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Trees & NeighboursRākau, Taiapa, Kiritata

Trees can be source of contention between neighbours. You are responsible for ensuring your trees do not cause problems for others.

Trees & Neighbours

Suburbs need trees. They are a source of food and shelter for birdlife, they improve the quality of the air we breathe and they beautify our towns and landscapes.

But ... they also block the drains, disrupt walls and foundations, hide the view, cast long shadows, and from time to time, fall down. Trees, especially other people's trees, can cause feelings to run very high.

Taking responsibility

If you're a landowner, the law says you have the right to the ordinary use and enjoyment of your land. However, your neighbours also have this right. Nobody may interfere unreasonably with other people's use and enjoyment of their land. This means you are responsible for ensuring your own trees do not cause problems for anyone else.

The issues

There are many factors that can be relevant in deciding what to do about a tree. Apart from health and safety issues, and the benefits to be enjoyed by each party, there is also the public interest.

This includes the maintenance of a pleasing environment; the desirability of protecting public reserves containing trees; the value of the tree as a public amenity; any historical, cultural or scientific significance of the tree; and any likely effect on ground stability, the water table or run-off.

If problems arise

If your neighbour's tree is causing problems, the first step is to talk to them. They may not even be aware of your concerns. Give them the chance to fix things up, and look for a solution everyone will be reasonably happy with. If, for example, you are worried about shading, it may be that the tree can be thinned rather than chopped down.

A mutually agreeable solution will almost certainly be preferable to a lengthy, costly and bitter legal battle.

For more information

For the names and addresses of suitably experienced and qualified tree removal or pruning contractors.

New Zealand Arboricultural Association

Cutting & Trimming

If the roots or branches of your neighbour's tree encroach on your land, you can cut them back to the boundary line. In law, this is called "abatement". 

The Property Law Act 2007 says property owners are responsible for any nuisance or damage their trees cause to neighbours, even if the trees were planted before they bought the property. 

This means that it is a ‘Civil' matter between the two parties involved, i.e. you and your neighbour.

If you have an issue with trees on the boundary or on your neighbours property your first course of action is to discuss the matter with your neighbours.

Some of the issues that may be dealt with by The Property Law Act 2007 are:

• Roots from neighbours trees blocking your drains etc.
• Roots from neighbours trees causing damage to your paths, fences, lawns etc.
• Leaves from neighbour's trees are blocking your spouting and/or drains.
• Branches on your neighbours trees are growing over onto your side of the boundary,
• Trees on your neighbours property are blocking the sunlight from your house or section,
• Trees on your neighbours property are blocking a view that you once enjoyed,
• Trees on your neighbours side of the boundary are pushing the boundary fence over,
• Trees on your neighbours side of the boundary are old and dying and may fall down onto your house, garage, shed or other parts of your section,

If you reach an impasse, you may need to take legal action.

This course of action is done using the provisions set out in The Property Law Act 2007, Sections 332 - 338. You will need to consult your lawyer in order to take action under these provisions.

As stated above Council do not have any jurisdiction in the matter.

For the rules governing trees in an area zoned 'Rural' you can find information in the District Plan.

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