The vexed issue of trees raised spirited discussion at the February Council Meeting, with Councillor Warren Steel describing Kiama Council’s Tree Preservation Policy as “the worst in the world”.
While Councillor Kathy Rice championed the important role trees play in the ecosystem, Councillor Steel and others said people were always coming up to them and complaining about not being able to do what they wanted.
However figures for the 2016/7 year appear to belie this assertion.
Of the 221 tree management applications processed for pruning and/or removal of trees on private land, 184 (83.25%) were approved. An appeal process is available when refusal is given.
A high percentage of the 491 requests for action on public trees relate to those impacting on private property. The Report to Council said while some of these requests relate to safety concerns, a high proportion are to do with overhanging branches, the shading of premises and loss of views. “Often the request is for Council to remove the subject trees on these grounds,” it says.
Refusal sometimes leads people to take matters into their own hands, despite the risk of heavy fines.
Director of Engineering and Works, Gino Belsito, says following the latest poisoning of two Norfolk Island Pines at Werri Beach Council is considering remote camera traps to catch vandals.
“In the last six months alone we’ve had trees poisoned at Werri Beach, Jones Beach and South Bombo Beach,” he says.
“Poisoning, or damaging in any way, trees on public lands is totally illegal and carries substantial penalties as high as $1,000,000.”
Mr Belsito says Council has a proper process in place for residents to raise concerns about trees they want pruned or removed.
“We have a team dedicated to assisting residents who have a problem with a tree either on their own land, a neighbouring property or on nearby public land.
“Most people work with our staff and within the law to resolve their problem.”
Kiama Council already uses remote sensor cameras to monitor illegal dumping hotspots.
Mr Belsito says as well as installing camera traps, Council is looking at replanting the poisoned trees.
Anyone with information regarding poisoning of trees to contact Council’s Tree Management Unit on 4232 0444.