17 April 2016

On Thursday 7 April, with four days’ notice, residents on Flemington Rd received a letter from the CityLink Tulla Widening project, saying that five lemon scented gums, including the 94-year-old National Trust listed beauty at the Flemington Road / Church Street intersection, would be removed.

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Councillors were first informed of this decision on 5 April.

The City of Melbourne manages the medians, particularly the trees, inside VicRoads roads, and is required to apply its Tree Retention And Removal policy to any proposal to remove such trees. A key part of the policy states that if the removal of the tree is due to a proposed development (here, the Tulla Widening project), tree removal will only be consented to if it can be shown that there are no other options.

Greens Councillors immediately asked: what other options have been ruled out and where is the proof that the removal of the largest and oldest tree in particular is unavoidable? Three briefings later, and that proof was not forthcoming.

Greens Cr Rohan Leppert has therefore moved a motion to the Tuesday 19 April Future Melbourne Committee:

that no work order be made or issued, or permission be granted, for the removal of lemon scented gums near the Flemington Road / Church Street intersection, due to the CityLink Tulla Widening project leaders not demonstrating to the satisfaction of the Council at this time that the trees (at least at the eastern end of the row) cannot be retained.

 

A key issue with the design is the increase in the number of lanes coming from the freeway onto Flemington Road (from 3 to 5) and from Mt Alexander Rd onto Flemington Rd (from 2 to 4) eastbound. However, all lanes will have new traffic signals before they merge to become five lanes at the Church Street intersection.

That is, there are currently five lanes, and there is no proposed increase in lanes; yet the design includes removal of the trees.

The design also includes the addition of a bike lane, however Parkville residents have demonstrated to the Tulla Widening authority that it is possible to keep all five traffic lanes, and add the bike lane, and keep one or two trees including the largest heritage tree (which casts more than twice as much shade as the other four trees put together), without compromising safety or any of the objectives of the project.

So the question remains: have alternatives really been looked at? Or is the Tulla Widening authority merely asserting that there is only one feasible option?

Given the priceless value of the 94-year-old heritage tree in particular, and the amenity, urban cooling, pollution-mitigating and aesthetic values it brings, it is not good enough that these questions remain answered.

This is ultimately a State Government project, and the State Government could presumably find ways to implement the project and remove all lemon scented gums despite any position the Council may hold. The State Government too, then, needs to understand that this secretive form of public policy making is not in the public interest.

So please raise your voice:

  1. Contact the Minister for Roads Luke Donnellan – luke.donnellan@parliament.vic.gov.au
  2. Sign this National Trust petition – https://www.change.org/p/vicroads-our-lemon-scented-gum-is-worth-saving
  3. Contact Cr Leppert if you can make a submission to the Committee meeting on Tuesday or to receive updates on this campaign – rohan.leppert@melbourne.vic.gov.au

The Age has also covered this story here.