Trees on Road Reserve

What is road reserve?

The road reserve consists of the area of land between the property boundaries (fences) on either side. This includes the road, footpaths, gutters, berms/verges etc. The main purpose of the road reserve is for public travel. The Hurunui District Council is the Road Controlling Authority, or owner, of local roads and paper roads. The Road Controlling Authority of State Highways is Transit New Zealand (currently managed by OPUS).

Trees on the road reserve

Trees and hedges provide useful shelter and privacy on our properties. Unfortunately, in some cases, plantings can also cause problems on our roads that may lead to property damage, injury or loss of life. The Hurunui District Council encourages landowners to design and manage their plantings so that they can enjoy their benefits without creating hazards for road users.

Shelter belts are not permitted on the road reserve, but a licence may be obtained for aesthetic amenity plantings of native shrubs or trees under certain conditions. These plantings must not interfere with underground or overhead services, site visibility or the maintenance of the road reserve. The minimum space between the road and any tree will be three metres.

What to do if you want to plant on the road reserve.

A licence must be sought where a person wishes to plant trees on the road reserve fronting the owner’s property. Applicants must demonstrate that plantings cannot be better provided either in part or totally within the bounds of their property. Council policy is that it will not authorise plantings across the frontage of another owner’s property without the signed consent of that owner.


Q. When are my roadside trees and hedges a hazard?

A. If they shade the road in winter causing a damp patch that lasts through the day.

Q. What can I do?

A. Trim the top of hedges on an angle to allow sunlight through to the road, prune them back and lower your hedgerow. You might want to consider their replacement with more appropriate trees.

Q. Can the Council force me to remove my trees?

A. Yes. Under the Transit New Zealand Act 1989, section 55-57 the Council could require your trees to be pruned or removed and if this is not done the Council could do the work itself and charge you for the costs involved.

Q I live on an unsealed road, is ice going to be a problem?

A. Yes, ice forms on gravel roads and sealed roads.  Council does not apply ‘grit’ to gravel roads, because there is often an element of loose gravel on most non-sealed roads, unless they are excessively shaded or wet.

Q. My trees are not shading the road but the branches stick out well past my boundary, should I do anything about them?

A. Yes you should. A branch can be a major hazard if a vehicle has to move off the roadway and could cause death or severe injury if large enough. There should be an area at least 6m wide and 6 m high, from the edge of the roadway, clear of branches. Cyclists, pedestrians and horse-riders, also use roads and road reserves and their needs must also be considered.

Q. Is ice or frost the only problem?

A. No. Permanently wet or damp patches on the road can also be dangerous for vehicles especially when braking, and the deep shadow behind some hedges can make it hard to see other vehicles, especially in otherwise bright sunlight.

Q What does the Health and Safety in Employment Act (The OSH Act) say about this?

A. Under the Heath and Safety In Employment Act it is possible you could be liable if an activity on your property (planting, growing and maintaining a shelterbelt or trees) causes a hazard on-site or off-site.