MARKING two years since Bayswater council cut down “dangerous” century-old trees in Halliday park, local agitator Greg Smith has been standing vigil every morning this week to remind passing motorists of the felling.
Dressed as the Lorax and bearing a sign that reads “lest we forget,” he’s been chatting to every passerby about the trees.
“It stimulates some conversation with the cars that go by: They sometimes wave or toot the horn, they stop and ask why I’ve got the silly outfit on, or what’s it to do with,” he says.
Over the years Mr Smith has appeared in the Voice’s pages decrying the irony of the City of Bayswater’s “Garden City” motto contrasting with what he describes as a consistent anti-tree stance.
But he says things have improved in the last two years, with the last election ushering out some “tree haters”.
“The culture seems to be changing to recognise that trees are important,” Mr Smith said.
“There’s been a shift in the culture certainly from the new councillors of Dan [Bull] and Catherine [Ehrhardt], and also Sally [Palmer] although she’s not so much a new councillor, and Chris Cornish has been pushing it even before the last election”.
He says Bayswater’s still got a ways to go though: “They still haven’t done the fundamental issue that we asked them to two years ago, and that’s to amend their town planning scheme to create a significant tree register that would require planning approval for cutting down a tree on the list [that’s on private land].
“Developers know there’s no requirement to get planning consent to clearfell, so they clearfell their land and then submit an application with a blank block.
“The [city] officers are inclined to say it’s in the too hard basket because it’s dealing with the private domain, but you need planning approval to build a verandah on your block and that’s in the private domain.”
In other municipalities you can’t just cut down a significant tree on your land, so councils use the retention of a tree as a bargaining tool, for instance to let a builder bend the rules on boundary setbacks if they keep a tree.
by DAVID BELL