At tonight’s Special Meeting of Council, a unanimous decision was made to write to Metro and ask for them to agree in writing by 12pm next Wednesday not to remove the River Red Gum, and to work with Council on an engineering solution that enabled to retention of the tree.
Council also allocated $25,000 to any work required to find the engineering solutions.
At the meeting, it was announced that Metro has agreed to meet with Council next Wednesday.
The unanimous support for the River Red Gum by councillors is testament to the awesome work of hundreds of local residents who have signed petitions, contacted councillors and supported the retention of the heritage trees.
There was no mention of the other nine trees, and it is not clear whether these trees will be removed as early as 4pm Friday 30 January. Advice on this has been sought as a matter of some urgency.
While the prospect of a meeting with Metro is some good news, to date, Metro has shown little interest in negotiating with Council and has reiterated its position that the tree presents a safety risk.
It’s not clear what Council will do if no agreement is reached with Metro next week, but maybe that’s intention on the part of Council. It’s hard to know.
Other matters that Metro need to address include:
- Ongoing assurance that the landscaping work of the Stationeers will be respected
- A clear plan for any replacement trees
- Immediate removal of the fence barricading people from the park.
- Exactly what safety risks are presented by the retaining wall and platform
- What is the long-term plan for the preservation of Newmarket Station?
- Why the reports have not been made publicly available?
- A commitment to better cooperation and transparency with respect to any future tree removals in Moonee Valley.
We still don’t know if any of the trees will be retained, all we know is that Metro is meeting with Council next Wednesday and that Red won’t be touched before 4pm Friday 7 February.
So stay tuned for suggestions as to what might need to be done in the next seven days.
And stay cool, under the canopy of trees, tomorrow.
Thanks to the hundreds of community members who have worked so hard to get to where we are tonight – which is a long way from where we were this time last week!
Here is a report of the Council meeting.
A good crowd of Flemington and Moonee Valley locals has assembled for the Special Meeting of Council to debate the future of the trees at Newmarket Station.
Seven councillors are present: Crs Nation and Gauci Maurici are apologies.
The motion is entitled ‘proposed tree removal’ suggesting only one tree is under discussion.
That Council resolves to:
- Write to the Chief Executive of Metro Trains Melbourne requesting that:
- Council is advised in writing by midday 5 February 2020 that no works will be undertaken in relation to the removal of the river red gum tree.
- MTM and DoT work with Council to achieve an outcome for the upgrade of Newmarket Station that includes the most appropriate engineering solution to facilitate the retention of the river red gum tree.
- Write to the Minister for Public Transport requesting information in relation to the ongoing role of the Department with regards to the management of rail infrastructure within the municipality.
- Allocate funding (up to $25,000) to allow Council officers to identify engineering solutions that would allow retention of the river red gum tree, including the methodology for ensuring the ongoing required maintenance to ensure the longevity of the tree, and funding requirements.
Cr Cusack moves the officers’ motion and Cr Marshall seconds.
Cr Cusack says that MTM approached MVCC to offer the wood left over from the removal of the River Red Gum last week.
Cr Cusack explains that station has acquired heritage status since 2014 when there was a proposal to demolish part of the station.
“Their report from their arborist doesn’t necessarily say the tree is a really bad thing.”
“What Council is wanting to do is work with MTM, bring them to the table, formulate the alternatives, work through the issues about how to do it differently.”
“All we are asking for is for Council to write to MTM … and give the CEO some financial leverage to do the engineering work” if that comes into discussions.
Cr Marshall says this is an issue of community and heritage, but also of process. MTM does not have a permit, as they are relying on an exemption under legislation. If there was a safety risk, trees must be removed. Everyone is very reasonable about that, she says.
“The difficulty we have at this stage, on the evidence provided by Metro … there is no evidence” that allows Metro to rely on this exemption. The legislation talks about safety risk and railway tracks. The exemption does not contemplate this situation.”
The Mayor asks Cr Marshall to speak for only 30 more seconds.
Cr Marshall says the River Red Gum is at the same risk of dropping limbs as every tree in that state of health. “Metro have agreed to meet on Wednesday.”
Cr Surace says it’s great to see community presence in the chamber. Council has been advised there will be negotiations taking place with MTM.
Cr Surace understands the community’s passion and hopes that we get a great outcome.
Cr Sipek says that the first he heard about the tree was from a resident who wanted to use the wood. He says there was a lot of misinformation – this was not a Council decision. He says Council stands with the community. “This is not a Council decision. We will do everything we can – in solidarity – to keep all trees.” He says that Council can engineer a solution for all the trees.
Cr Lawrence says the planned meeting gives him some hope. The meeting will bring together the information to find a constructive solution that provides a safe station and playground. “We don’t want this to be turned into a risk for anyone, but we also want to retain our heritage.”
Cr Lawrence says the station is very high up – and possibly built in a poor location give the slope of the land.
Cr Sharpe thanks the Myrnong ward councillors for taking a lead and for the community for attending. Cr Sharpe says the Council is committed to increasing the tree canopy. She is looking forward to a good result.
The motion is put to a vote and is carried unanimously.