Trees are living organisms, and their condition changes over time. Sometimes a tree can become hazardous to people in parks because of its age, health, history, species, location or other factors.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) manages hazardous trees systematically across the wide range of ecosystems in parks. NPWS aims to ensure risks to the safety of park visitors, workers and neighbouring landholders are as low as practicable, keeping in mind the many benefits trees provide people, wildlife and the environment (including their value for habitat, carbon sequestration, natural shade and cooling, air quality filtering and visual amenity).
- NPWS has a duty of care to manage and, where possible, to minimise the risks from hazardous trees to people in parks and to neighbouring landholders.
- NPWS manages tree risk within the agency's risk management framework and consistent with the Australian Risk Management Standard AS/NZS ISO 31000:2018.
- NPWS manages tree risk consistent with the objects and management principles of the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974, and with other NPWS policies and procedures (including the Visitor Safety Policy and Fire Management Manual).
- When managing hazardous trees NPWS prioritises the protection of life, consistent as far as possible with the protection of the natural, cultural and social values of parks. The protection of property, including park infrastructure, is also an important consideration but is secondary to the protection of life.
- NPWS must reconcile its responsibilities for visitor and worker safety with the reality that it is not possible to eliminate all risks from trees in natural areas.
- NPWS manages tree risk as part of its regular park management activities - including identifying, assessing and treating hazardous trees.
- NPWS focuses on tree risk management in high use areas where exposure is greatest for workers and visitors (e.g. camping areas, picnic areas, visitor centres or work depots).
- Regular tree inspections are an important risk management tool. The frequency of inspections depends on local conditions and available resources.
- NPWS generally uses qualitative risk assessments to manage hazardous trees. NPWS has not adopted a quantified tolerability level for tree risks across all parks.
- NPWS maintains records of hazardous trees and its management responses.