We want our trees back!

Hill­crest res­i­dents to stage protest at petrol sta­tion

Weekend Witness - - News -

A TUS­SLE over trees will see mem­bers of the Hill­crest com­mu­nity stag­ing a protest out­side a lo­cal petrol sta­tion at 9.30 am to­day.

Res­i­dents and the owner of the newly­ac­quired Cal­tex Ser­vice Sta­tion have been at log­ger­heads af­ter he had seven trees — five of them in­dige­nous — that “have been there for­ever” chopped down.

Luis Farias, who is paral­ysed and with­out the use of his left leg af­ter be­ing wounded dur­ing a rob­bery, how­ever main­tains that it was done purely for safety rea­sons.

“I too value and ap­pre­ci­ate trees. How­ever, I value my safety more,” he said. The garage has been robbed twice, he said.

Res­i­dents are adamant that hav­ing the stinkwood and coral trees cut down in no way im­proves the se­cu­rity of the area.

And to­day at 9.30 am they will be voic­ing their dis­con­tent with a protest on Old Main Road, de­mand­ing that they be re­placed with ma­ture trees.

Steve Camp, a con­cerned res­i­dent, said they have gone to great lengths to en­sure that trees are planted in the neigh­bour­hood and also the sur­round­ing town­ships.

“The First Hill­crest Scouts and Guides Group have planted num­bers of in­dige­ nous trees over the past two years, re­cently 15 in­dige­nous trees at the Hill­crest taxi rank.

“The trees chopped down were a fea­ture of our neigh­bour­hood. We don’t see how it could pose a se­cu­rity risk. The branches were at least two me­tres from the ground.”

Driv­ing past the spot where stumps now bear wit­ness to the ma­jes­tic trees that were, Camp said he im­me­di­ately sent an e­mail to Farias re­quest­ing they be re­placed.

“He has land­scaped the front area, and I ap­plaud him for that. It needed some tidy­ing up, but the trees were not the prob­lem,” Camp said.

“When he [Farias] started to cut down the trees, the mu­nic­i­pal­ity ac­tu­ally of­fered to up­root them; he was not en­ti­tled to even touch those trees.”

Their de­mand is sim­ple, Camp says: Re­place our trees with in­dige­nous, ma­ture ones, read­ily avail­able at a lo­cal nurs­ery. They sug­gested Ery­th­rina trees, which don’t grow thick with lower branches.

“From the rugby club to the lo­cal youth move­ment, busi­ness and com­muters — we are all ral­ly­ing be­hind this is­sue.”

Camp said com­muters used to wait for their pub­lic trans­port un­der the shade of those trees. Now they too have been in­con­ve­nienced.

In their let­ter to Farias, the Kloof Con­ser­vancy said “per­sonal cir­cum­stances and busi­ness re­quire­ments did not jus­tify nor au­tho­rise” th­ese ac­tions.

“Your ex­pla­na­tion on the is­sue of se­cu­rity and safety is not ac­cepted. It is far too con­ve­nient an ex­cuse. Se­cu­rity is a prob­lem for ev­ery­one not just for you and your busi­ness, but we don’t take the law into our own hands and de­stroy the com­mu­nity’s prop­erty.”

Another let­ter reads that the con­ser­vancy has been ac­tive for many years and has vol­un­tar­ily beau­ti­fied the Hill­crest en­vi­ron­ment by in­volv­ing lo­cal com­mu­ni­ties, and used th­ese trees as ex­am­ples of the mer­its in pre­serv­ing the en­vi­ron­ment. “Con­ser­va­tion has been dealt a blow by the felling of th­ese trees,” they said.

Sup­port­ing Farias, Char­maine Brewis said of the old petrol site: “Well done to the new own­ers in mak­ing this eye­sore re­spectable.”

Nor­man Hughes, who has busi­ness deal­ings with Farias, said the petrol sta­tion was a grotty eye­sore in the cen­tre of town and a haven for thieves and va­grants.

“Would you pre­fer for that area to re­main in a shoddy, un­safe state to save a few trees?”

Farias owns petrol sta­tions in Cato Ridge and Gil­litts, both of which he has ren­o­vated ex­ten­sively. He took con­trol of the Hill­crest site in Oc­to­ber.

— Wit­ness Reporter.

PHOTO: IAN CARBUTT

Chair­per­son of the Keep Hill­crest Beau­ti­ful As­so­ci­a­tion Marge Mitchell, and res­i­dent Steve Camp will be part of a protest on Old Main Road in Hill­crest this morn­ing af­ter five in­dige­nous trees were cut down by the new garage owner.

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