Opponents of the plan to remove the camphor laurel trees from the heart of Bellingen made their sentiments known by posting placards on the trees and by (insert) packing out yesterday’s Council meeting.
Opponents of the plan to remove the camphor laurel trees from the heart of Bellingen made their sentiments known by posting placards on the trees and by (insert) packing out yesterday’s Council meeting. Ute Schulenberg

Council tree debate heats up

IT IS not often one hears the sound of the gavel in a Bellingen Council meeting, let alone for a meeting to be adjourned because of unruly behavior.

But so it was yesterday as councillors debated the fate of the five camphor laurels in Church Street before a packed gallery.

Long-time resident and horticulturalist Richard Peters told the meeting the trees provided a total of 1225 square metres of shade, which was used from sunrise to sunset all year round.

“Removing this shade will impact many and cannot be quickly replaced,” he said.

He said camphors could live for hundreds of years and these ones, dating back to 1882, had plenty of life left in them yet if given proper care, such as pollarding to stabilise the root system.

Chamber of Commerce President Guy Saddleton asked that the chamber be consulted regarding the timing of any removal “to minimise the impact on the businesses in Church Street”.

He said the chamber supported the upgrade of Church Street in principle, but objected to the removal of the two gateway trees in five years time.

Cr Dave Scott offered an amendment to prevent the removal of the two gateway trees in five years.

“We have no budget for that and it will give certainty to those two trees,” he said.

Cr Sean Tuohy, however, said the work should all be “done in one hit”.

“If we postpone, we invite this (argument) all over again,” Cr Tuohy said.

At this the gallery erupted with verbal attacks directed particularly at Cr Tuohy.

It was then the mayor, Mark Troy, who had already given the gallery a number of warnings, sounded his gavel and adjourned the meeting.

Proceedings resumed with arborist/consultant and author of the report on the health of the trees, Nigel Smith, taking the floor.

“Pollarding is only effective if started early in the life of the tree and done regularly. These trees have not been pollarded, only lopped… remedial pruning is the only possibility. These trees are not suited to this built environment...they are not much for future generations to look forward. Rather than putting energy into preserving these poor trees, let’s find a way to pass on useful urban trees to the next generation.”

Cr Bruce Cronin said the issue was not just about the trees but about pavements, roads and parking and he did not support staged removal.

“Renewal is required and what is being proposed is sympathetic staged enhancement,” Cr Cronin said.

Cr Gordon Braithwaite said he had grown up with the camphors and did not support their removal.

“All four of the trees in the front should remain – if we retain them, we retain Bellingen,” he said.

After two hours of debate the majority voted in favour of removing the trees with no clear time frame set for their removal.



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