COUNCIL has defended its decision to replace historic plane trees in the city’s central streets with Chinese Elms, as a safer and less destructive option.
Members of the community have feared council removing all plane trees on Johnston Street last month over safety concerns could set an unwanted precedent for the rest of the city, robbing historic streets of character and charm.
A Brisbane visitor to Wagga slammed council for replacing plane trees with “disastrous” Chinese elms, claiming they had dangerous buttress roots and that there would be “so many local and beautiful native trees that would serve the community well and not be a burden to us or our environment”.
But local horticulturalist, Geoff Rapley, has backed council’s decision because he believes Chinese Elms are less obstructive and complement the existing Wagga streetscape.
“I think (Chinese Elms) are good trees,” he said.
“They’re not nearly as big as plane trees.”
Similar varieties already exist in Collins Park and are heavily used throughout the Coolamon Shire, he added.
Mr Rapley, of Rapley's Nursery and Landscape Supplies, said Chinese Elms were umbrella-shaped trees that reached about half the height of plane trees.
“They’re a beautiful-shaped tree, but the pollen that comes off them badly affects people with asthma,” he said of plane trees.
“The root system is quite large. Gurwood and Trail streets a few years ago lifted a lot of the kerb and gutters. Any tree that gets 100 foot high will have a root system 100 foot wide.”
He ruled out suggestions a native tree would be more desirable, but conceded “you won’t please everybody”.
Council’s Manager Parks Strategic Operations David Walker said the trees referred to in the letter were a different species to those in Wagga.
Ulmus parvifolia ‘Todd’ – the species planted in Wagga – has a moderate to long life span, grows quickly and can reach 10 metres tall after 20 years.
“Ulmus parvifolia ‘Todd’ makes an ideal street tree and is useful for traffic islands, as a small garden tree, and a shade and feature tree in all gardens where quick growth is a priority,” Mr Walker said.
Wagga Street Tree Strategy details factors such as suitability of existing species and proximity to power lines, which are all considered when replacing trees.
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