David Cooney
Senior Policy Planner
District Council of Mount Barker


Local Government recognises the importance of trees in the urban and rural landscape. Trees are an important community asset, providing a number of benefits.

Most communities have planted trees or gardens to commemorate a person or important event. These plantings help define communities and are a living reminder of significant local history. Many native plantings have significance for local Aboriginal communities, some of these trees are obvious, such as shield or canoe trees, but others may be less visible.

From a local government perspective many of these important trees are located on public land or roadsides, and may either be at risk from adjacent development or maintenance activities, or may through age, proximity to other structures or neglect, be a hazard themselves.

Because of their potential significance to the local and broader community these plantings should be given special consideration and pro-actively managed, and potentially replaced or relocated.

Why manage culturally significant trees?

The primary driver for managing any infrastructure on land under the care and control of Council and accessible by the public is risk minimisation. Trees have been subject to a review by the Local Government Association with the Final Report of the Independent Enquiry into Management of Trees on Public Land being released for consultation in October 2010.

A recommendation of this report (Recommendation 1) is that The Board recommends that all Councils develop and adopt a formal Tree Management Policy with appropriate linkages to the Council’s strategic management plans.

Recommendation 2 states that, The Board recommends that tree management policies be developed through consultation and include procedures to keep the community informed of tree values (including community education programs), the adopted objectives of tree management and how they are being achieved.

Recommendation 3 states that, The Board recommends that all Council’s adopt a pro active approach to managing the risk in existing trees.

The development of detailed guidelines and policies relating to the management of culturally significant trees provides a more specific suite of management tools to assist Council’s in addressing the complexity of managing these trees.

Policy objectives

  • To enhance Local Government’s reputation within the community, as a steward and manager of trees.
  • To maintain and improve a quality tree canopy within their are
  • To increase awareness and to educate the community, developers and Council staff on the value of all trees, and specifically culturally significant trees in the landscape.
  • To identify and preserve culturally significant, valuable trees based on historic, visual, cultural, social and ecological
  • To broaden the emphasis from tree planting and preservation to an overall approach of urban tree management with a specific acknowledgement of culturally important trees and plantings.
  • To document and standardise process and procedure to ensure consistency in the management of culturally significant trees and plantings.
  • To maintain culturally important trees over time by planning for logical, orderly and agreed replacement to prevent senescent trees from posing increased risk.

Mount Barker Council, in partnership with TREENET, and with funding support from the LGA has undertaken a project to develop a suite of management policies and guidelines to enable these objectives to be met. Sam Cassar from Symatree has been engaged to develop the guidelines, and through close collaboration with the project steering committee has accurately reflected our project objectives.

These guidelines will be available to all Councils to use, through the LGA.