4 April 2023

Government must replace all 'dead and dying' trees at Albert Hall, according to its own new rules

| James Coleman
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Tree stumps at Albert Hall after trees were cut down.

The circa-160 pine trees are regarded as a weed species. Photo: James Coleman.

A small forest of pine trees near the Albert Hall is being razed to the ground ahead of new plantings, as the ACT Government gets to work on its tough new tree protection policy.

The City Services directorate began removing about 160 Pinus radiata trees from the Yarralumla site closest to Flynn Drive on Monday, 27 March, but is promising to replace each and every one in light of a new ‘Urban Forest Strategy’.

A spokesperson described the trees as “dead and dying”.

“The trees that will be removed have reached the end of their safe and useful life and, as they are classified as a weed species, they will be replaced with an alternate species,” the City Services spokesperson said.

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The trees, together with their stumps and roots, will be removed over the coming weeks, and the soil prepared to take about 50 new trees of the Pinus species and other deciduous trees.

“Replanting will take place later in the year when the soil is in a good condition to ensure healthy growth of the new trees,” the spokesperson said.

The smaller number is to avoid overcrowding and ensure there’s still a view through the trees out to Lake Burley Griffin.

The difference in the tree numbers will be made up by planting new trees in nearby suburbs during the autumn and spring tree-planting programs. This is to satisfy up-and-coming requirements under the new Urban Forest Bill 2022, passed in the ACT Legislative Assembly on 30 March.

Tree stumps and chopped down trees at Albert Hall

The government will make up for trees that can’t be replaced on-site with trees in other suburbs. Photo: James Coleman.

The new rules, which come into effect from 1 January 2024, are designed to grow Canberra’s tree canopy cover to 30 per cent by 2045.

They include all trees on public land (regardless of size) and all trees on private land that are either more than eight metres tall, have a canopy over eight metres wide, or have a trunk circumference of more than 1.4 metres covered. This is down from 12 metres tall, or with a canopy 12 metres wide in the current Act.

Homeowners who remove a tree on their property would need to plant an additional two trees or pay $600 per tree they cannot replant.

Property developers would be subject to even stricter requirements to make up for lost canopy cover. Depending on the size and location of the tree they want to remove, they could pay up to $14,980 for removing a tree in a high-density area if they’re not able to replace it.

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There’ll also be a new ‘tree bond system’ to ensure trees are not damaged during construction work. Developers who risk damaging trees as part of their work will be required to pay the value of the tree in a bond. This is then returned no sooner than one year after construction work has finished, and once a tree protection officer has confirmed the tree has not been damaged.

The government itself has committed to planting 54,000 trees across the ACT by 2024, funded by those who can’t replace their trees.

“This is about establishing the right protections and incentives to keep the trees that give Canberra its character as our city grows and develops,” Minister for Transport and City Services Chris Steel said.

“This legislation will also save more trees from poor development practices with significant penalties for damaging trees before, during and after work takes place.”

An autumnal scene of trees with golden leaves and leaves on the ground

The new rules include all trees on public land. Photo: Michelle Kroll.

Members of the public will be able to nominate trees for their “ecological significance”, in addition to their landscape, aesthetic, cultural and scientific value. These will be added to an expanded ACT Tree Register.

“Canberra’s trees are what makes our city one of the most liveable in the world – they cool our homes and streets, clean the air we breathe and provide important habitats for our wildlife,” Mr Steel said.

The government will spend the rest of the year raising awareness of the new legislation and how it affects residents and businesses, as well as building a new IT system for the ACT Tree Register.

The Bill is said to have been developed through “extensive community and stakeholder consultation” and took on board feedback from 80 submissions.

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How does replacing 160 trees (dead, dying, or healthy) with 50 new trees accord with the government plan to “replace each and every one?” Two thirds have been lopped and this whole exercise is questionable. Whenever you see something that makes no sense, always look for the financial incentive – there is always one.

Gregg Heldon10:59 am 10 Apr 23

The tree variety will be Another Geocon Development and it’ll be shrubs in the small amount of common area.
This is Canberra after all.

A pop up tip of containers is more likely.

I think we’re well rid of those sickly pinus radiata. I’m just not clear why we have to replace them with more pines and exotic deciduous trees. Surely the National capital is a place where we can have Australian trees. If not here then where?

HiddenDragon8:58 pm 07 Apr 23

Canberrans who are forced (under pain of very heavy penalties) to live with trees which don’t just block the view, or block solar access, but also cause damage to their homes and/or neighbours’ homes and present serious risk, will be fascinated to see yet another example of the “do as I say, not as I do” policies of this government.

The immediate response to the Urban Forest Bill, when it was released last year, was a chorus of chainsaws throughout the more heavily treed suburbs as trees which were hitherto unprotected were removed before the Bill became law. This was an echo of what happened 20-odd years ago when the first tree protection laws were in prospect, and also a foretaste of what will now be standard practice throughout Canberra suburbia with trees being lopped or removed before they grow large enough to be protected.

The clod-hopping ability of our political and bureaucratic class to produce perverse outcomes, accompanied by ever-growing regulatory bureaucracies, really is something to behold.

Capital Retro3:30 pm 07 Apr 23

RiotAct must resubmit this important edict after Easter so the entire population (including the bulk who are away from Canberra for Easter) can read it.

It appears the planners and nannies in the government have been hotboxing in the car park during their lunchbreaks.

Wonder if the SLA will pay that money when the undertake land clearing for new suburbs?

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