Emotions around regulated and significant trees to be investigated

In the absence of our Mayor, I attended today’s Local Government Association AGM. It was a good day for me, and I expect everyone in our community will be pleased with the result.

On behalf of Unley Council I was able to address a problem with our State’s Development Assessment procedures that create conflict between groups of people causing emotional stress. A chance to do something around opposing emotions around regulated and significant trees to be investigated

We put forward a motion on the use of independent experts for assessment of regulated trees. The aim of the motion was to provide more clarity and assurance around the assessment of regulated and significant trees under the Development Regulations.

It allows people to believe council is allowing the removal of trees that are healthy, and not posing a threat to person or property. At the same time others can see council as ignoring the safety of people (particularly children), in favour of keeping trees.

This comes from there being potentially two reports with conflicting expert observations.

The motion below was put forward by me on the day and seeks for the emotions around regulated and significant trees to be investigated with a view to avoiding conflict and disappointment. It had a 90.9% support from those councils present.

 

That the Annual General Meeting requests the LGA to: 

  1. investigate with councils and the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure the development of a Planning Circular which outlines the ‘special circumstances’ which should apply to request an expert or technical report relating to a tree; and 
  1. advocate for arborists involved in the assessment of Significant and Regulated Trees to be included in the Accredited Professionals scheme and Code of Practice to be established under the Planning, Development and Infrastructure Act.

We now await the investigations.

Update on Goodwood Oval Port Jackson Fig Tree

This blog is an update for all who are interested in the Goodwood Oval Port Jackson Fig Tree.

 

This updates my previous blogs from December last year and earlier this month.

Goodwood Oval Port Jackson Fig TreeThis morning I had further discussions with our Arborist and our Sustainable Landscape Specialist. We discussed both long term and short term actions. We need to not only protect the tree which has at least another 20 years life left in it but ensure reasonably the safety of the public (you and me).

Of immediate need is to provide better protection for the public. Our staff pre-empted a request by me to change the barrier to a mesh barrier rather than the single strand barrier currently in position. I have asked also that we sign post the area as an added dissuasion to public accessing the area beneath the crown of the tree. Expect this within the next week.

A long term solution could be as far away as at least August. We need to determine what risks remain with various options that may be considered. Restricting or maybe even preventing access under the Port Jackson is being debated as we speak.

It is likely, as I reported previously, that the benches and Bar B Que will need to be relocated elsewhere in the Oval precinct. Finding a suitable shaded spot may prove a challenge however so whatever we wind up proposing will probably need to have artificial  shade included. As Goodwood Oval is community land a public consultation will become part of the process.

This as always will be time consuming.

It is currently unfunded but I will be ensuring that we include a satisfactory budget during our current budget considerations for next year in readiness for a decision after consultation.

The Goodwood Oval Port Jackson Fig Tree is a much loved tree and very much part of the amenity of the Oval precinct.

 

Mixed Message for our Moreton Bay Fig

Late last year I blogged on the limb failure of the Moreton Bay Fig tree (or should I say Port Jackson Fig) located in the north west quadrant of Goodwood Oval. This blog is the latest on what we have found about the trees health and its future.

 

Goodwood Oval Morton Bay Fig Tree

Goodwood Oval Morton Bay Fig Tree

I visited the site with Council’s arborist this morning and he confirms the original assessments as it being in good health. It’s health in fact is typical of the species and its age. He and the independent arborist that carried out specific tests on the tree I reported in my last blog both conclude that we do have some management issues going forward to protect this lovely tree.

The Port Jackson (as we should get used to calling it) is a significant tree. So much so it is included in Council’s Development Plan Significant Tree Register. This provides it some pretty basic protections.

The specialised inspection has revealed that while in good general health it has been compromised. Foliage colour, size and density are all normal and there are no signs of pests or disease within the crown.

The limb failure has been diagnosed as the result of fungal degeneration and there is more present. These failures have resulted in a large void and altered wind dynamic. The trees overall integrity is not compromised but it has been assessed as there being a moderate risk of further limb failure particularly before regrowth stabilises the tree long term. I have had the regrowth pointed out to me.

Thankfully the risk has not been diagnosed as high as this would probably see a recommendation for its removal. Having said that a medium risk is sufficient for us to take action to minimise risk to all those who use Goodwood Oval and in particular the kids who climb the tree.

Pruning options are limited so we are likely to consider repositioning the permanent seats and the bar b que to another area. This will challenge us as any repositioning of this facility will require shade. Our arborist and I discussed some options but we will need to give this some more thought before going out for your thoughts and opinions.

 

 

 

Goodwood Oval Morton Bay Fig Struggling

Late last week I was given news that our much loved Morton Bay Fig tree at Goodwood Oval had lost two limbs.

 

Goodwood Oval Morton Bay Fig Tree

Goodwood Oval Morton Bay Fig Tree

 

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Safety Exclusion Zone

I was also advised at the time that a preliminary assessment of the tree by Council’s arborist indicated that it remains in good health in spite of the limb failure. This tempered my initial concern when hearing what had happened.

 

As a safety measure Council did rope of the area as a safety exclusion zone to discourage people from accessing the area of the failure.

 

This tree is a much loved tree by those that live around or use Goodwood Oval. My family have enjoyed a number of picnics under its foliage. Concerned for the Fig and after a conversation with another passionate resident I called by yesterday to check it and this prompted me to ask for confirmation that the tree is in fact in good condition.

 

Decay in Goodwood Oval Morton Bay Fig

Decay in Goodwood Oval Morton Bay Fig

Our arborist today attended the site at Goodwood Oval again to assess the tree for the second time. Whilst his current findings are the same as initial observations on Friday, that the tree does not pose an immediate risk he is seeking to explore further to ensure his assessment is accurate.

 

He has organised a further specialist assessment of the tree’s structural integrity using decay detection equipment. This is a specialist exercise that will need to be carried out by a third party in the new year.

 

We will as a safety measure be extending the exclusion zone around the tree until such time as we have undertaken.

 

 

 

 

A Plea to Residents

A recent inspection by our administration revealed a number of street trees in Ormonde Avenue, Millswood have died and should be replaced.

 

This blog post is a plea after my blog post of 5 March to you to advise your council on what you see as the right action going forward.

Ormonde Avenue, Millswood

Ormonde Avenue, Millswood

Mindful of the fact that over 50% of our 26,000 street and park trees are mature aged trees and will reach their maximum lifespan sooner rather than later they (our administration) determined it would be prudent to investigate and consider the possibility of either replacing the whole street of trees now or staging their replacement.

We do have an emerging dilemma facing Council. If we are not proactive about creating a second generation of street and park trees we may find in the not distant future that the majority of our mature trees (over 13,000 of them) may die in a relatively short span of time. This potentially could see the City of Unley not live up to its logo.

Can you imagine 13,000 trees needing to be replaced in say a  10 year time frame, 1300 per year. Our current proactive program is seeing us replace only 300 per year. Add the loss of private trees at an ever increasing rate as people buy into leafy Unley and then remove the tree in their backyard and the picture is not so bright.

Residents of Ormonde Street have an opportunity to contribute to the decision making process having been surveyed just last week.

The decision made on this street is an important one. You have a great opportunity that most will not have and that is to inform how we address not just Ormonde Avenue but the rest of the City of Unley going forward. Other streets will inevitably present as this one has, an like I suggest neighbouring Millswood Crescent may in the not too distant future.

Please, please, please have your say. If you don’t respond to the survey we will not know your opinion and you may by default not be happy with the decision made.

Please consider what we are trying to address and carefully consider what you think is best, not just for you and the neighbourhood today. Consider your kids and grand kids who will inherit the answer we arrive at. And don’t be afraid to offer something different to the options proposed.

The future of Ormonde and maybe the City of Unley is in your hands.

 

Trees in Unley

The Friends of the City of Unley Society (FOCUS) is putting on a free evening at the Unley Community Centre in Arthur Street Unley this Wednesday night commencing at 7.30 pm concerning  tree management.

 

If you have a passion for the trees of Unley, whether you love them or hate them I encourage you to come along to this free meeting.

FOCUS have invited Council’s Technical Officer, Arborist Mr Lee Anderson along to explain Council’s management program for their trees, both those in the public arena and those on private properties.

I have got to know Lee very well having worked with him on a number of tree related projects. I respect him for his knowledge and his understanding of the relationship trees have with us and our community.

Lee’s address will give an insight into the issues and outline:

  • Council’s Vegetation Policy and procedures
  • The tree management plan including that for Significant and Regulated Trees
  • Tree life cycle and when to intervene
  • Importance of habitat retention and biodiversity
  • The role of the community in the greening of Unley

A free presentation not to be missed! All welcome.

I particularly invite residents from my side of the City, the western suburbs as his address is as important to us as it is for those in the east of the City. Indeed those who have been recently invited by council to look at renewing their street trees might find this a timely opportunity. Put it in your diary and I will see you there.

Following the presentation and discussion a light supper will be provided followed by a short General Meeting for FOCUS.

Here is a special opportunity to meet Lee and hear how the City of Unley manages trees in the public and private realms

 

The Trees of Heywood Park present challenges to Council

The trees in one of Councils more popular parks, Heywood Park, are coming under scrutiny. In a report tabled tonight at this Council’s first meeting the health and structural integrity of a number of trees in this park are being questioned. 

 

This follows a number of failures in recent years of Heywood Park and adjacent trees and will no doubt attract the attention of many a resident of Unley and users of the park. Trees are one of the more passionate areas of debate we have in Unley (and other inner suburban councils for that matter).

It is also generally a polarised debate with no middle ground.

Heywood Park

The report tabled tonight, which is merely an opportunity for Council to be briefed on the issue, I believe recognises this and takes a responsible approach.

It (the report) correctly identifies that not only is this one of the few natural settings we have within our city boundaries it is also the venue for much public activities, from play activities for all ages to passive recreation and for high profile events. One such event (in the current Ignite Unley program) is scheduled for the 30th January next.

A number of significant tree failures in recent years has prompted administration to review the health of the trees in this park. We have  duty of care to ensure that Heywood park, indeed all our parks are safe for people to carry out the various activities that they do. We also have a responsibility to maintain a healthy, sound stock of trees and to preserve all significant trees.

Some 40 trees have been identified by an independent arborist as requiring removal, with a number of other trees requiring pruning and maintenance to varying degrees. Nine of these are either regulated or significant and will require development approval. I expect an such application will find its way to the Development Assessment Panel of which I am a currently member in the very near future.

Public notification is required under the Development Act but only to those residents that live within 60 metres of “a development”. I expect this may be widened in this instance. Notwithstanding this it may be that only those living within 60 metres can legally make a representation. With so many having a “relationship ” with Heywood Park I will be following this with interest.

There is a strict procedure that the panel will have to follow when comes the time to assess any application and I expect, as has always been the case, that they will on this occasion.

Replacement Tree program

The rail revitalisation tree replacement program is about to get under way and will be completed during this planting season.

Readers of this blog would be aware that Council got DPTI to commit to funding the replacement on a 3 for 1 basis the loss of significant trees as a result of the recent rail revitalisation project. The good news is they will be funding and we will be planting 64 trees that will have the potential to reach Regulated/Significant size at maturity.

We have received the planting schedule and Goodwood South will get 6 plantings in Page Park, 4 in Dora Guild Playground and 6 in Princess Margaret Playground.

Tree Replacement- to chop or not to chop

The devastation that has occurred with a significant loss of trees in the last 15 months in Clarence Park & Forestville has tested many in those suburbs, including me.

A number of you will remember my unsuccessful stance to save a tree in Princess Margaret Playground. A number who approved the removal of the trees along Canterbury Terrace and Parker Terrace have regretted giving their approval.

Council has recently after much angst on the east side of the City approved the replacement of the trees in Randolph Avenue at Fullarton. We have also been accused of removing trees that did not need to be removed and threatened with legal action for not removing trees that one of our residents believes to be unsafe.

Recent individual conversations with some residents has prompted me asking questions on notice which have been answered as part of the Agenda for Monday’s upcoming Full Council Meeting. The question seeks to understand what legacy we (the current council) is leaving future generations of council and their residents.

I have two focuses in asking the questions. The first are we replacing trees at a rate that will ensure we remain a leafy suburb or will our current replacement program result in a sudden need to remove a significant portion of our street trees because they all die around the same time. If this were to happen we would become a treeless City for a significant period of time.

The other focus is that if this were to happen what rate rises would the then Council have to make in order to fund such a large undertaking of City wide tree removal.

And ,make no mistake, if we are not replacing trees at an appropriate rate then both observations will be reality.

So I asked what is our current replacement rate and is it sustainable and, if not are we looking to improve this in the upcoming budget process to avoid a log jam later on.

The answer: We are replacing 300 trees per annum and with 10,500 mature trees in the City of Unley it would take 35 years to complete a replacement program. This is clearly not sustainable.

And yes to the latter question. Admin have a new budget initiative for the upcoming year to prevent a log jam later.

Tree replacement is a sensitive program that must be planned or and programmed with care, so as to maintain the amenity of an area now and into the future, near and far.

A Celebration for once on the Corridor

Residents of Cromer Parade will be celebrating tomorrow afternoon at 5.00 pm with a flag raising.

The celebration of course is probably the most accomplishment of G-RAG during the liaisons with DPTI on the issues that the rail upgrade caused to our suburbs.

Unfortunately I have another commitment at that time but in my absence may I say this:

“As your local representative for the first time on Unley Council, I take pride in being part of a community that not only cherishes its environment but had the strength of character, but also the maturity to meet the threat on our neighbourhood with calm and reasoned debate and action. It has been a difficult and at times an energy sapping and emotionally draining year. We paid a huge price during the time DPTI trespassed into our space, some of us more than others, but the price was worth it. The price of inaction or inappropriate action on our part would have been far greater.
I encourage all of us to keep this community spirit as other major projects touch on our door steps again.
Well Done everyone”.