Three neighbours have won a dispute that will result in the lopping or trimming of 10 eucalypts on the Sunshine Coast land of an adjoining owner on their northern boundaries.

John Durrington & Shane Kruger of 18 Fremantle Place Kuluin, joined with Michael Fairbank from no 16 and Karl Gallant (no 20) in the fight that was adjudicated in the Queensland Civil & Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) in Maroochydore.

Each applicant alleged that branches and leaves dropped every day by the trees – situated on the next door property occupied by Anthony and Brooke Cassar – onto their properties, presented “a safety risk to occupants and guests”. The eucapypts ranged in height between 8m and 22m. One had a canopy width of 23m.

Tree debris was a particular problem for Durrington & Kruger in that leaf litter, branches and limbs constantly accumulated in their swimming pool – because much of the canopy of the offending gum was directly above it – and littered their outdoor entertaining area and filled their roof gutters.

But for all applicants, it was the “severe obstruction” of sunlight they contended to be the “substantial ongoing and unreasonable interference with the use and enjoyment” of their land that qualified them for the grant of tree removal  (or trimming) orders against their neighbours.

The facts that Gallant relied on to support his argument that the interference was “severe” was that shade cast by the neighbouring trees made the installation of solar panels on his roof, unviable.

His co-aplicants claimed in addition to that impediment, that from April to September – despite facing north – they enjoyed virtually no sunlight on their homes and had put up with very cold conditions indoors.

Tribunal member Andrew McLean Williams ruled there was a “severe obstruction” of sunlight for all three applicants. He then examined the circumstances of each resident in relation to each tree to rule the extent to which the offending tree should be removed or pruned.

All overhanging branches and those “growing towards the available light” were ordered to be removed. Two trees must go altogether – notwithstanding the tribunal appointed arborist recommended they simply be trimmed – and 8 others must have their “canopy reduced by the maximum extent possible without impacting the future viability of tree”.

Three others escaped the chainsaw for the time being because, at below 2.5 in height, they did not come under the legislative tree law provisions.

Member McLean Williams however cautioned the Cassars, that to avoid the far higher expense of having them removed later when larger, they should think about removing the smaller ones now as well.

Given the recurrent nature of the (expensive) requisite canopy trimming, one would think the owners might also opt for removal, of some of those trees for which the ruling only requires pruning.

Durrington and Kruger v Cassar and Anor [2014] QCAT 609 Member McLean Williams 24/11/2014

Fairbank and Anderson v Cassar and Anor [2014] QCAT 608 Member McLean Williams 24/11/2014

Gallant v Cassar and Anor [2014] QCAT 610 Member McLean Williams 24/11/2014


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