On the 26th May 2003 a public question asked whether or not Council had a significant tree register and if one wasn’t in existence, when it would get off the ground. Twelve years later, residents are still waiting for any sign of a tree register. After numerous revisits to the issue, there is yet another officer report in this week’s agenda. Mind, not a report by the Local Law Committee which for the past 2 years has been charged with delivering the ‘framework’ for the introduction of a Local Law. Residents remain excluded from the documentation, the reasoning, any actual draft. What is now put into the public domain is an unnamed officer report that finally reveals the real agenda of council. One of the recommendations is designed to scuttle the issue of a tree register for good. – ie Resolve not to proceed with Item 7i in the Community Plan Action Plan for 2014-15. 

Given past voting on anything to do with this issue we anticipate that trees will continue to be an endangered species in Glen Eira and developers will continue to moonscape sites without fear of penalty. This judgement is based on previous councillor comments and, unless they have seen the light, we do not anticipate any change. (See: https://gleneira.wordpress.com/2013/10/16/still-going-round-the-mulberry-bush-10-years-on/ AND https://gleneira.wordpress.com/2013/10/14/the-saga-of-the-tree-register/

The other ‘advantage’ in killing off the idea for a tree register now is that it will then not proceed to be part of any ‘review’ of the Local Law. That means that there will be no public consultation on the issue since any amendment to the Local Law mandates public submissions. The intent in our view is clear – to do nothing and to prevent the community from having any say in the matter! This is again in spite of the specific resolution passed on the 27th April 2011. Another example of where resolutions in Glen Eira mean absolutely nothing! The resolution read:

Crs Pilling/Tang

That Council:

  1. Creates a classified tree register based on identification of trees whichmeet the criteria in attachment 1, and
  1. Drafts a Local Law to give effect to management and protection of trees listed on the classified tree register.

The MOTION was put and CARRIED.

It is quite unconscionable that the unnamed officer report can only manage two pages on an issue that is so contentious and when report after report (especially the recent Open Space Strategy) emphasises the importance that residents place on trees. Further, this report makes no mention of the above resolution. It refers only to the ‘aspirational’ component of the Council Plan! And of these two pages, the first page is nothing more than gobbledygook – short on truth, facts, and relevance. It again parades the nonsense of how well Glen Eira protects ‘200 valued trees’ via its planning application process. Given the admission that over 1200 applications come in each year (and one Magee claim is for over 1500 applications per annum and likely to be far more by now) then this surely represents a paltry figure of ‘protection’ – even granted that many applications will not have ‘valued trees’ on the property. What this also does not take into account is how many amended permits are submitted to REMOVE trees from a development and how many of these Council approves.

The greatest distortion of reality comes with this set of sentences – The ResCode mechanism is that any tree removed within 12 months of a town planning application being lodged must be assessed as though the ‘removed’ tree is still in place. This has proven to be somewhat of a defacto tree retention control because it has effectively removed any advantage a developer could gain from moonscaping. This means that any town planning application for medium density dwellings needs to consider existing tree/vegetation.

A truck could literally be driven through this nonsense – and it has. None of this takes into account land banking where a developer purchases a property, and possibly rents it out for years, BEFORE any planning application is lodged. In the meantime of course, every ‘significant tree’ is removed.

In June last year we featured a post where a healthy and huge tree sitting on the title border was destroyed after the property had been purchased by a developer. A new tree has now been planted in this exact spot. Thus, when the planning application eventually goes in, council will simply determine that this sapling is anything but a ‘significant’ tree and grant permission for its removal. The developer escapes unscathed, unfined, and literally untouchable since he has exercised the wonderful ‘escape loop’ in the far from ‘effective’ planning process.

Here are the BEFORE AND AFTER photos of this site –

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We have commented numerous times on this ‘no action’ council and how often it flies in the face of community views. Resolutions are passed only to be ignored and reneged upon. We reiterate: the community values its trees – not just on public land, but also private land. Given the rate of development, it is incumbent on councillors to ensure that every single avenue is pursued to protect the environment. We would go even further and suggest that Local Law protection is basically limited to mere officer decision making with again no decision making capacity by councillors (unless specifically spelt out) or by residents. Plenty of other councils (ie Whitehorse, Moonee Valley) have tree registers as part of their Planning Scheme. Such an option is naturally ‘verboten’ in Glen Eira since it would impinge on the current power structures and involve far more transparent and accountable decision making.

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