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There’s a tree in the administrative appeals tribunal?

By Paul Costigan - 11 January 2017 15

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I believe in good government. I believe that many of our public sector employees do a great job. Occasionally, I even witness a politician who has values and fights for them (rarely). But this optimism in our democratic process takes a hit when you read about the ridiculous goings on within the planning arena of our local government.

The story was told recently in the Canberra Times about a dispute that went before ACAT (The ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal) – and despite the best efforts of well paid legals, it remains unresolved.

This dispute was all about a tree. And not just any tree.

This very large London plane tree sits very awkwardly between buildings on the cinema site in Manuka that is owned by one of Canberra’s major developers.

Protecting our trees is one of the honourable things that bureaucrats have to do on our behalf. There are many stories in this city about trees being saved. Each is a different tale and many get complicated.

Unfortunately there are many instances when silly decisions are made. I know of several where people’s lives have been unnecessarily disrupted because of strange decisions about trees.

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The thing is, trees need to be protected. But we also need to be flexible and keep our eye on the context. Sometimes a tree, or trees, have to go (and be replaced with others) to make way for something important like a sensible development or to progress significant urban changes (for example, down Northbourne).

Being sensible does not mean that any suburban significant tree needs to be damaged and ultimately obliterated because a developer/owner has the desire to build a super large mansion on a block of land.

Suburban trees are part of our urban forests whether they are on public or private land, and they definitely need to be looked after.

But this London plane tree in Manuka is another case altogether. One wonders how did it end up being allowed to grow in this very tiny crevice between buildings. Back when this cinema was built a decision was made and the repercussions are now being played out in the appeals tribunal.

The goings-on around the future of this tree are now costing tens of thousands of dollars as strange pedantic points are argued about – with many of those dollars being ratepayers money.  The lawyers just love all this!

The Canberra Times report mentions that tree decisions have become more complicated because 691 pages of amendments were added to the legislation back in 2009. That’s bureaucracy gone mad!

Have a look at the photographs. That tree is wonderful but it is stuck in the wrong place. No matter what the developer wants to do, something is going to have to done about that tree eventually.

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The bureaucrats involved in this debate need to stop this silliness and to get all involved to sit down and work through what would be good for the total environment around this site. They need to think outside the 691 pages of gobbledigook and ask themselves questions such as if this tree were to be removed, then what could be planted to more than cover the loss and to enhance the green infrastructure of the precinct on and around the cinema site.

This is not rocket science! Surely we do not need to spend even more thousands of ratepayers dollars on this and to take up the valuable time of the appeals tribunal.

Far too many things to do with planning, including decisions on significance and heritage are ending up in the tribunal. It is not the planning authority but if you look at planning over the recent years, it has become the way that difficult planning decisions are now allowed to be resolved. This has to stop.

We need a new approach to planning – including those about trees (and liquor licensing laws) – and we need people to be told to put their heads together to come up with solutions.

The bureaucracy involved in these tree decisions loses a lot of credibility when there are stories such as this Manuka debacle. The bureaucrats need to see the future of any significant tree in the total context of the precinct rather than being about the future a one enormous London plane tree – not one of this country’s favourite imported trees!

As I have stated many times, I love trees. But sometimes the local bureaucratic approach to trees gets far too silly. This is one of those occasions. The goings-on around this Manuka tree are something else! To all involved with this decision and the allowing of it to go to ACAT, get real and stop wasting our dollars. Find a solution! Fast. And meanwhile let’s have more trees.

Dealing with these issues can be complicated but we need to maintain a grip on reality. I am sure there are many other seriously silly tree stories out there. I am also sure there are stories out there when the developers have threatened our urban trees simply to make more bucks – at any cost. Please share them.

What’s Your opinion?


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15 Responses to
There’s a tree in the administrative appeals tribunal?
1
Grail 10:30 am
11 Jan 17
#

You are asking the wrong question. The tree is not “stuck in the wrong place” it is the theatre complex and neighbouring buildings that have encroached into the tree’s space.

We need clear delineation of where developers are allowed to build and where they aren’t. This site has been progressively expanded out. Ruins its original envelope and now the developer wants to claim those last few square metres.

No new trees will be planted and maintained to replace this one.

The solution here is to deny further expansion of the building envelope.

2
dungfungus 11:35 am
11 Jan 17
#

The developer should have stated that it was their intention to integrate a tram station in their development.

The offending tree would have then been dispatched to the chipper overnight by Transport Canberra.

3
Maya123 12:18 pm
11 Jan 17
#

My guess is that tree will suddenly get sick.

4
Zohra 3:17 pm
11 Jan 17
#

This is a singularly uninformed article that assumes a lot without much knowledge. For example, the claim that “691 pages of amendments were added to the legislation” ignores that only a part of those pages related to trees. It also ignores that bureaucrats must operate within the law and apply the legislation. They can’t necessarily just sit down and talk it out or ignore what you’ve called gobbledegook.

Your previous articles, Mr Costigan, have been better quality than this rant, even the ones I haven’t agreed with.

5
Lerenor 11:17 pm
11 Jan 17
#

Paul, I could have sworn I read articles from you (correct me if I’m wrong) at some point attacking a certain development in the inner north for destroying the “environmental values” of the existing surface carpark on the site, and defending how said development should be rigorously attacked in court. How is this any different if I might ask? You have a point that perhaps the planning law should be more accessible and more easily applied, and perhaps even more holistically, but how are these judgements to be made? The difference between this and the other case seem to be purely your personal preference, and dense as they may be and relatively inapplicable in certain circumstances, the point of the planning law is to set standards beyond mere personal preferences.

“we need people to be told to put their heads together to come up with solutions.”, while this is an admirable statement and one which I’m sure we’d all like to happen more often, the problem of course is that people in this situation often tend to disagree with one another. When it fails we need something objective (or relatively so) such as the planning law to look to.

As for the site in Manuka, if the intention is, as I gather, for the site to be redeveloped, the small alley that the tree sits in now has no relationship to what might be quite a nice public space in a future design. Likewise, even without the tree, any new development I would have to say would likely be a great improvement to the public realm over the current eyesore, that cuts off the shopping center from Manuka oval.

6
Paul Costigan 11:39 am
12 Jan 17
#

It may or may not have been a rant. But it was an expression of frustration. Many residents and developers have tried to avoid conflicts and asked to negotiate but have been told that the bureaucracy must follow the legislated processes. I have been involved in two issues where we tried to simply talk it through and seek a simpler solution. Both times our efforts were knocked back – and both times the rejections were not very polite.

That’s the problem – planning legislation in the last decade or so has become unworkable and to seek resolutions costs heaps of money. The laws and the processes for settlements need to become simpler and to not cost the taxpayer so much; and should not be simply allowed (encouraged) to head to ACAT – and article to come of that issue soon.

7
dungfungus 12:14 pm
12 Jan 17
#

Maya123 said :

My guess is that tree will suddenly get sick.

Surely the expertise and resources exist to excavate and transplant the tree.

Plane trees are pretty tough – I have seen them pruned back to almost nothing in European avenues but they recover with dense foliage in the next spring.

Its new home could be the arboretum which is looking very weary at present.

8
Chris Mordd Richards 9:13 pm
12 Jan 17
#

dungfungus said :

Maya123 said :

My guess is that tree will suddenly get sick.

Surely the expertise and resources exist to excavate and transplant the tree.

Plane trees are pretty tough – I have seen them pruned back to almost nothing in European avenues but they recover with dense foliage in the next spring.

Its new home could be the arboretum which is looking very weary at present.

Actually, you are right. It’s not that hard anymore, the tech does exist, and has since 2012, and is being used worldwide right now with great success.

http://www.businessinsider.com/truck-spade-uproot-trees-plant-quickly-2016-3/?r=AU&IR=T

http://www.dutchmantruckspade.com/index.php

9
dungfungus 9:14 am
13 Jan 17
#

Chris Mordd Richards said :

dungfungus said :

Maya123 said :

My guess is that tree will suddenly get sick.

Surely the expertise and resources exist to excavate and transplant the tree.

Plane trees are pretty tough – I have seen them pruned back to almost nothing in European avenues but they recover with dense foliage in the next spring.

Its new home could be the arboretum which is looking very weary at present.

Actually, you are right. It’s not that hard anymore, the tech does exist, and has since 2012, and is being used worldwide right now with great success.

http://www.businessinsider.com/truck-spade-uproot-trees-plant-quickly-2016-3/?r=AU&IR=T

http://www.dutchmantruckspade.com/index.php

Clearly then, the AAT can’t see the wood for the trees.

10
HiddenDragon 5:51 pm
13 Jan 17
#

I wonder if those 691 pages of amendments included a requirement for valuations for annual rates purposes to take explicit account of limitations on the use of (and hence commercial value of) leased land due to bureaucratic decisions to protect trees which meet the arbitrary criteria in the tree protection legislation…..

11
Chris Mordd Richards 1:17 am
15 Jan 17
#

dungfungus said :

Chris Mordd Richards said :

dungfungus said :

Maya123 said :

My guess is that tree will suddenly get sick.

Surely the expertise and resources exist to excavate and transplant the tree.

Plane trees are pretty tough – I have seen them pruned back to almost nothing in European avenues but they recover with dense foliage in the next spring.

Its new home could be the arboretum which is looking very weary at present.

Actually, you are right. It’s not that hard anymore, the tech does exist, and has since 2012, and is being used worldwide right now with great success.

http://www.businessinsider.com/truck-spade-uproot-trees-plant-quickly-2016-3/?r=AU&IR=T

http://www.dutchmantruckspade.com/index.php

Clearly then, the AAT can’t see the wood for the trees.

I seriously think the ACT Government should invest in one of these machines actually, given the need to often deal with problematic trees in Canberra given we have so many everywhere basically. I will write to Mr Barr and suggest they consider buying one of these tree replanting machines. Doesn’t the federal government have some recycled assets money lying around for stuff like this from memory too?

12
dungfungus 10:35 am
15 Jan 17
#

Chris Mordd Richards said :

dungfungus said :

Chris Mordd Richards said :

dungfungus said :

Maya123 said :

My guess is that tree will suddenly get sick.

Surely the expertise and resources exist to excavate and transplant the tree.

Plane trees are pretty tough – I have seen them pruned back to almost nothing in European avenues but they recover with dense foliage in the next spring.

Its new home could be the arboretum which is looking very weary at present.

Actually, you are right. It’s not that hard anymore, the tech does exist, and has since 2012, and is being used worldwide right now with great success.

http://www.businessinsider.com/truck-spade-uproot-trees-plant-quickly-2016-3/?r=AU&IR=T

http://www.dutchmantruckspade.com/index.php

Clearly then, the AAT can’t see the wood for the trees.

I seriously think the ACT Government should invest in one of these machines actually, given the need to often deal with problematic trees in Canberra given we have so many everywhere basically. I will write to Mr Barr and suggest they consider buying one of these tree replanting machines. Doesn’t the federal government have some recycled assets money lying around for stuff like this from memory too?

Be sure to tell him there are none made in Australia and they are cool.

He will send a purchase order tomorrow.

13
Chris Mordd Richards 1:05 am
17 Jan 17
#

dungfungus said :

Chris Mordd Richards said :

dungfungus said :

Chris Mordd Richards said :

dungfungus said :

Maya123 said :

My guess is that tree will suddenly get sick.

Surely the expertise and resources exist to excavate and transplant the tree.

Plane trees are pretty tough – I have seen them pruned back to almost nothing in European avenues but they recover with dense foliage in the next spring.

Its new home could be the arboretum which is looking very weary at present.

Actually, you are right. It’s not that hard anymore, the tech does exist, and has since 2012, and is being used worldwide right now with great success.

http://www.businessinsider.com/truck-spade-uproot-trees-plant-quickly-2016-3/?r=AU&IR=T

http://www.dutchmantruckspade.com/index.php

Clearly then, the AAT can’t see the wood for the trees.

I seriously think the ACT Government should invest in one of these machines actually, given the need to often deal with problematic trees in Canberra given we have so many everywhere basically. I will write to Mr Barr and suggest they consider buying one of these tree replanting machines. Doesn’t the federal government have some recycled assets money lying around for stuff like this from memory too?

Be sure to tell him there are none made in Australia and they are cool.

He will send a purchase order tomorrow.

Just couldn’t help but go ultra sarcastic in response could you, even after we had a rare moment of agreeing with each other (that the tree can be removed and replanted and the tech exists to do it so we should do that – do we not agree on that?).

Yeh my influence with Mr Barr is so great that after I tell him about this, he’ll write a cheque immediately, then probably pay me to fly overseas and select a nice one and escort it back to Australia right?

Are you suggesting that citizens shouldn’t write to their Chief Minister with constructive suggestions for how to tackle community issues? It seems like you are a little bit…..

14
Maryan 12:50 am
03 Feb 17
#

The thing is, trees need to be protected. But we also need to be flexible and keep our eye on the context. Sometimes a tree, or trees, have to go (and be replaced with others) to make way for something important like a sensible development or to progress significant urban changes (for example, down Northbourne).

I can agree with much of what you say, but not this bit.
It is not so that all those trees needed to be removed.
What was needed was some more efficient public transport.
What we are getting will not provide public transport. It will also not get any people out of their cars and there is absolutely no evidence to indicate that it even might.
The trees did not need to go, as there are current & new technologies that would have been able to provide public transport ; that would have been cheaper and would have been more efficient, & more equitable.
However, access to information was blocked by vested interests & the mundane won, once again, leaving us with a poor infrastructure, high costs & sad, boring architecture in the Capital

15
Maryan 1:09 am
03 Feb 17
#

This very large London plane tree sits very awkwardly between buildings on the cinema site in Manuka that is owned by one of Canberra’s major developers.

And here in lies the problem.
“It is owned by one of Canberra’s major developers”.
I am sure I am not the only one out here to have seen a beautiful tree, where the Architect or whoever, has designed a building to incorporate the tree, make a feature of it, and so making something distinctive.
In Canberra nowerdays, it seems to be just clear everything off & build up as close as is possible to the boundaries.
There does not seem to be a value for any aesthetic qualities, just how many “ticky-tacky boxes” can be squeezed into a given space & sold off to the highest bidder.
Making something of beauty too, does not seem to be part of the paradigm.
I recall my Father taking my daughter to buildings in Sydney he had designed 30 or more years before & showing them to her with pride & satisfaction of creative work well done. Not money made – that was not the achievement. It was mearly a by-product.

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