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Gum trees on Welshpool Rd, Wattle Grove. Picture: CAROLINE MAZZA

Tree outcome not certain

ONLY one lemon-scented gum tree from a row of 13 on Welshpool Road East will face the chop after Kalamunda Council supported revised plans that would have originally brought their demise.

Despite the City’s efforts to modify access plans to the St Peter’s Jacobite Syrian Orthodox Church that would otherwise disrupt the trees, residents still fear for their future. 

For an issue that had once filled the public gallery at several council meetings and started a seven-month Save the Trees campaign, only 16 people attended on Tuesday night with one deputation from campaign leader Vanessa Mazza. 

Ms Mazza said the recommendation offered no guarantee of the trees safety or possible destruction and called for a deferment of the decision.

“A deferment would enable further meaningful investigation of the potential and actual effect of the proposed works on the trees in question,” she said.

She called attention to a report from arboricultural consultant Arbor Logic which said there were elements of the proposed design that required further investigation. 

These included the construction of a concrete footpath, drain, bus stop upgrades, slip lane and terminal barrier that could impact on several, if not all, of the trees. 

The report also noted excavation works may have already caused damage and loss of root mass of four trees.

“Protecting a tree – saving a tree, is not just protecting or saving the trunk and canopy – it is protecting and saving the roots system,” Ms Mazza said.

“You cannot genuinely believe or imagine this proposal saves trees when it could destroy roots which would then result in their removal.”

Cr Margaret Thomas moved the motion and spoke in support of the recommendation.

“If we don’t approve this tonight, which I understand is the removal of one tree, it goes back to the original approval, which is the removal of more trees,” she said.

“If the conditions are not reconsidered by council, the previous decision still stands and would likely result in the removal of up to 13 trees maybe more.”

She asked if officers had considered every possible option to allow access to the church while addressing tree welfare concerns.

A City officer said a number of amendments, including reducing the length of the slip lane from 100m to 75m, bus stop relocation and traffic lane width reduction, had been made and he believed the City had done “everything possible to minimize the impact on the trees”. 

Cr Geoff Stallard said the outcome they faced was not ideal but the best given the circumstances.

“This started with our original mistake to recommend this area for development for this particular activity,” he said.

“We don’t know for sure what effect it will have by disturbing the roots but I would expect that the arborist will be there.”

He said the intersection opposite the church could become a “nightmare” possibly needing a roundabout, traffic lights or speed reduction.

“We are trying to correct what we didn’t do right in the past, we did it for the right intention but without fully comprehending the risk and I apologise for that,” he said. 

“We created it and we now have to move forward and utilize the best opportunity that we can to give the safest and fairest access and minimize the damage to the trees.”

Mayor John Giardina declared an impartiality interest having family residing close to the subject area and removed himself from the chamber.

Deputy mayor Dylan O’Connor and four other councillors were absent from the meeting leaving only Cr Thomas, Stallard, Michael Fernie, Cameron Blair, Alan Morton and Lesley Boyd present.

The decision was passed unanimously by the six councillors.

Ms Mazza expressed her disappointment on Wednesday.

“I realise the City of Kalamunda have amended their initial plan – but last night was a failure not a victory and the community deserves better,” she said.

“The avenue of magnificent and beloved historic trees planted in 1963 (as a gift to the Shire) to mark the Gateway to the Hills deserves better.”

By Claire Ottaviano

About The Editorial Team

Echo News gives readers an alternative to other media outlets in WA and enjoys a very high rate of readership in its distribution area. Our Echo News team are a small group of devoted individuals who work hard to give the local community an easy to read, yet intelligent mix of local community stories.

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