The Cairns Post

Bid to chop library tree


RATEPAYERS have forked out a huge sum to save an imperilled tree outside the city library, but the spend pales in comparison with the amount shelled out to rid it of bats.

Cairns Regional Council is awaiting a state government decision on whether its request to cut down the heritage-listed fig tree should be sent for federal assessment.

In the meantime, Mayor Bob Manning has reassured residents every effort was being made to keep it alive.

“Council does not want to remove the tree, but in its current condition it poses a risk to public safety,” Cr Manning said in a statement.

“For the past six years, council has taken extensive steps to minimise the risk and save the tree, spending over $100,000 of ratepayer funds to protect the fig, including trimming, maintenanc­e, bracing, fencing and other supports,” he said.

The council spent $1.68m on flying fox relocation efforts last year – more than triple the budgeted $510,000 spend. The tree, known as T5, stands on the Lake St side of the library. It and neighbouri­ng figs are clear of bats with dispersal efforts scattering the resident colony to other parts of the city.

Cr Manning said work to save T5 began after a report commission­ed by the state government highlighte­d the public safety risk in 2014.

“A further three arborist reports, including one commission­ed by a member of the public, have confirmed the risk is ongoing, despite council’s best efforts,” he said. “Council officers recently met with representa­tives of Cairns and Far North Environmen­t Centre (CAFNEC) and have indicated that we will undertake a review of the cost implicatio­ns and practicali­ty of any and all measures to protect and support the health of the tree.

“If, following these efforts, the longterm implicatio­ns for the tree and public safety remain an issue, we will have no option but to remove the fig and replace it with a mature tree.

“As the tree has been a flying fox roost in the past, we have committed to not doing any work on the tree until an independen­t ecologist declares that the flying fox breeding cycle is complete and the removal would not compromise the flying foxes in any way.”

A CAFNEC campaign to block the tree’s removal resulted in 74 public submission­s being made. A decision on whether the matter needed to be assessed under national environmen­t law has been pushed back to November 5.

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