Knox trees removal plan angers residents

KNOX Council is facing a backlash over its tree removal program which some residents say is destroying the city's charm.

Rowville residents also claim the council misled them by saying "older trees" would be removed from nature strips. Ultimately, all the street trees were felled regardless of their age.

Hundreds more eucalypt trees are earmarked for removal, prompting an opposition campaign from residents, including an online petition which already has dozens of signatures.

They say the tree felling contradicts the council's vision for the future of Knox which says it is "committed to protecting our green, leafy neighbourhoods and natural environment".

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Is Knox Council's tree removal program the right thing for the municipality? Post a comment below.

Lakeside Boulevard residents Natalie Lawrence, Deb Capon and Ann Fairbanks are leading the campaign against the mass tree felling. Tree removal is due to start in their street on February 18.

The women say removing the trees means a loss of habitat for native animals — including possums and birds — which would change the entire environment of the suburb.

Ms Capon said while they understood it was necessary to remove some trees because they were causing drainage and other problems, those issues were not applicable to all streets. "We want sensible management. We don't want a bulk removal, we want street by street, tree by tree."

The activists are calling for an immediate stop to the bulk tree removal, and for the trees to be removed gradually over the next three to five years to minimise the impact on the environment.

"Over the past year, the council removed all the trees in Goulburn Avenue, Rowville, and you need only look at that street to see how awful our street will look if the same fate befalls Lakeside Boulevard," Mrs Lawrence said.

It is believed the tree removal program began after a number of legal and insurance problems for the council, particularly in Goulburn Avenue, where the eucalypt trees blocked drains during drought.

The council's engineering and infrastructure director Ian Bell said there was no one reason for the removal and the trees were being judged on a case-by-case and street-by-street basis. "The program is all about making sure the right trees match their environments, within available budgets and resources."

This financial year 262 trees will be removed — the number each year would depend on the council's budget, a spokeswoman said.

Residents are also upset about the tree variety chosen to replace the eucalypts — ornamental pear trees.

Mrs Lawrence questioned the validity of a vote taken on new trees to replace the eucalypts, saying many residents were unaware of the effects on local fauna.

"I also feel the survey provided a beautiful picture of the pear tree in full bloom while also providing a very average photo of the eucalyptus tree called 'Little Spotty'.

"The photo did not even include a picture of the flower. I feel any person with no knowledge of Australia flora and fauna would always pick the glorious picture of the pear tree ahead of the bland photo of 'Little Spotty'."

A petition has been set up opposing the program and can be viewed at thepetitionsite.com by searching Knox Council.

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