Menu Close

Submission opposing Port Stephens Council Tree Preservation Order amendment

EcoNetwork prepared this submission on 25 July 2015 in response to an amendment by Port Stephens Council to the Tree Preservation Order Development Control Plan 2013: Tree Management.

We oppose the amendment arising from the Mayoral Minute, Ordinary Council 12th May 2015, that Council:

provide a moratorium on the need to obtain pre-approval for the removal of trees or vegetation covered by Council’s tree preservation requirements where there is a risk to human life or property for a period of 12 months”.

We oppose this proposed amendment to the Port Stephens Development Control Plan (DCP) on the following grounds:

  1. As the Background to the Mayoral Minute of May 12, clearly states, the Tree Preservation Order (TPO) already contains provision for dangerous tree removal in variable circumstances to meet the diverse and reasonable requests of property owners, including without approval.
  2. Over decades, the Council’s Tree Preservation Order, despite having almost always being debated in circumstances not conducive to best practice and sustainable outcomes, has continued to meet both Council and community needs over time.
  3. An adversarial outlook on this occasion arising from the exceptional storm events of April 2015, again sets up divisive circumstances and over-reaction when a calm and holistic approach could produce informed and productive debate for a sustainable TPO.

This position is well supported also by the current objectives of the existing Tree Preservation Order to maximise the benefits trees provide, particularly:

– Sustaining the biodiversity of our ecosystems

– The health and safety of residents

– Retention and enhancement of natural beauty and scenic value

– Limiting the effects of pollution and adverse changes in global atmospheric gasses

– Control of sunlight, shade, winds, and beautification of urban/commercial areas

– Maintenance of ground water levels and water qualitySoil enrichment and protection from erosion

– Providing economic benefit.

These listed benefits from trees are now considered to be in considerable jeopardy from the proposed amendment to the Development Control Plan and ultimately to the Local Environmental Plan (LEP) being the policy instrument with the legal Council authority.

We also argue this case on the following grounds of:

– Changing weather patterns with increasing coastal rainfalls

– Increasing wind and storm events as experienced more frequently in recent years

– An advisory climate science of well prepared measures that address all climate impacts (ie. April 2015) with a comprehensive and holistic adaptation, mitigation and recovery strategy, is an obvious need to replace current reductionist responses.

We may recall that demands for removal of urban trees and understorey have also been prevalent following successive bush fires.

But it is advised that the clearing of urban trees and bushland does very little to protect property when the main threat and danger can arise from a combination of high temperatures and gale-force wind-blown embers that directly threaten property and safety.

This is the relevant advice that would support the adaptation, mitigation and recovery approach requiring the participation of the appropriate agencies, authorities and communities.

This call for a holistic approach is more important and urgent since the NSW Government’s August 2014 – 10/50 regulation intended as a means for the public to ‘fireproof their homes’. Since August last year, the chainsaws have hardly stopped across much of urban NSW and there is the expectation that this short sighted regulation has also helped inspire the Port Stephens Mayoral Minute of May this year.

This all indicates an authoritarian and misdirected mindset that not only accrues political gain for its advocates but also sidesteps and marginalises a much needed holistic solution to address increasing flood, fire and storm events.

No amendment consent

The NSW Government’s 10/50 regulation, along with the Port Stephens Council 12 months moratorium amendment will, if passed, represent an open assault on urban trees and remnant bushlands with consequences for village and town amenity and for urban wildlife dependent on these environmental assets.

We call on the Port Stephens Council to reject the amendment because:

– The changes proposed are unnecessary; the existing policy allows for dangerous tree removal and if necessary without prior approval.

– There is no evidence provided of any problem or unmet demand.

– Further risk occurs of abuse by those wanting to remove trees for other reasons and of ‘do-it-yourself’ clearance.

– Should the amendment be successful, there will be a need for better safeguards against abuse and unsafe practices.

Yours sincerely

Darrell Dawson coordinator, EcoNetwork Port Stephens Inc.