I speak for the trees

14. 782LETTERS2

A woodchipper gets stuck into the Esplanade’s Moreton Bay figs. Photo by perthhdproductions

ALEX JONES is a long-term member of the Save Our Trees network. In this week’s SPEAKER’S CORNER she congratulates the Perth city council for taking action against tree killers, but says a lot more needs to be done to preserve WA’s precious greenery.

CONGRATULATIONS to the Perth city council for taking the initiative and imposing hefty fines on the killers of our trees.

Killing trees is in many ways both a systemic and insidious practice depending on the perpetrator of the crime.

Unfortunately, in the time I have been the promoter of the Save Our Trees network since 1995, local governments and bushland managers have been some of the biggest offenders.

Their wanton destruction of these health-giving public assets has gone totally unpunished.

Tree-killing policies have been the subject of much controversy and many protests where local communities have questioned the use of public funds for environmental vandalism and the destruction of public assets worth millions of dollars to local amenity and real estate values.

We have seen the senseless destruction of thousands of mature street trees and other amenity trees in the metropolitan area, including the Manning Road trees,  the QEII medical centre’s therapeutic gardens, Monash bushland, AK reserve, Perry Lakes trees and Perth’s heritage-listed Esplanade reserve, to name just a few.

Who will ever forget the glorious heritage fig trees hacked to death on the Esplanade reserve from 7am on Saturday June 16, 2012?

I was there with my ‘Stop Killing Trees’ sign that was also present when the Canning city council wood-chipped its way through 168 trees on Manning Road.

These acts of vandalism have no doubt been indelibly etched into the minds of all those who were  present at the scene of these environmental crimes.

Most outrageously, many tree protectors have been left with fines and criminal

records as a result of trying to stop tree destruction activities that were authorised by local and state governments.

Local and state governments with their misguided tree replacement and weeding policies have also been responsible for and facilitated the poisoning of our land and trees with toxic chemicals. Individual trees in front of residential  developments have, for no apparent reason, gone from being perfectly healthy to diseased and dying.

Pesticides

This means that a city’s ratepayers and not the developer have paid the costs of tree removal. Councils simply accept to remove these trees on the basis that they are dying or that they have died a natural death.

It is not standard practice for local governments to test the foliage of trees to see if poisons were involved.

There is very little evidence of local and state authorities taking seriously their duty to stop this harm from pesticides.

One example of large-scale “unexplained” tree deaths occurred on the now

Waterbank Precinct which according to the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority  was an “under-utilised, low-lying reserve”.

Well before public knowledge of the proposed development, the beautiful paperbark trees on this reserve next to the causeway suddenly started to die.

Why?

There is an absence of routine testing for poisoning of our trees, soil and water.

Most disturbing of all is the inability or unwillingness of our government laboratories to test for trace levels of some of the most commonly used herbicides.

If they can’t test for these chemicals how can they possibly know the state of contamination in our environment?

I was recently advised that the trees on Heirisson Island had coloured chemical rings at their base. Our photos taken just a few days ago after a few days of rain clearly show the residues of blue-green dye near the base of some of the trees.  How long will it be before these trees die and will we see some form of development in their place?

Killing public trees and poisoning public land has been a standard land management practice in Western Australia for too long. There need to be fines for those who wantonly kill our public trees but also for those who contaminate our soils, air, waterways and ground water with pesticides that cause inevitable and foreseeable harm to public health and our environment.

Strong environmental health laws with hefty fines are a good starting point if we are serious about stopping the broader public harm and the spiralling cancer rate in WA’s children but Perth council and other authorities will need to lead by example.

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