11 Things You Should Know Before Hiring an Arborist
So, it’s time to remove that big old gum tree on your property but you have no idea where to start, what approvals you need, what your legal obligations are, or who you should hire. If this is you then keep reading as we will answer everything you wanted to know in this article. It will also give you the tools to identify if your chosen tree removal company has the credentials to safely tackle the job at hand.
Local Government considerations
1. Seeking Council Approval for Tree Removal Applications
Most Council’s will generally not allow removal of a tree unless an appropriate reason has been specified. There are trees which are exempt from your local tree preservation order and will not require approval, but for all protected species you will need to submit an application to the shire council.
Some examples of genuine reasons for removing trees on private lands may be as follows:
|Borer infestation||Dropping/falling branches|
|Bushfire hazard||Invasive roots|
|Damage to property||Overhanging branches|
|Dead/dying tree||Oversize for location|
|Tree Diseased||Tree trunk within “X metres” of a Dwelling/ Pool|
|Too close to other structures|
The following are usually reasons that are typically NOT valid for tree removal, but not in all cases:
|Dropping leaves/debris/sap||Tree causing shade issues|
|Tree causing mould issues||Tree is too tall/big|
|Tree obstructs view||Tree causing damage to path/driveway|
|Tree dropping deadwood||Tree is not native|
|Tree over power lines||Tree over house|
|Tree over childrens play area||Tree over pool|
If the tree(s) are being removed to support a development you would need to specify this on your application and usually submit supporting evidence that there is no other way for the development to proceed without removing the trees. This would be done using a Cert 5 private consulting arborist who will provide you with a Arborist Report.
10-50 Vegetation Clearing Entitlement
Bush Fire Zones:
The 10/50 bush fire clearing entitlement is a state government regulation that supersedes local council regulation in 10/50 designated entitlement areas. It allows residents located within these zones to conduct the following:
- Removal of trees within 10 metres of homes without seeking approval
- Clear underlying vegetation (other than trees) such as shrubs on their property within 50 metres of a home, without seeking approval. A tree is classed as any vegetation having a circumference in the trunk of 300mm at chest height above ground level.
By visiting the rural fire service website you can get further clarification on whether your home lies in a designated 10/50 zone.
2. What Species of trees Can I Remove
Every local Sydney council has its own definition for categorizing trees so it always pays to look up your local council’s website. For example, Sutherland shire defines a protected tree as “A single or multi-trunked tree with a diameter of 100mm or more measured at 500mm above ground level”. Most councils have a list of trees that are exempt from the tree preservation order however this differs (sometimes greatly) from shire to shire. Generally, if a tree is native it has more chance of being protected in your region than does an introduced species however this is not always the case.
When looking for information on ‘what tree species can i remove without a council permit’ , the best place to look is on your local council’s website for the most updated list or you can view the location specific pages on our website.
3. Implemented Safety Policies & Procedures
Arborist Company Considerations
As you can imagine, the tree removal industry is inherently dangerous when you consider all the things that could go wrong. Branches and tree trunks are extremely heavy, often weighing many tons and only experienced arborists know how to bring them to the ground safely.
Often there is more than one technique that could be used to bring down a tree and you will find the arborist with the much cheaper quote may be sacrificing the safer method for the faster method to save time and money. Usually the safer method will take a little more time or require the use heavy equipment such as cranes, cherry pickers etc, all of which add money to a quote. On the flip side, paying a little extra to have the job done right may avoid larger costs such as getting a branch through a roof or even worse personal injury resulting from negligence. The last thing you want is a serious injury or death at your home.
At Shane’s Trees we are passionate about keeping our crew and the public safe. Our approach to safety is of a level not really seen anywhere else in the tree industry. Our supervisors are required to go through a detailed safety audit process upon arrival to a job, then having all staff briefed and made aware of any potential risks, as well as having all staff sign off before commencing any physical work. On top of this we have weekly safety meetings that all staff are required to attend where we discuss any potential risks that may have presented through the week and how we can mitigate them moving forward.
4. Well Maintained Equipment
Tree Removal equipment costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to purchase with high maintenance costs. There is not much we can do about that as it is all required and needs to be maintained at the highest level. From our ropes, slings and pulleys right up to our large wood chippers and trucks every component plays a critical role in safely and professionally pruning and removing trees.
A poorly maintained harness could see a worker fall from a tree, likewise poorly maintained ropes and slings could see a large branch smash through a roof, a car, or damage other structures below.
When you get your tree quotes, be sure to know that a suspect tree lopper with an unusually low quote is probably skimping on maintenance costs somewhere along the line and this is just another element of risk you should take into consideration before choosing your provider. Check your providers recent social posts and other web media to to try get a feel if they are using modern, well maintained equipment or if it is dated and dodgy looking.
5. Risk Identification & Management
Risks present themselves in many different forms in the tree removal industry but usually have severe consequences if they do occur. It is absolutely essential that your chosen tree services contractors are actively identifying and mitigating potential risks through time tested processes. Here are some risks that always present themselves.
Risks to persons:
- Fall from height
- Objects dropping from height
- Serious chainsaw injuries
- Limbs or branches falling on pedestrians
Risks to Property:
- Tree / limbs / Branches falling on house, car, paths etc
Every tree removal job we will ever be faced with will be unique and complete with its own risk profile. From access considerations, surrounding structures, operator fatigue, time of day, the weather, equipment maintenance, people, pedestrians, proximity to roadways, vegetation type, rotten branches, operation and location of plant equipment and so on, the contractor must be continually assessing and mitigating risks. Safety is all about prior planning to reduce and mitigate risk.
Many people may not know this but your run of the mill “Tree Lopper” is not actually obliged to carry formal qualifications to carry out tree removal in New South Wales…. Yup, this is certainly something you should be aware of as pretty much anyone with a chainsaw could legally provide you tree services.
So what is the difference between a Qualified Arborist and a regular Tree Lopper?
The “tree lopper” has probably worked as a labourer on a crew in the past, for a number of years. He has picked up enough knowledge to tackle small to medium size projects with a small degree of confidence. In many cases they will not have the funding to purchase or maintain modern equipment, will not be able to present you with current public liability insurance, will not have workers comp, will not have his vehicles and equipment insured and will most likely have a cheaper quote. Because he has no formal education on tree management he may also give you incorrect advice relating to the species and solutions to your problems.
A fully qualified arborist holds a minimum tafe certificate 3 in Arborculture (National Course Code: AHC30816) where he has not only had the experience of spending many years on a tree removal team, but also holds formal training in all aspects of bringing trees down safely, and botanical knowledge relating species of trees.
The Cert3 arborist can provide you a wider knowledge and better advice relating to your needs and should also be able to present the following on request:
- Current Public Liability Insurance Certificate
- Workers Comp documents
- Vehicles and equipment insurance papers
- Tafe Cert 3 Arborculture certificate
You should also look for the following:
- Condition of the workers equipment
- Online reviews, Facebook, google my business, yelp
- Check their website and social page for proof of previous works, testimonials etc.
Cert 5 Arborist
The next level of arborist holds a cert 5 and is able to conduct private consultation such as arborist reports / TRAQ reports for council approvals + development approvals etc. A cert 5 arborist may conduct the following works:
Diagnose tree diseases
Develop a tree protection program
Document and audit tree work
Negotiate and monitor contracts
Develop & Implement plant health strategy
Assess new industry developments
Implement professional practice
Provide specialist advice to clients
Audit site operations
Analyze and present research information
Shane’s Trees provide both Cert 3 and Cert 5 level arborist services.
7. Check Insurance Certificates
As we have already discussed, one of the benefits of hiring a reputable tree company, is the peace of mind knowing that insurances are in place in case something goes wrong. The following identifies what the insurances are and why they are important:
Public Liability – This will cover any unforeseen issues that may occur on your property such as a tree falling on your house
Workers Compensation – This ensures the workers doing the job are protected in the event of an accident or malpractice. Workers comp is calculated as a percentage of wages.
Vehicles & Equipment – If a Vehicle, Wood Chipper, Crane, Cherry Picker or something similar did not have 3rd party property protection and accidentally caused damage to your property, you may not be protected.
8. Check for References
Although at first it may seem difficult to obtain references from your tree removal provider, a reputable company will have different media association where they publish and document their works to the community. Generally, lower tier providers will not have the financial resources or time for managing and documenting their endeavors across social media and other web channels.
Below are some of the best resources to check and make sure everything adds up:
Company Website: Here you should find certificates of currency, qualifications, insurance documents etc. You should also see plenty of images showing previous jobs, demonstrating scope of works, state of tools and equipment etc. You should also find testimonials left by previous customers, but always try verify these further as the can be manipulated quite easily.
Google Reviews: This is a very trustworthy source of reviews as customers must be logged into their own google accounts independently to leave a review. This means the result cannot be manipulated easily by the tree company giving you a less biased result. People are usually pretty lazy or find it difficult to leave google reviews, so many times you will not see a great deal of reviews on a tree company, but if people get bad service they become more motivated to leave a bad review. Knowing this, if you see a google tree business page with plenty reviews and very high ratings, you have a good chance that they are a reputable provider.
Facebook page: This is another page that should receive semi-regular to regular updates if you are dealing with a serious company. Here you can cross check images with job/equipment claims, business contact details etc. You can also view response rates to messages and so on
Yelp Reviews: These reviews work similar to google my business reviews but on a different platform. Users must have an account and be logged in to leave a review. The only downside with yelp is you may see minimal reviews as it is not as popular as google my business.
Some other places you could look for verification if available are word of mouth, twitter, Instagram, verify the arborist ABN online, are they a member of 3rd party certifier organizations such as Arborculture Australia, google search “xxTreecompany + Reviews”.
9. Provide Detailed Estimate
Obtaining a detailed written quote may seem like a no brainer but very often the not so savvy “tree lopper” will give you a verbal quote based off a brief discussion, that may have left out some critical details. Furthermore, they may say half-way through the job that certain things were not included (waste removal for example) and try charge you extra halfway through the job.
On any professional written / electronic quote, you should see the following:
Issue date and date of expiry
Long description of all tasks that are to be completed
Full price including any taxes and extra charges
Any images relating to the job
In reality, a properly prepared quote takes a little extra time to prepare but it is the sign of a professional outfit when you get one.
Our team have refined the quoting process over the years while at the same time using custom built software to provide precise quotes in very fast time. By using our tree removal quote forms on the Shane’s Trees website, you can upload name, address, phone, email and all images relating to the job in under a minute. The more information you give us the faster and more precise we can be with online quotes. Sometime we even use your address details with the google maps ‘Street View’ feature to assess a tree if the data is available.
Below is an example of a properly prepared tree removal quote
10. Illegally Disposing of Tree Waste
Many “Tree Loppers” will illegally dump tree waste, which drastically reduces their costs and quotes. This may be a moral consideration for you as a client.
Disposal: Shane’s Trees legally disposes of ALL materials and recycles where ever possible. Recycling may include firewood, timber slabs and garden mulch. Disposal is always included in our quotes unless the client specifically asks us to leave the waste onsite.
11. Risks of Hiring an Unqualified Arborist
As we stated before, a qualified arborist is trained in all safety aspects, best arborculture practices and legal obligations for both themselves and you as the client.
Hiring an unqualified person may result in the following:
- Incorrect or poor pruning advice leading to unnecessarily damaged trees
- Fire risk
- Lawsuits from neighbours
- Lawsuits from councils
- Lawsuits from land and environment courts
We really hope this article has enlightened you to the process of tree removal and given you the tools you need to select to the right tree services contractor. We are all to happy to answer any further questions you have so feel free to call us anytime for advice.