Hands off our trees

Jenny Barlass

The number of tree species now safeguarded against illegal removal has dramatically increased after Hornsby Shire Council passed new regulations last week.

These mean the number of tree species which can’t be touched without Council approval have shot up from around 130 to 60,000.

“This is great news for everybody who values our title as the Bushland Shire and wants to see our impressive tree canopy preserved,” Mayor Philip Ruddock said.

“Previously the protections only applied to a list of tree species that were native to Hornsby Shire. Now all trees are protected, except for a limited list of species considered to be weeds or a hazard.”

However tree campaigners feel that Council hasn’t gone far enough and that more needs to be done to prevent developers from harming the shire’s tree population.

“What has been passed is a good start, a scaffolding,” Asquith tree campaigner Alexi Boyd said. “But a fine for removing a tree from a building site is no more than a slap on the wrist to these big developers. We need to do so much more.

“We were disappointed there has been no reference to development sites in the new regulations – I think Council is worried about the contributions developers make to their coffers.

“Here in Mt Colah and Asquith we’re in the middle of a big development phase and we need to see tighter regulation around trees on these sites where flats are going up.”

She said that incorrect species of trees are being replanted after trees on building sites have been lopped, only to be neglected and left to die. “We can see this happening from our own back gate. The Council’s General Manager has said these changes were sufficient but we don’t believe they will tackle this huge problem.”

Penalties apply for removing or damaging trees that are protected by the Tree and Vegetation Preservation Controls. Serial or sizeable offenders face heftier fines in the Land and Environment Court.

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