A VOLUNTARY tree protection register approved by Bayswater council has been dubbed a dud.
Some tree-loving councillors reckon even they wouldn’t sign on to the register given the expense and onerous requirements.
Six years in the making, the register would let people nominate a beloved significant tree on private land for protection.
Development on private property is the biggest source of canopy loss in Bayswater as blocks are cleared for building or subdivision.
Under the strict version adopted by the council, landowners would have to consent to the registration, as would neighbours “likely” to be affected by overhanging branches – even if they haven’t grown yet.
Once inspected by an arborist and approved for listing a tree can’t be removed or have significant work done without council approval.
Owners of listed trees would have to pay for an arborist inspection every two years, and they’d have to hire an arborist to do any pruning of a branch thicker than 50mm rather than taking care of the tree themselves.
As incentives the tree owners could get some types of tree maintenance costs partly reimbursed, and would get minor development incentives like some extra bulk if they ever build on the block.
Councillor Elli Petersen-Pik has been a supporter of a tree register but voted against this version, saying he doubted anyone would sign up given it has a “long list of, I think, scary responsibilities for property owners” and no guarantee they’d get the incentives.
“I would not register a significant tree on my property under this policy,” he told the August 23 meeting.
“Why would any property owner by themselves register a significant tree on their land knowing that they would need to pay every two years to an arborist?”
Cr Dan Bull, a lawyer by day, also wants a tree register but said this version is unworkable. He said having to get approval of neighbours “likely” to be affected by future branch growth could mean the requirements “can never be satisfied”.
“I’ll be surprised if there are any trees registered.”
“I will be voting for this rubbish policy,” a reluctant Cr Giorgia Johnson said. “I can’t see how it’s actually going to work for the protection and retention of existing trees … because it is so prohibitive, because of the neighbours, because of the rules, because of the expense and inconvenience of having to get an arborist’s report, because of the expense and inconvenience of having to get an arborist to prune the said tree.”
The policy was even opposed by tree advocate Wendy Garstone from community group Bayswater Urban Tree Network who told the council the cost of constant arborist visits for inspection and pruning was “prohibitive”.
“At my own property I have an old, large, elegant peppermint tree located in the middle of the backyard. I care for this tree already, and do not intend to undertake the effort and cost to have it registered and then inspected.”
Mayor Filomena Piffaretti said they should give it a chance and proposed a review in two years’ time.
All councillors save Michelle Sutherland (who opposes council control over private land) and Petersen-Pik voted in favour of bringing in the register, but with little enthusiasm detectable in the chamber.
by DAVID BELL