Daylight shrubbery

Photo credit: Michael Bianchino
Photo credit: Michael Bianchino

With a plan for trees felled in the name of development to be replaced by shrubs and grasses meeting opposition, it’s back to the drawing board for Hornsby officials to re-think their revamped Green Offsets Code.

Last week at a council meeting councillors voted on a motion to adopt a new Green Offset Code – the Code that ensures replacement trees are planted when developments mean trees need to be taken out for construction.

The current Green Offset (GO) Codes have been in place since 2015. Within 12 months of every new council administration it is incumbent on the council to review all their policies. On the GO Codes, there are rules around the how many trees need replacing depending on the development.

“But the new GO Codes which Council wanted to vote in are massively different from the existing ones – they’re much weaker and significantly watered down,” said Hornsby Shire resident Jan Primrose from Protecting Your Suburban Environment, a group of residents from Mt Colah and Asquith where dozens of trees have come down and not been replaced.

“For example under the existing code when a threatened species or significant tree is removed, a rule known as the “multiplier” is applied to increase the number of trees that replace it.”

Typically it’s a one tree taken, four trees replace it ratio, though that depends on the species and the site. Council currently has the power to enforce this, but given the number of developments left devoid of trees, it begs the question: has council been found sleeping on the job?

“Under the new proposed Code that number could be halved with the rest of the trees replaced by shrubs and grasses.”

Other points of contention include “variation rules” where officers can vary the multipliers depending on the constraints of the site such as ‘insufficient lot size’.

“But if you can’t find the space for a tree on a site, then the development shouldn’t be going ahead,” said an outraged Jan Primrose.

Councillors voted at last week’s meeting to take the Codes back to the drawing board before taking them out to community consultation.

A spokesman said: “The Green Offset Code will go to the Bushland Management Advisory Committee and be placed on public exhibition for 28 days. It is hoped to get it back in front of Council before the end of the year.”

Jan Primrose added: “I think the environment team do a great job. With the council going back to re-examine these GO Codes, we’re trying to give them the ability to have stronger tools and powers to improve the tree canopy in our Shire.”

Hornsby Council has committed to planting 25,000 trees by September 2020 to boost the number of trees lost to development.

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