Residents have protested against Moira Shire Council plans to fell a much-loved Belmore Street tree.By Fiona Blick
A tree on the corner of Belmore and Orr streets earmarked for felling appears doomed.
A protest meeting attended by approximately 50 people was held last Friday outside the Athenaeum in a bid to halt the felling of a Queensland Brush Box tree but councillors present were unmoved.
In what was at times a heated debate, the convener of the meeting, Tom Hutchison, demanded from the councillors present, Mayor Brian Keenan, Cr Peter Mansfield and Cr Don McPhee, they give written confirmation of the size, species and installation date of a new tree, together with a maintenance outline, so the community could be fully informed.
“This meeting is a show of strength by this community to demonstrate to the executive that we want our ideas and concerns heard and acted upon,” Mr Hutchison said. “We vote for councillors, pay the executive and so we expect our democratic system to work a lot better than this.”
Mr Hutchison said there was understanding in the community that ongoing insurance problems meant the shire was worried about trees causing further claims.
“However, to destroy these trees because they pose an insurance risk is a plan that is totally unacceptable to us,” he said.
One concerned resident, John Halfpenny, asked Cr Keenan about the issue of Moira Shire Council’s public liability insurance coverage.
“Will the shire’s insurance premium be lowered if this tree is replaced?” Mr Halfpenny asked.
Cr Keenan replied that council “has been told that if we don’t replace this tree our insurance coverage could be at risk.”
Cr Peter Mansfield thanked the crowd for exercising their democratic rights but said if the matter came before council again he would vote each time for the removal of this tree.
“It is a liability,” Cr Mansfield said. “We are currently debating a $60M budget and I want to see everyone here coming to the information days Moira Shire will have for the budget. Do you think the people of Havenstock Drive really care about this tree?”
Cr Don McPhee said that council really didn’t have a choice but to remove the tree.
“It is a lovely tree but unfortunately I don’t think legally we have a leg to stand on,” he said. “In addition, the side trees of Evergreen Ash, chosen by Moira Shire against the advice of the arborist, are a dud and I would say eventually they will have to come out. I hope in my term as councillor that we will finish the Yarrawonga Streetscape. We are a premier tourist town and that should be reflected in our main street. Hopefully as a new council we can do a better job.”
Resident Judi Hogan, an original member of the Streetscape Committee, echoed Cr McPhee’s comments saying the Streetscape Plan Moira Shire Council voted on at the 2008 meeting still has not been completed.
“There is a reason though why some of the trees have taken five years to be removed,” Ms Hogan said. “In the Streetscape Plan it was resolved to immediately remove the sick and damaged Queensland Brush Box. The healthy Queensland Brush Box, like the Athenaeum tree, were left to keep a bit of greenery in the main street while the new side trees became established trees; once this happened then the rest of the Queensland Brush Box would be removed. However, the Evergreen Ash side trees just haven’t performed and are providing absolutely no shade.”
Ms Hogan said this was totally a Moira Shire decision.
“No one seemed to know at the public meeting last week what type of tree will replace the Athenaeum tree or how big it will be,” she said. “The councillors were asked but none of them could give a definitive answer.”
The Yarrawonga Chronicle contacted Moira Shire Council after the meeting and a spokesperson said the replacement tree will definitely be a Kurrajong.
“The tree at the corner of the Athenaeum Café will be replaced with a Kurrajong tree. This species matches the species of the historic tree on the south west corner, and the two trees planted on the east side of Belmore Street at this intersection,” the spokesperson said. “The tree will be a semi-mature tree, 5-6 metres in height.”
As to the present site of the replacement Kurrajong tree the spokesperson could not give an exact location.
“The replacement trees for Belmore Street have been sourced from a range of providers including a tree farm in Lancefield and a number of local properties,” the spokesperson said.
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