Lemon Scented Victory
A determined community has stayed the execution of cherished trees, because they are determined to stop the deforestation of their suburb - supported by our SOS Green Spaces campaign!
"We have achieved a stay of execution for a Lemon Scented Gum Tree," said visibly impassioned local Margaret McCartney to TEC today, "but I think it has highlighted there are problems with our local council's tree protection rules."
In fact tensions in Epping have escalated in the past 24 hours with the attempted destruction of 3 much loved Jacaranda trees on a medium strip in Forest Grove, because they were impeding the laying of a new footpath affected by excavation of a development site (see more below).
But poor tree protection is a symptom of a deeper malaise afflicting too many Sydney suburbs under the current Berejiklian government.
Epping is not alone in facing a crisis in sustainable infrastructure, as a swelling population squeezes the available amenities, including green outdoor space. Traffic congestion, inadequate parking, and the needs of expanding local schools have combined with cookie cutter high rise unit blocks to replace valuable tree canopy and quality building stock, eroding the unique character of huge swathes of Sydney. Epping is rapidly losing commercial space as well.
The Save Epping’s Forest Park action group believes the residents of Epping deserve better planning. The group is particularly concerned by The Forest Park Planning Proposal for the former Epping Bowling Club site adjacent to Forest Park, which was presented to council in December 2015 by the Austino Property Group. Rezoning the site to increase building heights from eight storeys to 22, would allow the development of Austino's 20-storey unit block, which will encroach on public space, remove useful public recreation facilities, and cast significant shadows on Forest Park vegetation.
The Austino Property Group development proposes 654 dwelling, 860 car spaces and 1,637 new residents. This represents a large proportion of the 3,750 additional dwellings approved for the Epping urban development. Save Epping’s Forest Park action group says it is "a gross overdevelopment of the site".
The assault on the local character of Epping, which locals say is contingent on its trees, parks, and the wildlife they support, has been tested by the case of the beloved lemon scented gum outside 5 Maida Street, which supports 100s of native birds, such as the endangered Little Lorrikeet.
Strata management for number 5 has applied to council to have the tree removed, citing an abourist report which claimed the tree is a health hazard. Renowned horticulturalist, Ross Graham has said, "as a horticulturist of 50 years standing and who taught arboriculture for ten years, I can see even from your photographs, that the tree is healthy.The branch unions are ‘u’ shaped not ‘v’ shaped indicating the branches are strongly connected to the main trunk."
The gum is not a species on the Hornsby Development Control Plan’s tree protection list. According to City of Parramatta Administrator, Amanda Chadwick "City of Parramatta Council officers have worked diligently to ....better respond to your views about the protection of this tree. Unfortunately, without amendment of the Hornsby Development Control Plan it is not possible."
Chadwick has asked Council staff to prepare a paper for the next Council meeting on 10 July, "that initiates the process of amending the Hornsby Development Control Plan’s provisions for the protection of Epping trees now in the City of Parramatta to help avoid this situation in the future."
"I am conscious," she said in a letter to Margaret McCartney dated 27 June, "that the making of the new harmonised LEP/DCP for Epping Town Centre will take time and in the interim trees clearly valued by the community would not be protected.....I hope that I can look forward to your support of amendments to this Development Control Plan to help avoid this unfortunate situation reoccurring."
Breaking news this week however reveals that sustained resident action, including street demonstrations supported by Greens MP David Shoebridge, and respresentations of the tree created by local artists, have shown council that this tree, and all it represents, will be vigorously defended.
"The crowd is not going away," says McCartney with some small satisfaction, "and the removal of the tree is now on hold."
Concerning the sudden assault on three Jacarandas on July 4th, McCartney says "the community has been wonderful. People who have to work are sending me emails every day assuring me I'm not on my own. There's a lot of emotion."
McCartney, who was at home yesterday morning, was able to stop the chain sawing of one of the 3 trees, although two others had already been reduced to stumps by the time she got to them. She was verbally harassed but having insisted she was prepared to stay all night, saw the chainsaws packed away.
As a result of calling Amanda Chadwick, McCartney was able to meet with Pino Todarello, senior open space and natural resources for City of Parramatta on July 5th. After public consultation, Todarello agreed the remaining Jacaranda should be protected.
"But that tree would not still be there if I had not intervened," McCartney told TEC today. "Someone else in the street approached me this morning saying he was horrified when he saw it happening, but didn't realise he could do anything to stop it."
Margaret 's powerful example of resident action proves what TEC has been saying with its SOS Green Spaces campaign for the past two years - when community works together, elected officials must listen - and chainsaws and bulldozers can be stopped.
Concerning the fate of more heritage trees in Forest Park, the Save Epping’s Forest Park action group says, "We believe as the population of Epping grows the need for public recreation land and open space will grow and we do not want to see the public lose access to the public recreation land at the former Epping Bowling Club site.
"Nor do we want to see Forest Park, an important asset for Epping for passive recreation, destroyed by overshadowing and loss of trees and vegetation."
There is still time to make a submission for the City of Parramatta Council’s Epping Planning Review Draft Discussion Paper to support the Council to purchase the former Epping Bowling Club to provide much needed open space for the community.
The Save Epping’s Forest Park action group have created a guide to the issues which can be accessed via their website.
What can You Do?
- Check breaking news on the Save Epping’s Forest Park action group facebook page
- Contact Save Epping’s Forest Park
- Support TEC's SOS Green Spaces Campaign working with over 60 communities to save their trees, bushland and open space