In light of the removal of three Bunya Pines at Sunset Ridge reserve I think it’s timely that I talk about the Bellingen Shire policy around tree removal. Council receives up to four requests a week to remove trees throughout the shire and the large majority of these are refused and alternative solutions are applied. However, in a small number of cases the council has little option than to remove certain trees. Such cases are when there are public safety and litigation concerns, damage to private property and root damage to public infrastructure. These are scenarios which could result in large social and financial impacts.
The removal of three of the seven large Bunya Pines in the reserve between Sunset Ridge Drive and Kenny Close, Bellingen is an example of this. Bunya Pine trees when mature have significant cones (up to the size of bowling balls). Falling cones can represent a significant risk to people if struck by a cone. Of the trees removed one was hanging over the boundary of a childcare facility, another over private property (which had already caused damage to property) and the third was over a public walkway. As part of the decision-making process the ongoing cost of having the cones removed by a professional arborist was sought, and was found to be too expensive on an annual basis for council to be able to justify maintaining this cost for the life of the trees.
In this case, council considered the benefits of retaining the four remaining trees outweighs the risk posed by their falling pine cones, and acknowledges the importance of retaining such large native food trees in our shire.
Council takes the protection of our natural assets very seriously and is proud of our leadership around this issue. For example, the Bellingen Shire Koala Plan of Management safeguards 1132 ha of core koala habitat and ensures koala food trees in this area are managed and protected into the future. Also council’s lobbying of Forestry Corp around more sustainable logging practices and our in-principle support for the proposed Great Koala National Park are clear demonstration of this commitment.
Finally, we are also continually seeking better ways to improve our consultation and communication with the community around this and other issues. We recognise there needs to be a number of different ways to relay information to residents when trees do need to be removed. Effective communication has been, and continues to be, one of our core objectives as elected representatives; however, we acknowledge that reaching all residents in our diverse community will always prove complex and challenging. At present we are working with staff on the great suggestion from the community about offsetting these trees with some new plantings and we will keep you informed on this proposal.
Until next time
Cr Dominic King
3 May 2018