Congo residents gathered just outside their South Coast village on Monday, 29 November, to protest against the impending destruction of large old Bangalay trees 10km southeast of Moruya.
The trees, along a gravel road running beside the quarry just outside Congo, are part of an endangered Sand Bangalay Forest, providing habitat for the nationally threatened Greater Glider population as well as other native animals that use the hollows as homes.
Eurobodalla Shire Council recently told residents the trees would be removed over five days, starting 29 November.
The owner of the quarry has previously been denied permission to remove the trees and the gathered residents were concerned that council was undertaking the works in an effort to bypass the laws that protect them.
Quarry owner Roy Shepherd said the trees needed to be removed as he was having difficulty obtaining public liability insurance to cover the roadway through his property.
In a letter to residents dated Friday 26 November, council said the trees were a safety risk and needed to be removed.
The speed limit on the road is 40kph and there is no record of an accident on the short stretch that has been used by local residents and visitors for more than 30 years.
The dispute rests on the application of Section 88 of the Roads Act 1993 given the physical road is within private property and the public passes along this road at the discretion of the landowner.
Under the Act, council may remove or lop any tree or vegetation that is on or overhanging public road. The protest group argued that council intended to remove trees that are not on or overhanging a public road.
Despite the community’s pleas to reconsider these works, the road was closed ahead of the council-contracted tree loppers arriving early yesterday morning.
Councillor Anthony Mayne was on site and said he was disappointed the issue had progressed during council caretaker mode.
“This should have come to the roads traffic committee, a committee that I chair,” Cr Mayne said.
“The election is six days away. Process, transparency and engagement are clearly an issue here. I support any action being deferred so that a new council can review.”
Four police vehicles arrived and remained on standby during the gathering, followed by Eurobodalla Shire Council’s Director of Infrastructure Warren Sharpe.
Mr Sharpe told the assembled group, “the council is not here to consult, we are here to inform”.
After a number of questions from the protesters, Mr Sharpe offered to cease work for 48 hours while both parties seek legal advice on the matter.
Original Article published on About Regional.