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Light rail: Government accused of misleading public on Stage 2 tree removals

Ian Bushnell 6 August 2018 68

Looking towards the city at the 92-year-old trees slated for removal if Stage 2 of light rail is approved. Photos: Ian Bushnell.

The ACT Government will only be able to replant trees on Commonwealth and Kings Avenues during construction of the tram line to Woden by taking out a traffic lane, according to urban planner John Easthope.

Mr Easthope, who worked for the National Capital Development Commission in the 1980s and for the past 20 years had been designing Canberra suburbs, has accused the Government of misleading the public over the planned removal of 28 historic trees on Commonwealth Avenue and about 20 others on Kings Avenue.

He says the Government needs to come clean about why the 92-year-old trees have to go, rejecting the claim that they are in decline and saying they should be considered for their heritage value and retained.

“I would like to point out that the trees are to be removed to allow the construction of the light rail in the median and its footprint requirements and not [because of] health issues. I would further outline that due to the impact of rail construction there will be insufficient room to plant trees legally,” Mr Easthope wrote in a recent letter to City News in support of horticulturalist Cedric Bryant.

The Stage 2 Light Rail Update says the original Charles Weston 1920s cedar plantings have a life expectancy (assessed in 2013) ranging from five to 40 years, citing the National Capital Authority assessment that ‘many of the street trees are declining, and it’s timely to plan for tree renewal’.

But Mr Easthope told The RiotACT that the 12-metre wide median was not wide enough to cater for the tram and trees, particularly low-branching cedars like the ones slated for removal.

“I measured the tracks and clearances. Because the median is 12 metres wide, you need nine metres for the tram and one-and-a-half metres to plant a tree, let alone a cedar,” he said.

“All those trees  have to go because there is no room, and there is no room to replant trees, unless they take a lane and reduce the number of lanes on Commonwealth Avenue.” And a similar situation would be destined for Kings Avenue, as well.

Kings avenue

It was a similar situation in Kings Avenue.

“Somebody should be held to task in terms of evaluating where the tram goes. Sure the trees may have to go but don’t blame it on the death of the trees, blame it on the fact that you need more room,” he said.

He said the Government had been flippant and uncaring when it came to the fate of significantly historical trees in the Parliamentary Triangle, saying it was not clear what kind of trees would be planted or how it would be done.

“The character of the area will change,” he said.

Mr Easthope said there had also been a lack of thought into the consequences of running the tram through Barton.

“They haven’t thought out the actual urban outcome, haven’t thought out how they’re going to plant trees, or what they’re going to do when it goes past Old Parliament House. Maybe they have but they’re not telling us, not giving us the full rationale about tree removal,” he said.

He understood the Stage 2 preferred route came down to viability and cost-benefits, and that it was good for tourists in that area but ‘how do you do it sensibly?’.

Mr Easthope said the tree plantings on the Northbourne median, which is twice as wide as the Commonwealth one, were designed to accommodate a tram down the middle, but they had all been removed to make way for light rail, with new plantings of contentious brittle gum replacing them.

“As the name suggests, probably not a very sensible solution,” he said.

“Can you imagine trying to do that sort of thing down Commonwealth Avenue, with a median half the size?”

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68 Responses to Light rail: Government accused of misleading public on Stage 2 tree removals
ChrisinTurner ChrisinTurner 6:43 pm 08 Aug 18

The government’s shocking lack of street tree replacements in and around Civic should warn us all about the future of the bush capital. Even New York City has better tree maintenance.

ChrisinTurner ChrisinTurner 6:55 pm 08 Aug 18

If one lane each way has to go then use it for the tram and retain the trees.

Richard Algis Richard Algis 8:15 pm 08 Aug 18

I am saddened by my rates notice received today. The tram was not needed.

gooterz gooterz 11:31 pm 08 Aug 18

Fallen branches are dangerous to cyclists. They have to go. Part of the new 1.5 metre rule.

    astro2 astro2 7:41 am 09 Aug 18

    Fallen branches are dangerous to pedestrians, motorists and cyclists alike.

    gooterz gooterz 6:32 pm 09 Aug 18

    Its a good thing they outlawed trees of any kind in recent land developments.

    JC JC 11:15 am 10 Aug 18

    Another miss truth. But hey sounds good.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 11:18 pm 09 Aug 18

Do you mean to say that only $8.00 of Wing Nut’s rate increase will go to fund the light rail?

    gooterz gooterz 10:52 am 10 Aug 18

    Depends.. are they only spending $3 million a year on light rail or not?
    I can see that you are moddlecodding the figures.. How about you work the other way to explain where the 10 billion dollars is coming from?

    At the end of the day everyone in the ACT will get paid a wage and those wages directly or indirectly pay for the whole light rail system. Be it though taxes or increased rates or levies, increased costs to get things done.

    How much is barr saving cutting buses? The buses would only account for 0.1% of the budget.. meaning 80cents of the rates pays for the bus?

    Capital Retro Capital Retro 10:22 am 11 Aug 18

    I was referring the “1%” remark by JC and yes, the term “1%” is very confusing and that’s why it is used.

    When I was in the rag trade one of my suppliers used to say “I buy stock for $1 and sell it to you for $2 which is only a 1% mark-up”.

dukethunder dukethunder 7:52 pm 10 Aug 18

Amazed at the comments wanting to save these trees. They’re horrendous. Go for a walk in a reserve, drive out to the Brindabellas. These trees aren’t special. Cut em down! I’m thinking billboards!!. Ultimately theres no point debating light rail. vote labor get labor.

Capital Retro Capital Retro 9:45 am 13 Aug 18

What is it about state and territory Labor governments and trees? In Adelaide, trees were removed with indecent haste to make way for an extension for the O-bahn (tram without tracks).

And in the Adelaide news today they are going to fell 5,000 Queensland box trees because their seed pods are slip hazards for the elderly (don’t want them clogging up the hospitals with broken hips, do we).

Thank goodness we have a dedicated Green running the ACT because without him the government would be chopping down even more and important trees.

    JC JC 12:05 pm 13 Aug 18

    You make out like not a single tree was cut down to make the roads and to create the block your house is on. Or that only labor governments cut down trees. Though you could be right on the last point as only labor governments seem to build infrastructure.

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