We will develop and maintain a publicly available database on our tree assets.

The management of the risk posed by trees shall be prioritised over the amenity or historical value provided by the tree. The management of risk should include tree pruning and/or adapting the area surrounding the tree. Removal should only be considered as a last resort.

Ecological improvements

Trees provide a significant contribution to the ecological environment within the city by providing a habitat to a large number of living organisms. Without the services trees provide whether it be habitat or a food source many of these organisms would not be able to survive. We acknowledge the important role trees play in the natural environment and will strive to manage the trees in a way that will foster and enhance the environment for indigenous flora and fauna.


We will actively encourage opportunities to provide habitat for indigenous flora and fauna.

We will promote the ecological benefits provided by trees through our tree maintenance programme.

3.0 Working around trees

 Working around trees

Trees within the urban environment are often subjected to adverse conditions particularity during construction activity. It is important to manage works around trees to ensure they are not subjected to work practices that are detrimental to the health or structural integrity of trees. Where this may occur we require a Tree Protection Management Plan (TPMP) to be developed by the person(s) undertaking/managing the works. This must be approved by us prior to work commencing.


A Tree Protection Management Plan (TPMP) is to be submitted to us for any activity or work proposed near one of our trees where the works are likely to impact on the tree or its root zone.

TPMPs are to be developed by the person(s) undertaking/managing the works and be in accordance with the Christchurch City Council Construction Standard Specifications (CSS). We must approve a TPMP prior to work commencing.

Development projects on land we own and/or look after will prioritise the retention of mature trees through all aspects of the project.

We reserve the right to seek compensation and/or remediation for loss or damage to our trees and their immediate environment as a result of the works being carried out. Damage or loss will include but is not limited to:

Death or decline of tree(s) health

Physical damage to the tree(s)

Damage to the tree(s) roots and/or rooting environment including compaction or contamination of the soil

Loss of environmental and ecological benefits provided by the tree

We will determine the value through either the cost of replacement/repair of loss/damage or through an approved tree valuation method, whichever we deem to be most appropriate.

Note: Compliance with Christchurch District Plan tree rules for works within the vicinity of trees will be required. This may mean in some instances a resource consent will be required, for example works within 5m of the base
of trees on our land1.

Tree value

In order for trees to be acknowledged for the value which they provide to the city we need to have a valuation system
in place.


We will implement and adapt (if required)
a recognised system for valuing our trees.

 1Chapter 9.4 of the current District Plan 2020


4.0 Removal of trees

Removal of trees

Like all living things, trees grow, age and eventually die. Tree removal is a last resort option. However, where a tree is in a state of irreversible decline or is a public health and safety risk, sometimes tree removal is the only option. Selective tree removal and replacement programmes are vital in managing our trees to ensure that the numerous benefits trees provide are sustained for future generations.


Trees in a state of irreversible decline, dead and/or structurally unsound may be removed as part of routine maintenance and renewal programmes or sooner if urgent action is required for public safety or to avoid damage to property.

Trees that are unhealthy, dead and/or structurally unsound may be retained for ecological purposes if they do not pose an unacceptable risk to the public or property. This must be established through a Council-approved risk assessment methodology.

Tree removal will be considered where the tree is causing, or likely to cause, significant damage to buildings, services or property (both public or privately owned) and the damage cannot be reasonably rectified or mitigated except by removing the tree.

Trees that are posing an unacceptable safety risk to the public and cannot be mitigated through pruning or other engineering solutions will be removed.

Trees that are impeding consented legal access will be removed only when all other alternatives have been explored and are not viable.

Healthy and structurally sound trees may be removed to manage or prevent the spread of pests and diseases, this includes the removal of pest trees where they are deemed a threat to indigenous flora and fauna.

Wilding trees will be removed where they are considered to be a threat as a pest species or cause a nuisance in a particular location.

A tree may be removed if the tree is located in the Christchurch Botanic Gardens and felling is required in order to protect or enhance botanical collections or reduce species duplication in accordance with the provisions of the Christchurch Botanic Gardens Management Plan.

A tree may be removed if the removal is in accordance with the provisions of a reserve management plan for the reserve where the tree is situated or the provisions of a management plan for the open space where the tree is situated (such as a park).

A tree may be removed where felling of the tree is required to comply with rules within the district plan for Christchurch International Airport’s protection surfaces or the Defence Wigram protection surfaces.

Tree removals must be undertaken by, or under the supervision of, a works arborist employed or contracted by us or a network utility operator.

We will not remove trees for the following reasons unless approved under sections 4.16-4.18 of this policy:

There is a safe and practical means for tree retention.

To minimise obstruction of views or commercial signage.

To reduce leaf or fruit litter and other debris.

To reduce shading.

For contributing to allergenic or irritant responses unless approved under section 4.16.

Note: This policy should be read in conjunction with the Christchurch District Plan, as resource consents may need to be obtained prior to any removal being undertaken eg for removal of trees of particular species or in certain areas.

Public requests for tree removal

We often receive requests for trees to be removed from public spaces. Tree removal requests will be processed under the following criteria:


We will assess the request against the criteria listed above (4.1 to 4.5). Should the request meet any of the criteria the tree may be removed as part of routine maintenance or sooner2.

If the tree does not meet the criteria of 4.13 above, we will work with the applicant to seek alternative resolutions to removal for example targeted pruning.               

If no alternative resolution is acceptable then the person requesting the removal of the tree will need to submit an application to us for the relevant community board or reserve management committee to consider. This must be accompanied by a tree report prepared by a technician arborist and include any other relevant information pertaining to the application. If a resource consent is required, this must also be obtained prior to any application being submitted to the community board.
All reporting and consents must be provided by the applicant at the applicant’s cost.

Requests for removal of tree(s) will be considered for health reasons where there is confirmation from either the applicant(s) medical practitioner, a clinical immunologist or the medical officer of health confirming that the tree(s) is/are the sole cause of the applicant(s) condition and that removal of the tree(s) is the sole option available for improving the applicant(s) condition.

Requests for removal of tree(s) that are causing property damage will be considered where the damage is confirmed to be a direct result of the tree and where no alternative measures (including engineering solutions) can be used to mitigate the problem.

Requests for removal of tree(s) due to other issues will only be approved under exceptional circumstances and will be required to meet all of the criteria below:

The issue caused by the tree has a significant effect on the applicants day to day living; and

The tree is the sole cause of the issue; and

The issue is not able to be mitigated through general maintenance by the property owner e.g. clearing gutters of leaves; and

No pruning intervention can be undertaken which will mitigate the issue caused by the tree; and

No reasonable engineering solution can mitigate the issue caused by the tree

Cost of removal of trees in public spaces

The removal of trees can result in a considerable cost. In some instances it may be considered appropriate for these costs to
be recovered.


Where the removal of a tree is requested and the tree can be removed in accordance with policy 4.13 and is permitted by the district plan rules then we will undertake the removal as part of the routine maintenance and renewal programmes.

Where the tree removal request does not meet the criteria of 4.13 but is approved by the relevant community board or reserve management committee, the board may resolve that the applicant pay part/all of the costs including the application fee (as per Council’s Fees and Charges Schedule):

Any additional costs associated with reporting on the tree removal application

Any resource consent costs (if required)

Actual cost of tree removal and replacement

The value of the environmental, economic and social services provided to the city by the tree (as determined by our approved tree valuation method)

2The removal of a tree under policy statement 4.5 (tree's impeding legal access to road) will be undertaken as required to allow access to the road to be established. This is likely to be sooner than the routine maintenance cycle.



Term Definition
Actual costs for removal and replacement The cost incurred by the Council to remove the tree(s) and stump(s), purchasing and planting of a replacement tree(s) including 2 years establishment maintenance for the tree(s).
Best industry practice For example but not limited to the British Standard 3998:2010 ‘British Standard Recommendations for Tree Work’ and Australian Standard 4373 1996 Pruning of Amenity Trees.
Canopy cover The area taken up by the tree canopy.
Commemorative trees Includes memorial and sponsored trees.
Construction Standard Specifications (CCC CSS) Is a set of guidelines determining the standards required for the creation or enhancement of infrastructure assets either owned or to be owned by Council. Includes provisions for the protection and planting of trees.
Council/we/our/us Means the Christchurch City Council or its authorised delegate.
Establishment maintenance period Establishment maintenance shall include but not be limited to watering, weed control, application of mulch (where required), and installation and removal of support systems. All maintenance should be compliant with the relevant sections of the ‘Christchurch City Council Civil Engineering Construction Standard Specification’ (CSS).
Full height reduction A method of pruning which results in the removal of the upper canopy to reduce the overall height of the tree (otherwise referred to as topping).
Inappropriate species Tree species listed in Infrastructure Design Standards (IDS) Part 10: Reserves, Streetscape and Open Spaces (the IDS is online and any amendments are automatically included).
Infrastructure Design Standards (IDS)inappropriate species A set of guidelines determining the principles behind and the minimum standards required for the creation or enhancement of infrastructure assets either owned or to be owned by Council. Tree species listed in Infrastructure Design Standards (IDS) Part 10: Reserves, Streetscape and Open Spaces (the IDS is online and any amendments are automatically included).
Irreversible decline The decline of a tree's health which is to such an extent that it is unlikely to recover.
Mature A tree reaching its ultimate potential size, whose growth rate is slowing down, with limited potential for any significant increase in size.
Native revegetation or regeneration An area of native New Zealand plants which have been planted to form a closed canopy. This may be directly planted or naturally occur from a nearby seed source.
Plantation forestry Means the use of land and buildings for planting, maintenance and harvesting of timber tree species for commercial wood production.
Pest tree A parent tree from which seed disperses to create a “wilding tree” which causes major change to composition, structure and functioning of adjacent indigenous habitat.
Provide habitat
for indigenous flora
and fauna
This could be achieved by allowing dead trees to remain or keeping trees with cavities.
The retention of dead wood and stubs could also be seen as providing habitat for indigenous
flora and fauna.
Public open space Means any open space, including roads, parks and reserves, accessible to the public either freely or in accordance with a charge under the Reserves Act 1977.
Qualified arborist A person who has a recognised arboricultural qualification (minimum of NZQA Level 4 Certificate in Arboriculture or similar), industry experience and is competent to carry out a specified task.
Sites of ecological significance Sites identified within the district plan (Appendix as areas of ecological significance
Structurally unsound The trees structure has been compromised to a level which is it likely to fail during normal
weather conditions.
Targeted canopy reduction The targeted pruning of selected branches within the tree canopy to shorten their length.
Technician arborist

Means a person who:

1)  by possession of a recognised arboricultural degree or diploma and on the job experience,
is familiar with the tasks, equipment and hazards involved in arboricultural operations; and

2)  has demonstrated proficiency in tree inspection and evaluating and treating hazardous trees; and

3)  has demonstrated competency to Level 6 NZQA Diploma in Arboriculture standard (or be of an equivalent arboricultural standard).

A single woody plant with the potential to reach at least 5 metres in height and have a stem diameter of, or exceeding, 150mm measured at 1.4 metres above ground.

There are certain species, which could include fruit, nut and endemic species, which may not always fit within the definition of a tree. In these situations the decision as to whether or not to include the species, or individual tree, as a tree will be determined by a Council arborist.

Assets that are currently recorded as trees but do not fit the definition of a Tree will continue to be managed as a Tree throughout their life cycle until they are replaced.
Tree Protection Management Plan Where it is not possible to complete the works without encroaching within the Tree Protection Zone, a proposed methodology in the form of a Tree Management Plan shall be produced by a technician arborist as per the specifications within the relevant sections of the CSS.
Value of a tree A monetary value determined by a council recognised system such at the Standard Tree Evaluation Method 1996 (STEM).
Wilding tree A self-sown tree growing wild or escaped from cultivation and growing wild and not planted for any specific purpose.
Works arborist  

Means a person who:

a)  by possession of a recognised arboricultural degree, diploma or certificate and on the job experience, is familiar with the tasks, equipment and hazards involved in arboricultural operations; and

b)  has demonstrated competency to Level 4 NZQA Certificate in Horticulture Services
(Arboriculture) standard (or be of an equivalent arboricultural standard).
Urban forest Urban forest is a forest, or the collection of trees, that grow within a city, town or urban environment.
Unacceptable risk A level of risk determined through a recognised council approved method (e.g. Quantified Tree Risk Assessment (QTRA) or Tree Risk Assessment Qualification (TRAQ)) which is elevated beyond what the Council considers acceptable.

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