Bark, branches anger Reeve St residents

WELLINGTON Shire Council will increase the frequency of sweeping down Reeve St in response to concerns about fallen bark and branches from spotted gum trees.

With concerns debris was littering yards and roots damaging kerbing, a petition signed by 42 Reeve St residents requesting the removal of the spotted gums from the median strip was received by council in December.

In response, councillors voted increase the frequency of street sweeping in line with that of nearby major roads before a review in six months. Currently, Reeve St is swept every four-to-five weeks, while York, Foster, Cunningham and Raglan Sts are swept weekly.

Council estimated the cost of removing the 65 trees would be between $125,000 and $145,000. There were also concerns at the amount of disruption for road users and residents it would have.

According to a report prepared for the councillors, spotted gums are medium to fast growing trees, growing 20 to 25 metres tall and 10 to 20m wide.

Claiming spotted gums could grow up to 45m, resident Michael Hickey said wind would blow bark and branches into spouting, gardens and kerbing.

The report to council said Reeve St was a four-lane road, so trees were a significant distance from properties, and that evergreen trees leaf litter far less than deciduous ones.

Mr Hickey said the report was written to justify keeping the trees, disagreeing with the conclusion kerb damage was a result of poor design.

“I’m not an expert, but when I see raised sections of kerbing near trees and the size of the roots being cut to repair the damage, I’m sceptical at this conclusion,” he said.

“The report states there have been no damage claims recently. I find that argument a little strange, it’s just like saying we shouldn’t have a school crossing because there have been no accidents there.”

Mr Hickey said increasing the frequency of street sweeping missed the point of the residents’ complaint.

“Unless the sweeper can do our nature strip, driveways and lawns, we’ll still have the same problem with leaves, seeds and bark,” he said.

“It appears to me that professional advice has been ignored by the author of the report because plumbers and nurserymen have state that spotted gums are unsuitable for streets.”

Retired local nurseryman Maurice Holmes said spotted gums could grow a large canopy or six to 12 metres wide.

“The council should be very wise to make further inquiry as to the suitability of this variety,” he said.

Councillor Peter Cleary said council had to balance the needs of Reeve St residents and the wider community need for amenity.

“I think this is the obvious decision – have a look at it and review it in six months, if it hasn’t changed or is not working, then we do need to do something,” he said.

Cr Carolyn Crossley said advanced trees are very important to the urban environment.

“Trees have leaves and trees have roots, if we’re going to have trees, we have to acknowledge that,” she said.

While he was against removing the trees, Cr John Duncan said any public safety issues would need to be addressed appropriately.

Speaking against having a formal review in six months, Cr Emilie Davine said she was unlikely to support removing the trees after six months, preferring to explain council’s decision by discussion with the residents.