Fairway felling divides golfers

• This big tree is one of the hundreds that might go under the golf club’s plans.

A PLAN to cut down mature trees at Mount Lawley Golf Course has divided the club’s membership. 

Of the hundreds of trees facing the axe and 64 that have already gone, most are the club’s tallest specimens along the fairways, leading some members to fear they’ll be left with a harsh, sunbaked course – and a possible case of heatstroke.

Club GM Troy O’Hern says the removals are part of a revegetation plan and says each felled tree will be replaced with tubestock. 

The club’s draft 15-Year Tree Maintenance Plan states there are 554 more trees to be removed, but Mr O’Hern says that number will likely be revised down. 

Most trees marked for removal were planted in front of lower-lying banksia bushland, and tower upwards of 11m over their shorter cousins. An arborist report from 2020 shows most were in good shape and only 55 trees were recommended for removal. 

Club member Tim McAuliffe has been working on the replantings and says: “This area was banksia and melaleuca” back before the other species were planted. “What we’re doing is trying to restore that.”

He says the newer trees, mostly non-endemics like river red gums, need to go because they are “high water users. They outcompete [new native tubestock] when we’re trying to re-establish the understory”.

Fairway widening

While Mr O’Hern told us straight up that fairway widening wasn’t the motive for removal, that was hard to reconcile with the club’s own documents showing “revegetation” areas set well back from the course.

And a video presentation on the draft masterplan that also states: “Wide fairways are an important part to creating thoughtful and strategic holes.

“Our proposal is to use the 1948 aerial as a guide and where possible move back closer to the original clearing lines … most of the trees identified for removal as part of the project were those that were planted since this time and have led to turf-related issues such as shading and tree root encroachment, plus architectural issues where trees come far too far into the line of play.”

The fairways have been criticised by golf pros, with Golf Australia judge Alex Murray saying they were “too narrow for the green complexes waiting at the end of the hole. Widen the playing lines,” he wrote in the 2020 course rankings.

At the club’s AGM in December members concerned by the planned removals tried to move a motion calling for the club to come clear on which trees had been marked for removal, but it was defeated 90 votes to 139.

Members opposing what they call the “deforestation plan” are now hoping Stirling council will intervene. The land is owned by the state of WA and managed by Stirling council, which leases it out to the golf course.

Several club members attended the February council meeting asking why the council had permitted so many healthy trees to be removed; of the 64 gone in the past two years only 16 were in the “high risk” category according to the arborist’s report.

Mayor Mark Irwin said they’d look into it, adding “it is the city’s understanding that the club should be prioritising these [high risk] trees”. 

For now, Mr O’Hern’s told us that until Stirling council approves the rejigged draft tree maintenance plan, there’ll be no more felling – unless the tree is a risk.

 by DAVID BELL

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s