New tree policy will take time

The May Meeting of Council passed a motion by Councillor Matt Brown to strongly water down Kiama’s tree policy to allow property owners, without the need for permission, to remove any tree they have planted on their property, as well as any other tree, except those native to this area and more than six metres high.

“Trees have more rights than people in this area,” he said, citing the case of a large Lemon Scented Gum that had not been allowed to be removed from Hillview Circuit despite residents’
concerns about the risk posed.

The motion was extended to allow the removal of this particular tree.

“I believe our Council needs to have a policy that respects our ratepayers and assists them to take away potential harm and health risks,” said Cllr Brown.

“My motion isn’t prescribing any policy today. It is asking for a new policy to be presented to us to consider that is a little more respectful to our residents and our ratepayers.”

Councillors Rice and Sloan spoke against the motion, with Cllr Sloan pointing out that a review of the policy has already begun, the latest figures show 67 per cent of applications to remove trees were approved with another 15 per cent partially approved, and in the instance of the Hillview Circuit tree, existing appeal processes weren’t utilised.

“Trees don’t have more rights than people,” he said.

“We allocated safety to be a high priority in the last review.

“There is a review underway already and there is no need for this prescriptive motion.”

Council’s tree policy is a Chapter in its Development Control Plan, and as such there are legislative requirements which must be followed to make changes to it, including community consultation.

There is also a new State Environment Planning Policy dealing with trees in non-rural areas, so any amendments will have to make reference to that.

“When we draft an amendment to our current policy, we will look at what Council has indicated they want in the context of other factors, so we can achieve a stronger emphasis on risk,” says
Director of Environmental Services, Linda Davis.

Howard H Jones, Secretary of the Gerroa Environment Protection Society says the motion signals a significant change in the environmental direction of Kiama Council.

“It will lead to significant changes to the character of the Municipality and lead to a loss of many iconic landmark trees over a century old.”


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