Tree removal

The public reaction to the removal of four centuries-old gum trees at the site of the future sports hub seems to highlight a disconnect between Mt Barker’s residents and its council.
The trees were felled last week to make way for sporting infrastructure while three other trees on the site were spared.
The axed trees were relocated and will die but remain as wildlife habitat.
Their removal was approved in September last year following months of consultation about the sports hub with the community and a range of sport and community organisations.
But despite the fact nearly 35,000 people live in the council area and the sports hub is set to be the largest single infrastructure spend in the council’s history, just one submission outlining any concerns with the development was made.
Yet despite the consultation efforts – and the community effectively giving the tick of approval to all aspects of the project, including the tree removal, by not voicing their concerns – the council has been hounded for the move.
This incident has brought two things to light – perhaps the community should become more engaged in its council’s operations and the council may need to review the way it communicates with its community.
None of the decisions made by the council were done in secret, yet the public reaction makes it seem as if they were.
For whatever reason, the council’s messages were lost.
Mayor Ann Ferguson has said the council had a community crying out for this infrastructure, but which also adored trees and their environmental and aesthetic benefits.
To create large–scale infrastructure – such as a regional sports hub – there must be sacrifices and these trees were sacrificed for ‘the greater good’.
There are no immediate winners when ugly decisions are made, but in the long term the community will benefit immensely from the construction of the sports hub.
Perhaps this issue will galvanise the community and make it more vigilant in advocating to save trees marked for destruction on land set to be built on purely for developer profit, not community benefit.

For the full report, see the print issue of The Courier.