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09 June 2021
By Dean Lawson
Plans to remove 37 ageing sugar-gum trees along Horsham’s Natimuk Road has sparked an immediate outcry.
Natimuk Road resident Doug Cordell, 77, has written to Horsham Rural City Council expressing his ‘concern and dismay’ at the plans.
He has gone as far as calling the tree-removal project, based on public safety concerns, as ‘wanton environmental vandalism’.
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The council has identified the stand of trees between Hillary Street and Bennett Road ‘to be in very poor condition, with exposed damaged roots, internal decay and dead branches throughout the canopy’.
Council chief executive Sunil Bhalla said contractors would carry out the works from Monday.
“An independent arborist has assessed the trees and deemed them unsafe in an area where there is a lot of vehicular and pedestrian traffic,” he said.
“They are also causing problems with the road pavement.
“Our trees and environment staff have identified Angophora costata as replacement trees. These are a medium-sized evergreen tree with a pinkish trunk, very nice form and a root system that should not be too intrusive to the road pavement in the future. We have planted these trees in Wilmoth Avenue in Horsham and have found them to be structurally very sound.”
The council has informed residents that contractors will remove about six trees a day and will start planting replacements as soon as possible.
Horsham mayor Robyn Gulline stressed that independent tree assessment had found them to be a danger to pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
“That’s why they are being removed and replaced with more appropriate species. The safety and wellbeing of the community is a council priority,” she said.
Mr Cordell said in his letter to the council that when he came to Horsham in 2009 he bought his property on the strength of the tree-lined avenue.
He said he was concerned about what he believed was a lack of community consultation about the tree-removal project and was unconvinced the trees presented a safety issue.
“Apart from my personal dismay, take into account the shade these trees provide, the cooling effect the tree crowns provide, the bird habitat – of an evening, the bird population settling in for the night is an experience,” he said.
“I have also witnessed over the past three years, rosellas using the small hollows for successful breeding. Let’s not forget the wind factor. With a southerly breeze, Natimuk Road can be a very windy thoroughfare. With no trees to slow it down, the road will become a wind tunnel.
“You say these trees will be replaced with Angophora costata – smooth-barked apple. This is indeed a lovely tree, however it is native to the area north of Sydney through to Queensland with a much more reliable annual rainfall – 500-1000mm – than we in the Wimmera can offer. In fact, Angophora is classified as sub-tropical.
“On the subject of shade, council replaced a mature shade tree outside my residence in 2016. I am still looking at a sapling less than two metres in height. How long will it be before this tree gives equivalent shade?
“I have observed the median strip trees west of Hillary Street over the past 11 years – yes one day they will provide shade and shelter and they will beautify the area. But not for some time yet.
“I fully understand that in our climate tree roots go looking for moisture and can invariably cause problems. I also understand technology can overcome these problems without destruction.
“Okay, mistakes were made in the past with the choice of trees, have we not out-grown the mentality of simply removing something that has become inconvenient?
“I beg you to reconsider this environmental vandalism. A fly-over of Horsham will show that apart from the riparian avenues and official parks-gardens, there are very few mature trees to be seen.
“This could possibly explain why this area is so windy and dusty.
“On a more personal note, I am 77 and if this destruction goes ahead as planned, you condemn me to a shadeless, wind-tunnel desert for the rest of my life.” The council removed several sugar gums from the Natimuk Road plantation, which has been an iconic western-entrance landmark to Horsham for decades, in the late 2000s after VicRoads identified the trees as a traffic hazard.
The sugar gum, eucalyptus cladocalyx, is endemic to areas of South Australia and its fast-growing nature, termite resistance and adaptability has led to its use as firewood, shelter, construction material and parklands in temperate Australia.
The entire June 9, 2021 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!