BY CHRISTOPHER HARRIS
Despite community opposition, the state government lopped down dozens of trees in Randwick to make way for the light rail.
This week, trees in Sydney Park in the inner west looks slated for the same fate to make way for the WestConnex project, leading some to wonder if the government hates trees.
350 trees in Sydney Park in the inner west will be lopped to make way for the WestConnex roadway. It will also take 6,000 square metres from the park.
There are more trees on the chopping block with areas in Beverley Grove Park in Kingsgrove and Haberfield being cleared to make way for the road.
The WestConnex Delivery authority has promised to replace every tree with four more that is lost in Sydney Park.
But Greens Councillor Irene Doutney said that the state government shouldn’t be trusted regarding its promise to replace every tree with four more, because they had demonstrated a lack of regard for trees thus far.
“State Government’s attempts at appeasing a very upset community seem exaggerated. Claims that they will replace every mature tree removed with four additional trees, for example, do not seem credible. You can’t blame the community for doubting a promise like this given Government’s lack of care for the trees currently in place” Councillor Doutney said.
She said that the loss of the trees was not confined to one specific area, but was across the board, citing Randwick and the Ashmore estate as examples. She said the plan to lop 350 trees in Sydney Park would detroy a wildlife corridor, and that had not been considered in the government biodiversity study.
“They seem to have taken no real care with the biodiversity study, claiming a negligible amount of consequences to wildlife: one birds nest and one reptile,” she said.
A WestConnex spokesperson said: “The New M5 environmental assessment used the NSW Office of Environment & Heritage’s “Framework for Biodiversity Assessment” to assess biodiversity in the project corridor. As part of this process, the biodiversity values of Sydney Park were determined as not requiring biodiversity offsetting.
“Species of national significance, such as the Grey-headed Flying Fox, were assessed separately due to their likely use of the area for foraging. The assessment concluded the project would not significantly impact this species.”
The spokesperson said the remediation of the Alexandria Landfill site and the addition of 85,000 square metres of open space, which would be accessible to the public. The spokesperson said this would more than off-set the the “small boundary strip” of Sydney park being acquired.
Greens Member for Newtown Jenny Leong said that the WestConnex project would damage rare bushland and the habitats of endangered species. “It’s been abundantly clear since the St Peter’s interchange was announced that WestConnex will have a devastating impact on Sydney Park, but this latest land grab will mean that approximately 3 and a half acres of public green space will be taken from this area.
The position of the state government seems at odds with that of the federal government. Acting Cities Minister Greg Hunt announced a plan to set goals for each decade to 2050 for tree coverage.
The tree coverage plan aims to reduce extreme heat in cities.
Leichhardt Mayor Darcy Byrne said on Tuesday that the lack of trees in the Bays Precinct, which is set for redevelopment, must be addressed by the state government.
Clr Byrne said Premier Baird and the Federal Government were not on the same page when it came to trees.
“Malcolm Turnbull has announced today that he wants greener, more connected cities, but judging by his behaviour in the Bays Precinct, the Premier didn’t get the memo,” Mayor Byrne said in a statement on Tuesday.
“There is no green space – not a single tree or blade of grass – proposed so far in what is already the hottest place in the inner west.”
He said an analysis of heat maps in the area undertaken by the council and UTS showed that temperature is up to 15 degrees in summer in the Bays Precinct.