BAYSWATER’S trees are dying at an alarming rate and only 20 per cent are being replaced due to a controversial policy shift.
This financial year 132 street trees died from heat, thirst, age or poor soil. Under Bayswater’s old verge tree policy, dead trees were automatically replaced unless a homeowner objected, but many verges remain bare after the council added an opt-in clause last year.
Mayor Filomena Piffaretti described getting opt-in consent from surrounding landowners as “common-sense”, saying it gave them more say over their verge.
It was backed by councillors Catherine Ehrhardt, Josh Eveson, Assunta Meleca, Steven Ostaszewskyj and Michelle Sutherland, while Crs Dan Bull, Giorgia Johnson, Sally Palmer, and Elli Petersen-Pik dissented.
Cr Petersen-Pik warned at the time it would make increasing Bayswater’s tree canopy impossible (“Tree protection pruned,” Voice, January 11, 2022).
Decades of research shows people are less likely to participate in opt-in initiatives, no matter how benign – from organ donation to superannuation.
A Bayswater staff report this week says the new policy “has affected the number of dead trees being replaced. Currently, only 20 per cent of removed trees in the 2021/2022 summer period have been listed for replacement this winter, which is a significant reduction from the 83 per cent of replacement trees listed for the same period in 2020/2021.”
Cr Petersen-Pik says it’s not surprising.
“This is a massive and unprecedented drop” in replacement rates, he said.
“I am now again deeply concerned about the ramifications arising from the policy changes.
“We will all suffer the consequences in the years to come. It takes many years and a lot of care for a tree to reach maturity, a challenge only compounded by changes to our climate.”
He pointed to a mature Maylands verge tree which had shaded kids walking to school until being removed a few months ago.
Cr Petersen-Pik says staff tried contacting the landowner, but “all attempts have failed so a tree cannot be planted there”.
Councillors will decide whether to revert to the old policy at the May 24 meeting. Council staff also suggested spending an extra $30,000 on watering.
The tree health report was requested by Cr Petersen-Pik after he and other residents noticed a surge in tree mortality.
by DAVID BELL