Locals fear plane tree removal will cost city its charm

SAVE THE TREES: Kerry Geale is angry about the removal of plane trees in Wagga's Johnston Street. Council maintains they have reached the end of their useful life, but locals fear more plane trees could be removed, which will cost the city its charm. Picture: Laura Hardwick
SAVE THE TREES: Kerry Geale is angry about the removal of plane trees in Wagga's Johnston Street. Council maintains they have reached the end of their useful life, but locals fear more plane trees could be removed, which will cost the city its charm. Picture: Laura Hardwick

THE planned removal of plane trees along Johnston Street could set an unwanted precedent, robbing other city streets of character and charm, locals fear.

Council will today start removing all plane trees on the northern side of the historic Johnston Street because they pose a “very high risk”.

But Wagga Urban Landcare treasurer, Ros Prangnell, said the $8000 move could open the floodgates for council to continue to remove historic trees that characterise the city.

“It’s a shame because they do add character,” Ms Prangell said.

The former Greens candidate slammed plans to replace the Johnston Street plane trees with Chinese elms next winter as it would be a long wait until the same level of charm was offered. 

“The city will certainly lose character and it’s going to be years and years before the new ones add the same aesthetic, coolness and mitigate heat.”

Ms Prangnell feared other plane tree-lined streets, like Gurwood, Simmons and Kincaid, could be next on the agenda.

Wagga tree removalist, Rob Waugh, of Riverina Tree Fellas, understands the need to remove the trees because of the “absolutely horrendous” root systems that tear up pavements, such as along Gurwood Street. Mr Waugh believed regular upkeep of plane trees could have prevented their entire removal.  

“They’re dangerous because they haven’t been pruned. Council go and put these trees in, but don’t maintain them,” he said.

Mr Waugh has knocked back numerous requests from Gurwood and Johnston streets residents to remove limbs that overhang into their yards because the trees are council’s responsibility.

Council’s strategic parks operations manager, David Walker, admitted plane trees along other streets could also be removed when they reach their useful life of 80 to 100 years.

“There are some individual specimens in the other streets listed that may require removal in the coming years and council is guided by the information provided in its Street Tree Audit as to when individual trees are removed and replaced,” Mr Walker said.

In the case of Johnson Street, an independent arborist’s assessment found the trees to be a very high risk, as well as causing damage to sewers, stormwater and kerb and channel. Mr Walker said the Chinese elm would not grow into the power lines and would provide shade in several years.

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