Save our Trees

If you’ve got something to tell us relating to the Save our Trees campaign the Co-Op Forum is now open to record your comments.

This Showgrounds Elms Newslatter brings some disturbing news…

1. the rejection of residents’ right to reasonable democratic process by our elected Councillors and particually our three West Ward Councillors.
2. Our Councillors have treated the community with absolute contempt by voting on this matter before the petitioners’ were given a chance to present a different view of the issue.
3. Complete indifference by the Mayor Cr. Annette Death to the request by the petiitioners last Monday to present their case to Council before a vote was taken.

 This is how Democracy malfunctioned in the Macedon Ranges last Week.
The community presented 1500 signatures which raised an important issue with Council.
The issue was of such concern that residents willingly donated almost three thousand dollars to have the matter heard by VCAT and also to commission a $2000 tree report.
Despite this painstaking preparation, the Petitioners were never allowed by despotic council action to present their case to their elected Councillors before a vote was taken to remove the trees
The huge effort put in by so many residents to build a solid case for the retention of the trees was never properly considered by our local government leaders. We were prevented from putting the arguments which have been worked on at a community level for many months. 

To add insult to injury the disgraceful Council brush-off was led by our three elected West Ward Councillors.
Mark Ridgeway put the motion.
Janet Pearce seconded the motion.
Jennifer Anderson spoke in favour as well. 
All this took place without any presentation of the community’s position. 

Here is the motion put by Cr. Mark Ridgeway without the benefit of hearing the petitioners’ case. Please note Item number four.

That Council:
1.Notes the petition received from community members requesting Council re-consider the planned removal of ten elm trees to expand netball facilities at the Kyneton Showgrounds
2.Notes that an independent arborist report has shown that the ten trees are either nearing end of life or in a declining state due to their age, thereby posing a risk to community safety.
3.Acknowledges the extensive community and user group consultation process that Council undertook on the Kyneton Showgrounds Masterplan. 
4.Proceeds with removing the ten trees, noting that they will be replaced with new trees following construction activities.

Here is a link to last week’s fatal council meeting. (start viewing at 54minutes)

So do we lie down and let this happen or do we stand up for democracy?

It’s ironical that we have just acknowleged last week, on Anzac day, the sacrifice in war of Australians who died for freedom.
There are none so deaf than lose who refuse to hear.  The loss of these trees may seem like a small thing to some. The democratic betrayal by the Council by gagging the community voice is not a small thing. It strikes at the heart of our democratic values.

What needs to happen next?
1.The motion moved  by Mark Ridgeway should be recinded.
2.The Council should shedule a comprehensive presentation by the Kyneton and District Co-Op on behalf of the petitioners.
3.Councillors should then vote on the previously recinded motion.

How will this happen?
Please contact your local councillors by phone or email and request the above three points be put into action to properly restore our committment
as a shire to genuine democratic process.

Here is the text of the email the Co-Op sent to Councillors last Monday 

Dear Annette and Councillors,
As a result of intense local pressure , the Kyneton and District Town Square Co-Op has recently, through a community petition, asked the Council to revisit option two from the Showgrounds Masterplan. We were unaware that the petition report would be tabled at this Wednesday’s meeting so we have been caught rather flat footed and apologise that this has landed in your inbox so close to tomorrow’s meeting.The report (AO.6) on the meeting agenda is inaccurate to say the least. The fifteen hundred signatories to the petition would like our side of the matter to be properly considered. The recent flawed VCAT decision has prevented the case to save the trees from being heard by the Tribunal. The only avenue now (apart from the Victorian Supreme Court) lies with you our elected representatives.We have all been caught napping in relation to this very bad decision. With the benefit of hindsight it seems astounding that the Council delegated the decision to grant a permit to cut the trees down. The alarm bells should have started ringing at this stage of the process.
Item 2. in the report notes that an independent arborist report has shown that the ten trees are either nearing end of life or in a declining state due to their age, thereby posing a risk to community safety. This is an unbelievable assertion. The community has commissioned a independent arborists report (attached) which completely contradicts this assessment
Item 3. acknowledges the extensive community and user group consultation process that Council undertook on the Kyneton Showgrounds Masterplan. The so called extensive consultation process resulted in only twelve residents turning up to the open forum. Balance that against 1500 signatories. Our contention is that most residents (and probably Councillors as well!) were completely unaware that the expansion of the netball courts required this unnecessary destruction.The points we have made above are only a small part of a plethora of inadequacies and false substantiation around the tree removal decision. The Co-Op would like the opportunity to comprehensively present our case to council. Please note that Option two could result in the availability of three netball courts instead of two (see attached concept drawing).  It should be noted that when this came to our notice in late November last year we asked to have a respectful round table discussion to try to resolve the issue rather than waste community and council resources going to VCAT.  This was flatly refused. Please allow the Save our Trees group to put the community’s side to this issue to our Councillors.
Best regards,
Rob Bakes
Here is th Mayors response with no mention of our request for a presentation.

Hi Rob,

Thank you for your email to Councillors regarding this petition and concerns with the report in the agenda papers ahead of this Wednesday’s Scheduled Council Meeting.

Councillors will review your correspondence and discuss in further detail.

We appreciate you sending through this information. 

We were told by a local councillor last Monday that the petition would be tabled but there would not be a vote. Surprise! Surprise! they voted unamiously to cut the ten elms down. Between Monday and Wednesday evening the Council officers obviously persuaded our Councillors to silence the petitioners’ case. So all this begs the question… why is our local government so hell bent on preventing the communitys’ case from being heard? One wonders if the arguments for Option One are strong enough to survive an open discussion. 

Here is an artist’s impression of a revamped Option 2.

Our arborists report is a rejection of the Council’s assessment. It is worth while going to the trouble of comparing them side by side.
Co-Op Tree Report
Council Tree Report  

VCAT Practice Day Hearing
On Friday April 5th, VCAT set aside the application by Emerald Judith Dunn to have her case against the Council tree clearing permit decision heard by the Tribunal. The issue in the case was whether a change to Macedon Ranges Planning Scheme had a retrospective effect to take away a right in relation to a permit that had been issued before the change came into effect. Despite the enormous amount of work put into the applicant’s arguments, they failed because VCAT adopted a retrospective interpretation. We argued comprehensively about the inappropriate legal ramifications of the Tribunal taking this course. VCAT found on a preliminary issue raised by council, that a permit is no longer needed to take trees out. It was disappointing that our arguments were not specially addressed by VCAT. Emerald now has 28 days to challenge the VCAT decision in the Supreme Court of Victoria.

Save our Trees Petition
The VCAT decision in Emeralds case,by indicating a permit is not required by Council to destroy the trees, arguabley means that in the Macedon Ranges the destruction of trees is no longer a matter dealt with by the planning scheme. This opens up the use of an administrative appeal procedure based on the Climate Act 2017 and its schedule. To open up an administrative review by Council, we have tabled the 1500 strong community petition. Our cover photo shows Berenice Snowden completing that task in the early morning on Tuesday outside the Council’s Kyneton office. We will proceed to send our arborists report(see next section) to assist the council in their decision making regarding the proposed removal of the trees. In a nutshell our arborists report advises that only one tree should be removed and replaced..
Co-Op Tree Report
Our arborists report is a rejection of the Council’s assessment. It is worth while going to the trouble of comparing them side by side.
Co-Op Tree Report
Council Tree Report
Here are some pertinent observations from Arborcraft tree report
3.4 The trees provide moderate to high significance to the local amenity mostly through social sentiment and shade/cooling. The trees are not specifically mentioned in any known heritage statement of significance although may be form part of:

  • HO13: Avenue of Elm Trees along Beauchamp Street, Kyneton (from Mollison to Edgecombe Streets). The trees do not form a consistent planting distance with roadside trees along Beauchamp Street however are consistent in species and age and are highly visible from Beauchamp Street.
  • Shire of Kyneton Conservation (Heritage) Study Vol. 1 (Bick, Murphy, Patrick, & Priestley, 1990). Page 81, Objectives of Planning, 1. (c) states: The objectives of planning in this area (Mollison Street) are to encourage the retention of 19th and early 20th century (pre-1930) plantings that are not individually listed where these elements make a positive contribution to the streetscape.

The aim of the Co-Op Tree Report is to explore ideas which will both expand the netball facilities so they stay adjacent to the football oval and save our trees. We can help navigate the community and the council to a win/win solution.

Congratulations again to all those who named and donated $100 per tree to raise funds to revive the VCAT case. The cost of our arborist’s report requires a further $200 per tree. Here is a list of the trees numbered as they appear in the Showgrounds Masterplan
Infinity (funded)
Rails (funded)
Ned Kelly (funded)
Estinajoe (funded)
Hugh and Jenny
Margaret (funded)
You can donate what you can afford at our street stall on Saturday mornings between 9 a,m, and 1p.m. It’s a little sad that , by adopting the Co-Op report, we will need to replace tree No.9 (Hugh and Jenny). I have spoken to Fiona, the donor of this tree, and she is okay with replacing it to save the other nine trees.

If you want to make a direct donation here are the banking details:
Kynerton and District Town Square Co-Op
BSB 633000
A/C No.164250581
Bendigo Bank
Make sure you reference the Tree Report and if its okay with you… your name.

Congratulations Kyneton…our petition has just pipped the 500 mark. Catch us outside IGA this Saturday.

There was a lot of loose talk about the health of showgrounds elm trees in the street last week. Can you answer this week’s question. The elm tree in the picture below is flourishing. The same tree is chockers with elm leave beetle and has not been treated. So why is it so healthy?

The 10 trees on the corner of Mollison Street and Beauchamp Street are significant features of the Kyneton Showgrounds and Kyneton’s landscape and charm. They are part of an important green gateway to the town centre from the north. Trees have a substantial impact on moderating local temperatures during hot summers, which is becoming increasingly important with rising global temperatures. These mature elms offer habitat for wildlife, carbon storage,  oxygen,  air filtering, and over 100 meters of shade in summer. At the Kyneton Show their shade provided a beautiful surround for picnics,  pony rides and Parkour. If you value the trees at $100,000 each, we stand to lose one million dollars of community assets if we cut them down.

Mayor and Councillors of the Macedon Ranges Shire Council, we the undersigned, petition Macedon Ranges Shire Council, as of Friday January 5th, to reconsider the decision by the council to adopt option 1 of the Showgrounds Master Plan to cut down ten mature elm trees to expand the netball facilities. We ask the council to re-examine and adopt a version of option 2 which retains the elm trees, future proofs the netball project with the possibility of three courts instead of just two and, in addition, could make the expansion of facilities adjacent the lower oval a huge positive for a diverse range of sporting and recreational users.