About 80 people attended the meeting this morning.
Here’s what I, Rose, said at the meeting this morning. Jennie from the Flemington Association and Felicity from the National Trust also spoke. The Mayor and ward councillors responded to questions.
We will meet again at 5pm today for an update and to hear whether we need to be vigilant tonight to #SaveRed.
We acknowledge that we meet on the traditional land of Wurundjeri people, of the Kulin Nation, who have cared for the land, its flora and creatures for thousands of years, and who have suffered significant impacts and loss to communities, culture and land. WE pay respects to elders past and present.
We have all watched the awful loss of flora and habitat over the summer and that’s possibly made us even more aware of the need to treasure and respect the magnificence of our natural environment.
Thanks for being here – for giving up sleep. It takes a community to save these trees. It takes us working in partnership to find solutions – putting politics aside to focus on outcomes.
Trees are living entities. Of course they die. Of course they can become unsafe in urban or populated areas. No one here is suggesting unsafe trees should be retained.
Today, the outcome we are seeking is for no trees to be removed without uncontested evidence that is made publicly available, community discussion, clear information, transparent decision-making and, frankly, the DoT not being bullish cowboys and ignoring the rigourous permit processes that are in place to balance interests and protect significant and heritage trees.
I’m going to summarise where things are at and then we can discuss the actions we can take.
In December 2018, MVCC was approached about the River Red Gum’s roots impacting the platform. At that time, Council undertook a thorough investigation and an arborist produced a report that has been public.
The report states clearly that the 100-year-old River Red Gum is in good health and poses a low risk. It recommends ways in which works can be undertaken to improve the retaining wall of the platform without harming the tree.
The author of this report spoke publicly on Melbourne ABC radio yesterday backing his report. If, as a tree expert, he is willing to go on radio, putting his professional credibility on the line, saying this tree is healthy and safe, then that is good enough for me. I will stand beneath it all day without fear.
Council heard nothing more from Metro and the DoT, PTV, until last Tuesday – three days ago, when they were asked how they would like to use the wood from the tree.
Four residents, including me, met with representatives from Metro and DoT on Tuesday. We were told ten trees will be removed in order to fix the retaining wall in this section.
We were told two reports had been undertaken and that the River Red Gum poses an immediate risk to safety. I asked, why, then we were standing underneath it. We asked for evidence of the tree’s high risk. We have been refused access to said evidence.
We were told the trees must be removed; that the wall has failed; that there was no opportunity for consultation; that every possible option for fixing the walls and keeping the trees had been examined and rejected.
We were told that at 9pm tonight, the power will be shut off and top down removal of the trees will begin.
Now, this whole station precinct is covered by a Heritage Overlay that includes tree controls. The River Red Gum is covered by an Environmental Significance Overlay. As we all know, living in Heritage areas, these planning controls mean that permits are required to remove trees.
Metro has said they don’t need a permit as three trees pose an immediate risk to safety.
Council has since been provided with the 200-page report and has had 24 hours to examine it. They have had lawyers go through it and the lawyers have concluded that a permit is required and that it would be illegal to remove the trees without a permit, because Metro have not provided evidence of risk such that the exemption applies.
So – what we are asking for is for people to behave responsibly and reasonably. To not destroy trees without showing us the evidence that they need to be removed. We are asking our public servants to be servants of the public and follow public law. We are asking for the ten trees in our Flemington heritage precinct to be given respect as living companions in our part of the world. We are asking for our law makers to respect our green canopies, our carbon filters, as critical to a world that is in a climate crisis.
Thank you for caring about our natural world and due process. We’ll talk soon about actions we can take today to make sure these trees aren’t killed tonight, and we that are provided with more time to find solutions. Thank you for being the community that will save this tree.