FORMER Bayswater mayor Dan Bull says the council is trashing its “Garden City” motto by allowing too many healthy verge trees to be cut down.
Bayswater used to make it near impossible for residents to remove a tree from the council-controlled verges; sometimes even getting a thorough pruning was tricky.
At the October 2021 council elections the balance of power shifted as councillor Filomena Piffaretti became mayor and councillor Josh Eveson was elected. Their campaigns for a “common sense” approach to tree management were a response to residents unhappy with the strict regime.
Now a majority of the council has heeded demands from residents in Mercury Place, Morley, to remove a healthy willow myrtle.
Homeowners Christian and Giuseppina Torre say the tree’s roots hinder the lawn and damage the garden, and leaf fall means “we spend endless hours cleaning the gutters to stop them overflowing and getting blocked when it rains”.
Everyone on the street signed the petition to have it removed, and given the clear message from Mercury Street, Crs Piffaretti, Eveson, Catherine Ehrhardt, Assunta Meleca, Steven Ostaszewskyj and Michelle Sutherland agreed to let them cut it down.
Mayor Piffaretti said: “I’ve been on council over four years now and this is unique in the fact that I don’t think we’ve ever received a petition… where the entire street ‘100 per cent of the street’ has signed the petition”.
The myrtle provides 114sqm of canopy and was estimated as being worth $9,072 under the Helliwell tree amenity evaluation system. But councillors decided to only impose a $500 fee on the Torres to pay for two new trees at nearby Arbor Park.
Cr Dan Bull, who was mayor until October 2021, voted against the felling and said “if this council likes to wear the Garden City motto as a badge of honour as I know many councillors do, cutting down trees like this, I think, is really trashing that motto”.
Also opposed were Crs Lorna Clarke, Giorgia Johnson, Sally Palmer, and Elli Petersen-Pik.
“With all due respect, that magnificent tree… is not owned by the people who live along that street,” Cr Petersen-Pik said. “It is owned by all the ratepayers of the City of Bayswater.”
He said Bayswater currently has a tree canopy coverage of 14.2 per cent while they’re supposed to be aiming at 20 per cent by 2025. “Obviously at this pace, removing trees, we’ll never get to that target.”
Cr Clarke warned approving too many tree removal requests could lead to “death by a thousand cuts”.
Mercury Place only has two verge trees.
The same night councillors approved the felling of the willow myrtle they received another petition from Mercury Place residents asking for the other one a few houses down to be removed, to be considered at a future meeting.
by DAVID BELL