Do good things really come in trees?

An amendment supported by the City of Nedlands to regulate the removal of large trees on private properties has been met with a mixed reaction.

The plan was discussed with Nedlands’ residents and nearly one in 10 respondents opposed the proposed regulations.

Trees in the City of Nedlands that meet a certain criteria may need council approval before being removed. Infographic: Jessica Evensen.

Scheme Amendment 12 was first put to the council in 2021 by the Nedlands Tree Canopy Advocates to improve the framework around the protection of the City’s urban canopy.

The amendment is now being considered by the Western Australian Planning Commission which will make recommendations to Planning Minister Rita Saffioti for approval.

Dalkeith resident Alison Hill says if the policy is approved, the council must be willing to help residents with tree maintenance.

“If the limbs are going to drop off and cause damage to our property when they fall the council has to be willing to maintain them,” Hill says.

“It’s like we’re told to keep the trees but we’re still expected to water them with our own water using our own money.”

While Hill appreciates the tree canopies keep the area cool in summer, she says old trees create a worrying amount of damage.

“The trees just encroach on everything … when the roots grow to a certain size, they grow to a point the pavement has to be dug up, whereas if they were kept smaller there wouldn’t be so much root outgrowth,” she says.

“The leaves get in the pool and block the Kreepy Krauly [pool vacuum] … they’re a nightmare to clean up.”

Like Hill, City of Nedlands Councillor Kerry Smyth believes the maintenance of large trees are a ‘burden.’

She says the council does not prune or maintain trees on private property because of insurance and risk liability.

The City of Nedlands is one of Perth’s most ‘leafy green’ suburbs. Photo: Jessica Evensen.

“No one wants the leafy ambience in the area to be diminished although there is a belief that there should be more cost sharing of the maintenance burden,” Smyth says.

“People like the amenity that they provide but those that host the physical trees are daunted by the ongoing cost of maintenance of the trees and the surrounding property damage.”

Founder of the Nedlands Tree Canopy Advocates Brendan O’Toole says although he understands the maintenance frustrations he believes the benefits of the trees outweigh their damage.

“To me any amenity that’s provided by the tree outweighs any cracks in the pavement, and if the crack really bothers you you can just lift the pavement a little higher and put a bit of fill in it,” he says.

“To remove a significant tree that’s home to countless birds and provides shade that’s going to be critical as the planet warms just because of a few cracks in the pavement, well that seems to me a little disproportionate in response.”

The City of Nedlands also received multiple submissions in opposition, criticising the ‘red tape’ restrictions on private land.

The submissions argued the amendment was an ‘overreach’ of council powers and suggested the council focus on their ‘own land’ before pursuing regulations on private land.

“There are people who don’t like the idea of what people can and can’t do on their private property, but the fact of the matter is that the planning department is all about what you can and can’t do on private property,” NTCA’s Brenda O’Toole says.

“There are all sorts of regulations of what types of animals you can have on private properties, what noise you can emit from private properties, so why shouldn’t there be regulation over moving something that’s stood there for 150 years?”

Founder of the NTCA Brendan O’Toole says WA is the only state in Australia without laws protecting significant trees.

Though the WA Planning Commission is still deliberating the amendment, O’Toole is confident the commission will make positive recommendations to Minister Saffioti.

“I expect the minister will read the room and see that public sentiment is overwhelmingly in support.”

Whilst City of Nedlands Councillor Hengameh Amiry voted in support of the amendment, she says the intricacies of the policy still need to be discussed.

“Once the amendment goes through the state government and if they approve it, then we will turn our minds to the detailed policy.”

“At that point we do need to address the cost of maintaining the trees that are a benefit to the community but happen to be on private land.”

Categories: Environment

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