Moruya park trees get the chop

Moruya's iconic fig trees along the riverside at Russ Martin Park are going to be chopped down, councillors decided on Tuesday.

The two trees are an attraction to the park and overhang the toilet block, footpath and part of the road.

However, the trees have been labeled as a “high risk rating” to public safety.

Decay fungi Phellinus had been found in the wood, which is not repairable and both trees are suffering the effects of Fig Psyllid – a sticky insect that blocks leaf breathing pores - at “alarming levels”.

The limbs are a major risk at collapsing at anytime, councillors heard on Tuesday.

It was a tough decision after a lengthy debate at Tuesday's combined committee meeting at Eurobodalla Shire Council. 

Council’s parks co-ordinator Wayne Hutton said the trees’ large limbs were at risk of falling on the footpath and road, and were a safety issue.

He said staff had been working on the issue for a year.

During debate, Councillor Fergus Thomson called for more community consultation before the trees faced the axe.

“Irrespective of whether an arborist has inspected the trees, I believe there is a far bigger issue at stake here,” he said.

“I believe to remove two trees would completely change Russ Martin Park.”

He said the community deserved to know why the trees were facing the chop.

Cr Liz Innes agreed and said she had “a bit of a problem” with telling the community this was going to happen without acknowledging their input.

She said council should be open and communicate with the community about why the trees had to be chopped down.

General manager Paul Anderson said if the committee deferred the decision, they would have to minimise the risk involved.

He said when council became aware of the safety hazard and it was published in the agenda, they became liable.

Cr Gabi Harding suggested the process be staggered, to remove the worst tree and establish a boundary around the other one until the community became aware.

However, Cr Rob Pollock had a different view.

“I don’t think you can afford to defer this. You’ve got the information in front of you,” he said.

“I don’t think it’s a matter of deferring the issues, I think it’s telling the public why we needed to do it.

“They’re fabulous trees, but they’re not too fabulous if they’re going to drop on someone or fall on someone’s car.”

After a lengthy debate, it was decided that both trees would be removed at the same time.

“We’re going to have to bite the bullet,” Mayor Lindsay Brown concluded.

All councillors voted for the trees to be removed except Cr Thomson.

The committee also decided to make the confidential report on the status of the trees available to the public and for other trees to be replanted.

It was agreed later in the meeting that a sign would be placed at the site.

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