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Tree removal benefits years away: Council

Friday, 28th March, 2008

City Council has promised to keep the public well informed about its plans to remove trees from the city's streets.

Many gum trees planted decades ago had grown so big that they were now damaging kerbing, guttering, footpaths and roads, a public meeting was told last night. They had also grown into powerlines and the cost of keeping them pruned had cost millions of dollars over the years, electricity supplier Country Energy told the meeting.

Running the powerlines underground, as has been done in some of the new subdivisions in Wyman Lane and Brown Street, would not be practical for the rest of the city because it would be far too expensive, said the company's Regional General Manager Guy Chick. Mr Chick said the recent violent storms had shown that some trees had to go.

"The December storms happened when there were kids on the streets and live powerlines on the road brought down by trees," he said. "It was lucky there were no serious injuries or deaths." Council and Country Energy is about to embark upon a program of removing "unsuitable" trees from the street and replacing them with smaller trees.

The first stage of what will take years will begin at the end of next month in the South and near the city centre. Trees removed from beneath powerlines will be replaced by Weeping Bottlebrush and those that are not growing under powerlines but are causing damage to the roads and footpaths will be replaced with the Western Australian red flowering gum. The gum grows to a height of between 8 and 14 metres, needs little pruning and provides dense shade, Council's Assets Manager of Parks and Gardens, Shane Stenhouse told the meeting. The bottlebrush grows to between 2 and 5m and can withstand the heavy pruning needed to keep trees the required 1.5m below powerlines, Mr Stenhouse said.They are similar to the ones now found in Oxide Street, he said.

Mr Stenhouse said these trees had been chosen after consulting with arborists and tree officers from councils all over Australia. In a few years Council would see how well they had adapted and would also consider other types of trees to plant, he said. Council will start cutting trees down on April 28 and intends to have the new trees in by May 23.

They will be planted in "root directors" which are boxes that force the roots down into the water table and stop them growing out and damaging the ground's surface. These devices have been used outside the shops in Patton St, in the playground in Sturt Park and outside the art gallery in Argent St, Mr Stenhouse said, and they appeared to be working well. He said it might be 20 to 30 years before the benefits of the new trees became apparent and that some people would not want the big, old gum trees cut down. But he said Council would keep residents informed of its plans and accepted that there would have to be a bit of give and take.

Bill Nixon, a South resident, told the meeting he was suspicious of any plan to cut down trees because, in his experience, they were rarely replaced. "I'm very concerned about the big old gum trees," he said. "South Broken Hill used to be a desert and I planted some of those trees as a kid." He said it would be a shame to cut established trees down, especially if they were not replaced as promised. This had happened in the main block of Argent Street and at the Centro Plaza, Mr Nixon said. The attitude of some people here appeared to be one of "if it grows, chop it down," he said. Graeme Reville told the meeting that Council had to have the public's support if its plan was to succeed.

Council's General Manager, Frank Zaknich, said Council would do its best. "We will talk to householders (in the affected areas) over the next couple of weeks and we will be open to suggestions," he said.

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