Council’s ‘update’ on its planning scheme review action plan includes the following on ‘tree protection’ –

Surely it is incumbent on Council to produce statements that are honest, accurate, and informative. The above is both misleading and ineffectual as an action to protect our trees. Here’s why –

  • Wynne’s amendment C143 which introduced the ‘garden requirements’ has got absolutely nothing to do with ‘tree protection’ per se. It simply provides a scale that determines how much of the varying site sizes must consist of ‘garden area’. It does not stop moonscaping. It does not stop the removal of any tree prior to an application being lodged.
  • As for ‘basement’ requirements, there is absolutely nothing in the Better Apartment Guidelines / Amendment VC136 that we can find that specifies the protection of trees. In fact it even foreshadows moonscaping! See below:
  • Then we have the reference to the Urban Design Guidelines. Again, there is nothing in this document to ensure that trees are NOT REMOVED. What we do have is paragraphs such as – To provide side setbacks, towardsthe rear of the lot, with adequate width to permit canopy trees, creating a garden setting for dwellings.

We repeat. All of the above do NOT protect EXISTING trees. They are all looking ahead and what should happen in terms of landscaping once the existing tree has been removed. Yet council is quite happy to claim that the issue of tree protection has been at least ‘partially addressed’ by these documents. Nothing could be further from the truth!

But there’s more to this entire issue of tree protection which has been around since at least 2003 in Glen Eira– despite  consistent data that highlights the priority that residents place on the protection of our trees. Discussion after discussion has been stymied by certain councilors (some of whom are still on council) and who have refused to even entertain the idea of tree protection on private property. As far as we know, council has never provided any data on:

  • The percentage loss of canopy coverage over the past decade in Glen Eira
  • How many private trees have been removed prior to a development application
  • How many permits have been granted for the removal of trees post permit – nor the reasons for such permission (ie 2 recent permits granted in Murrumbeena for tree removal despite what the original conditions of the permit stated)

In short, we know very little about the destruction of these vital assets over the years – and we speculate that council does not know either!

So now we finally have some discussion on a ‘significant tree register’. What council has not explained fully enough to residents via their Clayton’s ‘consulation’ survey is that ‘significant tree registers’ generally feature only a few hundred trees. Nowhere near enough to safeguard thousands of trees from being ripped down by developers.  And a lot depends on the criteria actually used to determine whether something is ‘significant’ or not! Council also appears to be satisfied that if and when a tree register materializes it will only feature in its Local Law, and not be a specific item in the Planning Scheme! Simply not good enough. Further, questions abound – will council introduce permit requirements on private land for large trees that are not listed in the register? Will they follow Stonnington’s lead and introduce ‘compliance’ measures on developers for each application?

In the end, every single site in Glen Eira is a potential ‘development site’. As such, what is needed is far more than a few hundred trees placed on some register.