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What is an Easement?

An easement refers to a right granted to a landowner, or a public or local authority, over another person’s land for a specific purpose.

Council holds water and wastewater easements in private property to enable access to important water and wastewater infrastructure. This means Council has the power to enter private property for construction, maintenance and inspection of water and wastewater infrastructure irrespective of protective easements being placed on titles.

Trees Near Sewers Anyone conducting any work in or near an easement should first refer to Council's Council Utilities - Work in Proximity Policy (51kB PDF). Failure to comply with the policy may result in penalties, as well as charges for the costs of restitution. The policy outlines conditions for:

  • Different development types with provides example sketches

  • Relocating sewer infrastructure

  • Conducting earthworks near sewers

  • Planting trees near sewers

Also worth noting, is that anyone working on public and private property have an obligation to protect sewers from accidental damage. Council may recover the costs of repair incurred from deliberate or accidental damage to water supply and sewer infrastructure. Deliberate damage or unauthorised interference with a sewer is an offence under the Local Government Act. See Offences and Penalties.

Water Easements

Water easements are relatively uncommon in private property as water mains are typically located in road reserves (nature strips).

Council frequently undertakes work within nature strips to either, repair, replace extend or install fittings water mains. After conducting work in nature strips, they will be reinstated to an appropriate standard determined at Council’s discretion. Council will consider the pre-existing condition of the area, seasonal weather conditions, slope of land and area affected. Damage to the portion of driveways/accesses within road reserve will be reinstated as per Council Driveway Access to Property - Design Specification Policy (310kB PDF).

Sewer Easements

Sewer easements are relatively common in private property. They exist over a portion of land that is traversed by sewers or sewerage facilities. Council requires reasonable access to sewer pipes and manholes. There is a possibility that Council will need to complete ground excavation to enable maintenance, repair and/or possible replacement in perpetuity.

Easement Conditions

Building Near Sewers

Where easements favour Council, no structures (including buildings, in ground swimming pools, and major retaining walls) or part thereof may encroach into the easement. There are no exceptions to this rule. Where an unapproved structure is found within an easement, Council will take action.

Some type of driveways, paths and normal garden improvements may be permitted to be constructed over the easement at Council's approval. These are outlined in the Policy. Council should be consulted prior to considering any of these options.

Relocating Sewers

Where an owner wants to build near or over a sewer, but does not satisfy conditions outlined in the Policy, they may choose to relocate the sewer at their own cost.

Subject to staff availability, Council is able to perform this work at the owner's cost. However, Council prefers the owner to use a Licensed Drainer to perform the work.

Earthworks Near Sewers

Caution must be exercised when conducting any work near sewers because:

  • Increased cover may cause the sewer to fail under increased bearing forces; or local increases (such as mass retaining walls) may cause failure due to differential settlement.
  • Toes of fill batters may be unstable near sewer trenches, or become unstable when trenches are excavated.
  • Decreased vertical cover may expose the sewer to accidental breakage by transient loading from vehicles.
  • Decreased lateral cover (caused by cut faces of earthworks in proximity to trenches) may result in slumping out of the backfill and/or sewer pipe, or washing out of sand bedding carrying groundwater.
  • Manholes might be buried by landscaping. Manhole alterations are usually required after earthworks for developments to bring the manhole to the new ground surface levels. The cost of this work is to be covered by the proponent.

In cases of danger to public health or safety, Council may perform the work itself immediately and recover the costs from the delinquent party.

Planting Trees Near Sewers

Planting a tree in your backyard may seem harmless. However some species of trees can create ongoing or disastrous problems by tree roots intruding into sewer mains and internal sewer pipes. Problem trees will normally cause damage to internal pipes before Council sewer so it is in the property owner's best interest to understand the implications.

Before planting any trees, residents should consult the list of problem species below. Generally these trees should not be planted within five meters of any sewer main or manhole.

Council actively investigates potential problems before they become too large. If, during an inspection, Council identifies a tree that looks like it will cause future problems, the owner of the property will be consulted about the problem. In high hazard instances (see below) Council may choose to give the owner the option for Council to remove the tree.

Generally all the following groups of trees have been identified as problems to sewer mains because of root infiltration and have been ranked in severity:

RiskTree Names
HighCamphor Laurel
Fig and Rubber Plants (Ficus species)
Large Gum Trees (Eucalyptus species)
MediumBlack Locust
Coral Trees
Hoop Pine
Norfolk Island
Date Palms
Lilly Pilly
Pine Trees
Pepper Tree
River She Oak
Silky Oak
Swamp Oak
White Cedar
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