Over a hundred community members turned out for the meeting, with the main council chambers packed. Picture: Gera Kazakov

Applause as Kalamunda bins tree retention policy

The policy was introduced in December 2022 and had been in operation for a little over a year.
February 29, 2024
Gera Kazakov

SUPPORTERS both for and against the City of Kalamunda’s local planning policy 33 – tree retention turned out in droves at the city’s ordinary council meeting – with those in favour of scrapping the policy applauding once the vote passed.

The policy was scrapped at the February 27 meeting, after north ward councillor David Modolo’s motion to which previous notice had been given passed after six councillors voted in favour, while three voted against.

Councillors John Giardina, Geoff Stallard, Mary Cannon and David Modolo voted in favour alongside deputy-mayor Dylan O’Connor and Mayor Margaret Thomas, while councillors Kathy Ritchie, Lisa Cooper and Brooke O’Donnell voted against.

There was applause but also confusion after the motion passed, as Cr Ritchie had also planned to move a separate motion to defer and review the policy over the next six months.

However, the city’s governance advisor Darrell Forrest explained that as Cr Modolo’s motion had passed with an absolute majority, Cr Ritchie’s motion now also needed an absolute majority compared to a simple majority.

“The only thing that’s changed tonight is because you had the revocation motion already passed this second motion now has a higher step to pass through … you now need an absolute majority, rather than a simple majority, because that previous decision has just been passed,” he said.    

Cr Ritchie’s alternate motion to delay the revocation of the tree retention policy was then lost despite Cr Cannon jumping ship to support the motion alongside councillors O’Donnell, Cooper, and Ritchie.

Mayor Thomas, deputy mayor O’Donnell and councillors Giardina and Modolo voted against the motion.

Prior to voting, council heard six deputations in favour of keeping the motion while two were against.

A former arborist from Kalamunda spoke against the motion, alongside south-east ward resident Joshua Clark who described the difficulties he faced in removing a tree in his front yard to secure it so he could keep his children safe.

Former south east ward councillor Janelle Sewell spoke in favour of retaining the policy and questioned the community consultation on its revocation.

“To revoke a policy without giving it due process is an emotional response, it’s not logical and one that is a knee-jerk reaction,” she said.

Local planning policy 33 was passed in December 2022 and was introduced to “guide applicant and decision makers to consider the need for the removal of trees and, where possible, minimise the removal of trees of a particular size through planning and development processes,” according to the officer’s report.

The removal of the policy comes after Perth sweltered through its hottest February on record – with seven days above 40 degrees – and Perth also having the lowest tree canopy cover of any Australian capital city, according to the Western Australian Tree Canopy Advocates.

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