Loss of a 200-plus year-old paperbark tree highlights tree policy weakness

The decision to cut down a 200-plus year-old paperbark tree in Budgewoi Holiday Park, on Thursday, December 6, demonstrated the major weaknesses of the proposed new Central Coast Council tree management policy, according to, Phil Heaton, Manager of the Budgewoi Dune Care group.
“Central Coast Council organised a group to come and do an arborist’s report on a tree in the holiday park,” Heaton said.
“The whole of that forest is a forest of cultural significance for the Melaleuca quinquenervia or Paperbark,” he said.
Heaton said that the former Wyong Council’s Tuggerah Lakes Estuary Management Committee established and approved a list of Trees of Cultural Significance in around 2006.
The Budgewoi Beach Dune Care Group has continued to work within the holiday park.
“We have a propagating compound in the northern end of the park,” Heaton said.
“We have also been funded by Local Land Services to rehabilitate the areas to the north of the park to their natural state, which we have carried out over the past eight years,” he said.
According to Heaton, the paperbark cut down on December 6, was an important part of a bridging canopy for the Squirrel Glider, so that it can access important habitat.
“When I asked the arborist [cutting down the tree] what provision was being made to replant any trees, he just looked at me like there was something wrong with me,” he said.
“He said it was a Council issue and referred me back to Council on every point I raised.”
Through the process of Council amalgamation, he believed Council had “forgotten about most things”, including the Trees of Cultural Significance initiative, Heaton said.
“There are no arborists employed with Council since they were all laid off when the Wyong tree policy was dropped.
“Council is now in a situation where this arborist came into the park to look at trees because of the recent heavy winds.
“The arborist came in with no knowledge of the Trees of Cultural Significance.
“This tree was a pivotal tree to maintain the canopy of this forest that we have been growing trees for.
“It had some disease in its upper branches that needed trimming, but it did not need removal.
“The same Certificate 3 arborist, that wrote a report for Council about the tree, is the same person who cut it down, so it is in their interests to cut it down.
“He has all the equipment there to mulch, so he is making 10 times what he made from the report in taking the whole tree out.
“Council is relying upon contractors to look after the health of its trees and determine what needs to be done with them.
“These people have not got the qualifications to determine tree health.
“That is why we desperately need Council to employ its own Certificate 5 arborists.
“The conflict of interest is the biggest problem here, along with breaking up the canopy we are trying to provide to encourage a habitat for wildlife.
“The arborist’s qualifications say it all.
“The major sticking point with the Council’s current draft tree policy is exactly what is happening here.
“Conflicts of interest, and advice from Certificate 3 arborists who lack the necessary qualifications, are not good enough justification for a tree to go,” Heaton added.

Interview, Dec 6
Phil Heaton, Budgewoi Beach Dune Care
Jackie Pearson, journalist

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