ONCE one of the lovelier, leafier streets of the Bombala township, Burton Street is no longer lined with trees, and most of the community is furious about it.
Last week a drastic tree removal program was unleashed on the street, with the Bombala Council falling all of the established oak trees, as well as other plantings beautifying the stretch.
Angering residents, no consultation took place before the trees were removed, and a letter was not sent out to those living on the street until after the trees were cut down and it was too late to save them.
This letter was put out due to the number of complaints that were being received by the Council during the removal process, with residents dismayed to see their beautiful trees continuing to be felled.
There were a few residents pleased to see them go, improving visibility and no longer dropping their leaves, but this certainly was the minority.
With the complaints still rolling in this week, the Council scheduled an Extra Ordinary Meeting to discuss the matter on Monday night after our deadlines, and gave us the following statement beforehand.
“Council understands that street trees and their removal can be an emotive issue with residents who appreciate the visual amenity they provide to the streetscape.
This work was partly in response to Council receiving complaints from the community regarding the trees encroaching over the road and creating a potentially dangerous situation with regards to heavy vehicle traffic and other users of the road.
The trees impeded driver sight distance and reaction time whilst forcing larger vehicles to veer towards the centre of the road to avoid hitting branches.
Once Council was made aware of this issue it was obliged to assess the situation and take appropriate action to reduce the level of risk to the public and potential financial burden on ratepayers.
Council undertook a risk assessment of Burton Street which confirmed the validity of some of these complaints and highlighted a number of other issues including:
• It being a school bus and heavy vehicle haulage route through Bombala.
• Used mainly by residents living in the street but also is the popular route for most heading to the Bombala Waste Depot.
• Tree branch encroachment had reduced the useable width of the road to 5 metres and less in places increasing the potential conflict between heavy vehicles, school buses and residents’ vehicles.
• Most of the street trees were in poor condition, showing signs of stress and/or old age (Crown Rot) and some had suffered from previous poor pruning practices.
• Some of the trees were impacting negatively on utility services with branches too close to power lines, and tree roots accelerating the deterioration of water and sewer pipelines.
Given these reasons, the age and poor condition of the trees it was determined that it was more feasible to remove them and replace them in a staged approach with a themed planting of more appropriate species in locations that would not interfere with road users and various Council services.
Regrettably the residents in Burton Street were not consulted nor given a chance to provide comment before the work was undertaken in the street. In future Council will ensure that it consults with residents affected by similar works.
If residents would like to make suggestions regarding the replacement tree species and planting themes in Burton Street please forward your comments to Council.”
While all can understand the importance of road safety, however, few agree that the trees were in a poor condition, and strongly believe they were an asset to the street and the town itself.
In the case of improving visibility for road safety, most ask whether every single tree on the road was indeed a problem, and why professional pruning could not have been used as the solution rather than full scale removal.
In its letter to residents last week, Council also stated that the trees were affecting the sealing of the Burton and Maybe Street intersection, when in fact none of the trees were growing there.
And whilst Council now acknowledges that it was “regrettable” that the Burton Street residents were not consulted, why weren’t they? Particularly given the anger over the removal of established trees along the recreation ground a few years ago.
The Bombala Times hopes to have more answers on the matter in next week’s issue following Council’s Extra Ordinary Meeting of this week.
For now Burton Street is left with its sad row of stumps, and much of the community is left shaking its head.