By Mikayla Van Loon
After a battle of almost 13 years to remove a tree from their property, a Chirnside Park family has yet again received the support of councillors despite a recommendation to keep the tree in place.
A plea from the Stewart family, who live on Kingswood Drive, to remove a single River She Oak from the front nature strip because of the “dangerous” needle debris was heard at the Yarra Ranges Council meeting on Tuesday 28 November.
“We have no footpaths in our street and residents of course have to walk on the road or the very unstable nature strip this tree creates under foot,” homeowner Courtney Stewart said.
“I personally have had to assist a number of residents who have slipped on the debris it creates. This tree is dangerous…The debris it creates, the risk that it creates outweighs the benefit that it holds.”
Having attended a council meeting in July to speak about the personal and physical impact the debris from this tree has had, Ms Stewart’s father-in-law Byron Stewart spoke about his injury.
“In January this year, I slipped and fell on the debris, the needles, this tree continually drops,” Mr Stewart said.
“The injury was substantial, I’m still having ongoing treatment, I was lucky enough not to strike my head on the gutter. When I fell down I injured my left lower leg and knee.”
The initial recommendation from the council officer team was to leave the tree after an arboriculturalist found no reason for the tree to be removed.
Mr Stewart said, however, the report made no mention of risk reduction or the potential hazard this tree causes.
“From a risk hazard point of view that seems to have been missed in this process and I’m unable to find it in the planning report tabled tonight,” he said.
Not against the planting of new trees of a different variety, Ms Stewart said “we want our area and the environment to be taken care of”.
Councillor Richard Higgins moved an alternative motion to get a planning permit to remove the tree and replace the existing with two middle and/or upper storey trees within three months of the tree and stump removal.
“It’s not a case of we hate the tree and we just don’t want it. They’ve actually given us a situation where there’s this display of risk with people, multiple people have been injured through a slipping of the pine needles,” he said.
“We have to now get a planning permit to do so. And that’s what this motion is doing, getting that planning permit, so we can continue on the goodwill that we gave the residents of this area about this tree last time.”
Swinging her vote after hearing the increased street sweeping didn’t work, Cr Johanna Skelton said she would be supporting the removal to get closer to the goal of increasing the tree canopy.
“This is a chance to put some more appropriate trees in there that will be beloved by the residents, hopefully, and the other people in the street as well,” she said.
Cr Jim Child also spoke to the motion and said it “highlights again a deficiency we’ve got and it’s time we actually reviewed the [tree] policy”.
“These trees were planted a long time ago. If you go through the urban areas at the moment [they] are littered with trees that aren’t appropriate,” Cr Higgins added.
“We’ve got to start thinking about replacing or fixing some of these things up.”
Councillors supported that process by voting to remove the Kingswood Drive tree.