Park trees chopped for park­ing lot

Dubbo Photo News - - Front page - By YVETTE AUBUSSON-FO­LEY

“NO per­son shall act in a way that will cause dam­age to the park or is likely to in­jure, en­dan­ger, ob­struct, in­con­ve­nience or an­noy any per­son.” So says Rule Num­ber 1 on a Gipps Street Coun­cil sign next to Vic­to­ria Park ovals No.2 and 3 where, un­til a week ago, 14 ma­ture trees pro­vided a broad canopy of shade for sport­ing par­tic­i­pants, spec­ta­tors and the use of the gen­eral public.

Mem­bers of the SOS Trees Dubbo group are also com­mu­nity rep­re­sen­ta­tives on the Street Tree Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee (STAC) and are gob­s­macked by the trees’ re­moval.

“We’ve got this vi­sion that we want to cre­ate canopy cover for Dubbo,” Mark Gard­ner, one of the group, said.

“Dubbo is at about 8 per cent and most other coun­cils are at 20 per cent plus, so we have a long way to go. We’re far be­hind, and we want to cre­ate a plan for canopy cover and in­volve peo­ple and at­tract fund­ing and do all those things, and here we are look­ing at stumps,” he said.

“NO per­son shall act in a way that will cause dam­age to the park or is likely to in­jure, en­dan­ger, ob­struct, in­con­ve­nience or an­noy any per­son.”

So says Rule Num­ber 1 on a Gipps Street Coun­cil sign next to Vic­to­ria Park ovals No.2 and 3 where, un­til a week ago, 14 ma­ture trees pro­vided a broad canopy of shade for sport­ing par­tic­i­pants, spec­ta­tors and the use of the gen­eral public.

“We play cricket in the sum­mer­time,” one par­ent watch­ing rugby train­ing at No.2 last week told Dubbo Photo News.

“Cricket matches go all day. We used to park our cars here, un­der the shade. They’ll be sorely missed,” he said.

Mem­bers of the SOS Trees Dubbo (SOS) Face­book page are also com­mu­nity rep­re­sen­ta­tives on the Street Tree Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee (STAC) and are gob­s­macked by the trees' re­moval.

“The Street Tree com­mit­tee has had two meet­ings since we’ve come on board and noth­ing was brought be­fore the meet­ings about this. I think their at­ti­tude was 'well this is done and dusted, it’s been signed off way be­fore this com­mit­tee was formed', but that’s not the point,” STAC and SOS mem­ber Belinda Ed­mond­son said.

“I think they knew too, that all hell would break loose,” STAC and SOS mem­ber Narelle Grant added.

“Ob­vi­ously we’re go­ing to say at the next meet­ing we need fore­warn­ing of any fu­ture projects in­volv­ing the trees so we can then ob­vi­ously in­form the public a lot bet­ter than what they’re do­ing,” Ms Ed­mond­son said.

Dubbo Re­gional Coun­cil di­rec­tor Com­mu­nity and Re­cre­ation Mur­ray Wood ac­knowl­edges emo­tions over the tree re­moval are high.

“Yes, it’s emo­tional at the time. It is a con­struc­tion site at the mo­ment but in 10 years' time we’ll have pine trees in the mid­dle of the car park, like the Ro­tary an­niver­sary pine trees near the ceno­taph and big­ger broad dome trees as well,” he told Dubbo Photo News.

Mr Wood sup­plied Dubbo Photo News with a map of the car park con­struc­tion site show­ing where new trees will be planted.

“Where we can, we’re putting broader de­cid­u­ous trees in the car park,” he said.

“We’re build­ing a car park on ma­ture trees which are to­wards the end of their life. You’re go­ing to de­sign a car park around them and they’re go­ing to die, and then you’re go­ing to have to start again any­way,” he said.

Res­i­dent and for­mer coun­cil em­ployee Kerry Ran­dell says she’s heard it all be­fore.

“Plant­ing off­set is baloney. You can’t re­move habi­tat, ma­ture, aes­thetic trees which are pro­vid­ing amenity. It’s an epic fail, fail, fail,” Kerry said.

“There needs to be re­spect for the shade and the amenity. This is just like in Dubbo streets where if one side of a street needs pipes and the trees have to go, there’s whole­sale re­moval on both sides.”

A day be­fore the tree re­moval was com­pleted, Coun­cil is­sued a state­ment say­ing an in­de­pen­dent ar­borist’s 2012 au­dit had found seven of the trees in ques­tion had a use­ful life ex­pectancy of five to 15 years, which to­day would be closer to be­tween three and nine years.

“One of the Kur­ra­jongs in the carpark area that had been as­sessed pre­vi­ously as hav­ing a longer use­ful life ex­pectancy was re­moved ear­lier this year fol­low­ing storm dam­age,” Mr Wood said.

“Upon in­spec­tion the tree had de­cay and struc­tural is­sues in­di­cat­ing a shorter life ex­pectancy than pre­vi­ously as­sessed. While Coun­cil recog­nises that there will be a loss of amenity and shade for a short pe­riod of time, the re­place­ment trees that Coun­cil will be re­plant­ing will have a life ex­pectancy of close to 100 years,” he said.

Not against progress, the Street Tree Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee com­mu­nity mem­bers want bet­ter con­sul­tancy.

“What we’re on about is greater trans­parency. These de­ci­sions are be­ing made and no-one knows. We’re not hear­ing about them and these are com­mu­nity as­sets and the com­mu­nity is very an­gry about the loss of their as­sets,” STAC and SOS mem­ber Mark Gard­ner said.

“These trees have pro­vided fa­cil­ity for fam­i­lies, for kids, for peo­ple. They cre­ated ambience look­ing across from the Out­look Café, (but now the view is of) the in­dus­trial area on the rail­way line be­cause of course the trees on Tal­bra­gar Street have also been re­moved.

“If we don’t start to make a stand, we’re go­ing to end up as a con­crete jun­gle in one of the hottest re­gional cities in Aus­tralia, and which­ever way you look at it, it makes no sense,” he said.

Mr Wood ex­plained Coun­cil is “re­boot­ing” their mas­ter plans in the wake of changes brought by amal­ga­ma­tion, plus money re­ceived through amal­ga­ma­tion and grants such as the Stronger Com­mu­ni­ties Fund.

“We didn’t re­alise that this pulse of ac­tiv­ity was go­ing to come, with the merger, and the merger money, and then Stronger Com­mu­ni­ties Fund money. It didn’t hap­pen in my liv­ing me­mory of work­ing in com­mu­nity ar­eas, that we’ve got all this money to achieve so much on our mas­ter plans.

“Say for Vic­to­ria Park in 2009, there was a lot of con­sul­ta­tion out there for peo­ple to make com­ments; and a lot of peo­ple don’t com­ment, a lot of peo­ple do,” Mr Wood said.

“You can’t wait for a grant to come along then do the mas­ter plan. It’s a weird term but these projects have to be ‘shovel ready’.

“Bar­den Park helped the sport­ing clubs to un­der­stand mas­ter plan­ning. The mas­ter plan got us the money for Bar­den Park, and then we could do a de­tailed de­sign. When you get the grant, you’re think­ing, right it’s real. You don’t want to spend $200,000 on a de­tailed de­sign if it’s a pipe dream.

“You do spend $50,000 on a busi­ness case and a mas­ter plan to get ready. I think sport­ing clubs that have been ex­posed to it, un­der­stand it a bit bet­ter, whereas parks; no-one sort of feels like they own it, un­til you chop down trees.

“I like trees. I’ve cut them down, I’m an ex-ar­borist, but it’s about cre­at­ing public spa­ces so we’re cer­tainly very con­scious. The pool carpark was one where we did cut down four big trees, and there was a bit of blow­back at the time, but now the big­gest com­plaint is we don’t have a big enough car park for the pool.”

The of­fi­cial line from Coun­cil how­ever is not sit­ting well with SOS Trees Dubbo mem­bers.

“We should be plant­ing more trees and look­ing af­ter them, not pulling them down, par­tic­u­larly ones like these which are over 50 years old, and these trees were healthy, there was noth­ing wrong with them,” Mark Gard­ner said.

“I as­sumed they were dan­ger­ous,” said the par­ent watch­ing train­ing. “Un­less they had good rea­son to get rid of them there’s not much shade around there.

"We’re very big on ‘and’... we could have had a car park, and, trees. Other places do that,” he said.

“Another thing that wor­ries us is that Coun­cil has this idea they’ve got to raise ev­ery­thing to the ground and start with a clean slate, rather than putting a value on what we al­ready have.

“Syd­ney City Coun­cils ac­tu­ally put a value per tree, and it’s some­thing like $15,000 a year on what each tree pro­vides. Our coun­cil doesn’t con­sider trees as an as­set at all,” Belinda Ed­mond­son said.

“It’s not like we’re say­ing we don’t want de­vel­op­ment; we want

de­vel­op­ment that is pos­i­tive for Dubbo, and this is not a pos­i­tive de­vel­op­ment for Dubbo, by any means,” Mr Gard­ner added.

Coun­cil will be plant­ing four su­per-ad­vanced Hoop Pines to fi­nalise the av­enue be­tween Bligh Street and Fitzroy Street.

Twenty-two Saw­tooth Oak trees which grow to a height of 20 me­tres with a sim­i­lar spread of canopy will be planted around Vic­to­ria Park No.2 oval and ad­ja­cent to the carpark to pro­vide ad­di­tional shade.

“It doesn’t mean we’ll get 20 me­tres,” STAC and SOS mem­ber Narelle Grant said.

“It’s go­ing to take 20 or more years to get back what’s just been cut down. It’ll be 20 years be­fore they pro­vide a func­tion,” Ms Ed­mond­son said.

“I won’t be able to en­joy them in my life­time,” Kerry Ran­dell said.

All ma­jor sport­ing stake­hold­ers were present at a meet­ing of the Vic­to­ria Park Re­de­vel­op­ment Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee and all par­ties en­dorsed the de­sign and works in­clud­ing the con­struc­tion of the car park be­tween Vic­to­ria Park 2 and 3 ovals. The Street Tree Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee are not in­cluded in the con­sul­ta­tion.

“A lot of peo­ple still don’t know about it. There’s a lady who lives near here who didn’t know the trees would be cut down. She of­ten brought her grand­chil­dren here in a stroller to wheel them around un­der the shade. Not any­more,” Ms Ed­mond­son said.

The com­mit­tee is con­cerned about projects which re­ceived sub­mis­sions years ago, such as the Vic­to­ria Park Mas­ter Plan which was drafted in 2011.

“Peo­ple just for­get. How many of these legacy projects are there just on the shelf that this is go­ing to hap­pen to. Dis­clo­sure and trans­parency is re­ally im­por­tant be­cause it builds trust,” Mr Gard­ner said.

“We don’t want to be putting our time into this. We want to be putting our time into plant­ing and get­ting peo­ple on board for plan­ning and get­ting grants. We’ve got this vi­sion that we want to cre­ate canopy cover for Dubbo.

“Dubbo is at about 8 per cent and most other coun­cils are at 20 per cent plus, so we have a long way to go. We’re far be­hind, and we want to cre­ate a plan for canopy cover and in­volve peo­ple and at­tract fund­ing and do all those things, and here we are look­ing at stumps,” he said.

The es­ti­mated cost for the carpark and light­ing is $470,000. De­sign costs were pro­vided by the Coun­cil’s in­ter­nal works branch a year be­fore the Stronger Com­mu­ni­ties Fund Tied Grant an­nounce­ment.

“The Vic­to­ria Park Re­de­vel­op­ment Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee rec­om­mended the op­tion that re­quired an ad­di­tional $500,000 ex­pen­di­ture and that was sub­se­quently en­dorsed by Coun­cil,” Mr Wood said.

“The ex­tra funds are tar­geted at an in­crease in change rooms and fe­male ameni­ties at Vic­to­ria Park No.1 Oval to meet in­creas­ing de­mand aris­ing from in­creased fe­male par­tic­i­pa­tion in rugby, rugby league, league tag and cricket.

“Coun­cil’s In­fra­struc­ture De­liv­ery Branch is con­struct­ing the car park and the op­er­a­tions branch of the Com­mu­nity and Re­cre­ation Di­vi­sion shall be com­plet­ing the land­scap­ing and tree plant­ing,” he said.

The new car park will be as­phalt sealed and con­sist of 70 car spa­ces, in­clud­ing two ded­i­cated dis­abled spa­ces and one bike rack.

The Mas­ter Plan iden­ti­fied a com­mu­nity need for safe, off­street park­ing which would im­prove the ap­peal and ac­cess to the sport­ing precinct.

“Coun­cil’s plan is to cre­ate a new ac­ces­si­ble car park with ap­pro­pri­ate plant­ing and off­set plant­ing around the ovals to im­prove the over­all amenity and use of the precinct,” Mr Wood said.

The 2016 plan for the car park in­cludes struc­tural soils which en­able large enough soil vol­ume un­der­ground with airspaces as well as soil im­prove­ments such as biochar.

“The Arau­carias shall be planted down the mid­dle with one ei­ther side of the drive­way en­trance. The re­main­ing spa­ces will be Quer­cus acutis­sima, a broad canopy de­cid­u­ous tree, en­abling so­lar ac­cess in win­ter and shade in sum­mer when ma­ture,” Mr Wood said.

But that's not good enough, ac­cord­ing to SOS Trees Dubbo group mem­bers.

“The trees that were here could ac­tu­ally shade the cars, now there’s a unique con­cept,” Mark Gard­ner said.

Street Tree Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee and SOS Dubbo Tree Face­book page mem­bers Narelle Grant, Belinda Ed­mond­son and Mark Gard­ner in­spect the site where 14 trees were re­moved to make way for a 70-space as­phalt car park. PHOTO: DUBBO PHOTO NEWS

PHOTO: DUBBO RE­GIONAL COUN­CIL

This coun­cil plan drafted in 2016 shows ar­eas where large trees will be planted in the car park. Map leg­end: Ma­jor Con­tour In­ter­vals shown with red lines, Mi­nor Con­tour In­ter­vals shows in fine lighter clue. Gipps Street is below this map, but not shown.

Rule num­ber one on this Coun­cil sign at Vic­to­ria Park states: “No per­son shall act in a way that will cause dam­age to the park... in­con­ve­nience or an­noy any per­son.”

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