Notable Trees frequently asked questions

What is the proposed change?

The proposed change is to update the Register of Notable Trees. Updates will account for trees that no longer exist, as well as new expert thinking about what makes a tree notable. See STEMTM methodology.

This means that trees that have died or have been removed are proposed to be no longer included. Additional tree’s that have been suggested as being worthy of inclusion in the register have been professionally assessed.

The method for building a Notable Tree register has also been updated to reflect industry best practice. Moreover, a Council spreadsheet has been created to act as a public/ Council database freely available to all district plan users, property owners and other decisions makers. This includes GPS coordinates for each registration.

The overall approach to tree protection within the District Plan is not proposed to change. The objectives and policies related to Notable Trees also remain unchanged.

Why are the changes being proposed?

The purpose of this Plan Change (#10) is to ensure that the Register is up to date and relevant for the district. Updates will account for trees that no longer exist, as well as new expert thinking about what makes a tree notable. 

Why do trees need to be protected?

Trees are recognised for their cultural, environmental and aesthetic benefits. In ancient times, tangata whenua observed, recorded and shared information about trees for hundreds of years. The forerunner to a formal, recognised tree evaluation process in the Wairarapa was information kept in lists by the Greytown Beautifying Society and their well-recognised member Mrs. Stella Bull during the 19th and 20th centuries. This was the basis for a NZ Forest Service report about historic and notable trees compiled by Mr. Stanley Burstell in 1974. It recorded information about 62 tree’s or groups of trees around Greytown and Featherston categorised as following; 7 national interest; 30 local interest and 25 uncategorised.

Trees are particularly important to Greytown, as it was the first New Zealand town to celebrate Arbor Day in 1890. The register of Noteworthy Trees had 63 registrations and started a planning tradition that is now 28 years old.

How have trees been assessed and what makes them notable?

The STEMTM Methodology has been applied to assessing trees in the updated Register. More information available here:

In past district plans, ‘noteworthy’ trees have been categorised as Class 1; Class 2 and of special community interest ‘Class 3’; however, there has been no mention of a tree evaluation methodology used, nor any common evaluation methodology used across the three Wairarapa councils.

How will I be informed if I have a notable tree on my property?

You will have a received a letter to your property address. The letters were mailed out on Thursday 28 February. If you believe you should have received a letter and haven't, please call Lou Brown, Planning Office, on 06 306 9611, ext. 842.

The Updated Notable Trees Register[XLS, 6MG], which is being consulted on, is also available online for all to see.

How can I access the Register of Notable Trees? Now and after the change?

The Updated Register of Notable Trees [XLS, 6MG] is available on our website. It will remain here throughout and after consultation. Any changes to the Register as a result of consultation will be reflected in the Register.

What information about the tree is held in the register?

The format of the notable tree register has a X and Y axis. This X axis records the following:

  • tree species (by common and botanical name);
  • location by address/ legal description;
  • corresponding map reference

The Y axis records:

  • the unique reference number of each tree or group of trees; for example Ts001 (“T” = tree, “s” = South Wairarapa). N.B the numbering does not represent a hierarchy of importance, it is only for reference purposes.

Each registration is located on the Council A3 planning maps (to be available soon). Look for a very small silhouette of a tree (4mmx2mm) and the corresponding tree reference # to refer back to the registration (this is on the bottom right hand side of each symbol).

Does the Register include tree on private land?

The notable tree list includes trees on both public (e.g. within roading corridors, parks etc) and privately owned land.

What impact will the change have on private landowners?

Anything other than minor trimming will require a resource a consent.

What work can be done to a notable tree without a resource consent?

Minor trimming etc. Anything else, triggers a resource a consent.

What work to a notable tree requires a resource consent?

Anything other than minor trimming requires a resource a consent.

What can I do if I don’t agree with the proposed changes to the Register?

You can make a submission to Council. The closing date for submissions is 18 April 2019.

Can I make a submission about a tree on private land if I’m not the property owner?

Yes. You do not need to be the property owner to make a submission about a tree on private land.

Can I make a submission to get a tree added that isn’t in the register?

Yes. You can do this by making a submission.

What will it mean for trees on public land?

In cases where a tree or group of trees is on public land, consent from the administering authority (DOC, Council, NZTA etc) is required including minor trimming to work on the trees in any way.

Do all districts use the same criteria?

The STEMTM methodology is used by more than 35 councils in New Zealand. More information is available here:

What is tree protection under the South Wairarapa District Plan? 

Specifications for district plans exist in the Resource Management Act including section 76; ‘a rule may prohibit or restrict the felling, trimming, damaging or removal of a tree’. This doesn’t mean a blanket protection over all trees, native or otherwise; in the South Wairarapa we are referring to special trees, known as notable trees that have been listed in the District Plan.

The district plan for South Wairarapa basically says for the large majority of situations when more than ‘minor trimming’ to the trunk, limbs and branches and damage below ground to the tree within its drip line is likely (rule # 21.1.1), a resource consent is triggered. A site-specific, tree-specific assessment would then need to be undertaken by Council to grant (of deny) the legal right to work on the tree and/ or remove it.


South Wairarapa District Council