Berry students organise tree petition

THE battle for the Bum Tree and concerns over the removal of other vegetation along Gerroa Road has certainly sparked plenty of interest within the community.

A group of Berry Public School students felt so strongly about the work being carried out by Shoalhaven City Council, they launched a petition.

The students, led by Milly Thomson, Lucy Leung, Zara and Cedar Podmore, Annabel Hickling-Smith and Chloe Anderson, with help from fellow students gathered more than 150 signatures in an attempt to preserve the Bum Tree and others that were being cleared along Gerroa and Crooked River roads and preserve the habitat in the Seven Mile Beach Park area.

“My mum was involved in the protest at the Beach Road intersection and I went there and I just didn’t think it was right to remove the trees,” Milly said.

“We thought there had to be something we could do, so we started a petition at school.”

Support soon grew and there were a number of students ready to help in gathering signatures or signing in support.

Staff and parents also got on board, signing the petition which was also taken home by some students to enlist other support within the community for the petition.

“We were annoyed council was chopping down the trees and wanted to have our say,” Milly said.

“We don’t want to see the trees removed,” Lucy said.

A number of students have also produced artworks as protests and these along with the petition will be sent to Shoalhaven City Council.

A number of the students responsible for the petition made one last journey to the location on Wednesday afternoon to look at the trees.

Proud mother Sharon Thomson said the children wanted to see the trees one last time before they could possibly be removed.

“I’m extremely proud of the stance the girls have taken, but also cautious,” she said.

“I know people will say that I put the girls up to the petition but that is not the case.

“They came with me to the protest location one day and just sat in the bush and looked at the trees and they were quite affected by the experience.”

Mayor admits RMS did not

seek the removal of trees

By ROBERT CRAWFORD

SHOALHAVEN Mayor Joanna Gash has conceded that Roads and Maritime Services did not ask council to remove trees along Gerroa Road.

Cr Gash claimed in Wednesday’s South Coast Register council’s clearing of trees along Gerroa Road was in response to work requested by RMS.

“RMS asked us to remove the trees and that is what we are doing,” she said.

“Council are not experts on roads, RMS are and we are only doing what we were asked to do.”

The RMS flatly refuted the claims.

In a strongly worded statement RMS regional manager southern Renae Elrington said the project was proposed, planned and developed by Shoalhaven City Council as part of the Australian government black spot program and that Roads and Maritime has no legislative or regulatory role in this project.

“Gerroa Road is a regional road under the care and control of Shoalhaven City Council,” she said.

“Roads and Maritime does not identify the road safety issues addressed by the program nor does it develop the solutions to those issues.”

She said the department’s only role was to ensure proposals submitted for federal funding met the criteria.

“Roads and Maritime is neither the proponent of projects, nor the direct funder of projects under the federal black spot program and is not carrying out the work under way on Gerroa Road,” she said.

“They are right, they didn’t ask us to remove the trees,” Cr Gash said.

“The RMS don’t physically do work and I will correct that.

“They only oversee the environmental issues.”

Council still plans to continue with the removal of the large trees on Gerroa Road just north of the Beach Road intersection including the Bum Tree, with contractors being instructed to complete the contract works.

An email sent to councillors by general manager Russ Pigg on Wednesday said council has been under threat from a councillor who proposed to take some form of legal action, presumably to seek an injunction to stop works. 

“It was understood that the basis of such legal action was a claim that council’s assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act [EPBC] was inadequate in some form,” Cr Gash said.

“After consultation and advice from lawyers it was decided that to be prudent, a review of the environmental appraisal would be undertaken. 

“This review has reaffirmed that the work is not likely to have a significant impact on listed threatened species under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, or their habitat. Referral to the Commonwealth Minister for assessment and approval is not warranted.”

Greens raise issue 

in NSW Parliament

THE NSW Greens have called on Shoalhaven City Council to suspend tree destruction at Gerroa Road and raised the matter in State Parliament.

Greens spokesperson for Environment Dr Mehreen Faruqi MLC asked Minister for Roads and Ports Duncan Gay a question without notice on Thursday about the destruction of trees along Gerroa Road with almost no community consultation.

Dr Faruqi asked whether Roads and Maritime Services instructed Shoalhaven council to remove trees along Gerroa Road.

The Minister gave essentially the same response the Register received from the RMS – that it has no role in the work.

“The removal of these hundreds-of-years-old trees would deal a devastating blow to local wildlife that currently rely on them for connectivity and habitat,” Dr Faruqi said.

“I’m calling on council to suspend the tree clearing.

“Local residents have raised deep concerns about the lack of community consultation as well as the lack of environmental and scientific rigour of the reports underlying council’s decision.

“Over 1200 people have signed a petition to save a local iconic tree and it is clear that there is no community consensus for the mass removal of trees.

“The council must suspend all clearing and work with the community to find other ways to improve black spots and protect our natural environment at the same time.

“There must be other ways Shoalhaven [City] Council can improve Gerroa Road without widespread environmental damage, such as utilising traffic calming measures and upgrading the intersection.”

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