Bondi View

Community roots tested over tree removal

By Emily Contador-Kelsall

 

The removal of Fig trees in Bondi Junction and lack of community consultation has angered residents and Councillors.

On Monday, Waverley Council attempted to remove the third of three fig trees slated for removal despite community opposition. This removal was halted when Greens Councillor Dominic Wy Kanak arrived and climbed the tree.

In 2013, Council removed the first Ficus Microcarpa Var Hillii tree from a row of trees along Allens Parade due to tree root damage to the boundary wall of an apartment block.

Resident Maria Flood lives in the apartment block next to the trees and said there had been a lack of consultation that angered the community.

“The community want to know why they weren’t made aware. We live here, pay to live here and when we’re not consulted about big issues, and we consider these trees to be a big issue, that’s when you start having problems, when a community start to oppose organisations.” Ms Flood said.

The community remained out of the loop on Monday, when residents and concerned councillors were surprised by an attempt to remove the tree.

“We are here now and the Council will not take calls or respond,” said Ms Flood from the scene,

“The Councillors helping us are running around trying to find out what is happening”

A Waverley Council spokesperson said permission was given to remove this tree in October following a complaint about structural damage to a boundary fence on a unit block at 25-29 Hollywood Avenue.

“The other two trees were removed in 2013 and 2014 respectively and have now been replaced with non-native Ornamental Pear trees.” The spokesperson said.

Ms Flood said that when Clr Wy Kanak arrived and climbed the tree all works stopped and trucks removed.

“We still don’t know what is happening.”

“We suspect they may try and come in the night with Police”

Waverley Councillor Paula Masselos said it was a surprise to many that these trees were coming down.

“Two people said that they were notified and subsequently called, but no one else was.” Clr Masselos said.

“People were very clear that they didn’t receive any kind of letters, no notification and for such important, iconic trees they felt the process wasn’t followed properly.”

Ms Flood was one of the two residents to be notified about the tree removal.

“In effect, they (Council) are pretty much saying there were two opposed, but they were the only two people that were consulted, so in effect it was 100%  of people opposing the removal.” Ms Flood said.

A council spokesperson said Council received two objections to the removal of the tree during the consultation process in mid-2014 and considered both.

“Several arborist and structural engineer reports were also carried out, which all suggested the only option to repair the fence was to remove the tree,” The spokesperson said.

“Senior Council officers have examined the process and authorisation and are happy that the correct processes have been followed.”

Clr Masselos however, believes that the fence and tree can co-exist.

“Even though council is required to fix the fence, I don’t think destroying the tree is the option for the longer term. I think we can fix the fence and save the tree.” Clr Masselos said.

The impact the removal of the trees will have on local wildlife is another concern of the community.

Clr Masselos said a vet in Bondi Junction has noticed a lot more starving wildlife in the area.

“Some people are saying it’s because there has been a bumper breeding season in Centennial Park, but we also know people are cutting down trees and so there are fewer fruit trees.”

“Some of the trees that are being planted are not compatible for wildlife diet; there are some very real concerns here.” Clr Masselos said.

As well as being a natural environment for wildlife, Ms Flood said the trees minimise noise and pollution in the area.

“Bondi Junction has become a very affluent area. We’ve got a lot of high rise, we’ve got a lot of people, we’ve got a lot more businesses and with that it brings noise, pollution and less wildlife.” Ms Flood said.

Resident in the affected apartment block, Corey Wo, said the removal of the trees could change the “aesthetics of a leafy street” to a “concrete jungle” and possibly heighten temperatures.

A council spokesperson said council maintains over 10,000 trees in Waverley, and about 200 new and replacement trees are planted each year.

Ms Flood called on the owner of the affected apartment block to come on board and help the community.

“Certain measures should have taken place prior to development, there should have been measures imposed in relation to the boundary line adjacent to the tree.”