Byron Shire councillors will determine the fate of a majestic old forest red gum in a popular Brunswick Heads park that a state agency wants to cut down.
The plan by North Coast Holiday Parks (NCHP) to remove the 80-year-old forest redgum (Eucalyptus Tereticornis) in Banner Park opposite the local pub has angered locals who successfully fought to retain it 10 years ago after it was also then deemed dangerous.
But Byron Shire Council staff this week said the development application (DA) by the NCHP to cut it down will be left up to councillors to decide at its 14 February meeting.
Locals and visitors alike were horrified to learn the tree may be chopped down when questioned in an informal poll by The Echo on Saturday during the monthly Brunswick Heads markets.
They were curious as to why the tree had been fenced off around its base.
Of the dozen-plus people polled, all said the tree looked healthy and all efforts should be made to retain it.
During the poll, many people noticed and photographed a white corella peeking out of its hollow in the upper part of the tree.
‘That’s ridiculous. That means walking under any tree is dangerous,’ one visitor said.
‘Why spoil this lovely grassed area? They will destroy the natural feel of this popular foreshore,’ another visitor told The Echo.
Another said, ‘they’re trying to pave this paradise. The park is fine as it is.’
Longtime locals say they suspect the tree stands in the way of grand plans by NCHP to build a footpath to link two of the three caravan parks it manages in the town: the Terrace and Massey-Greene parks.
About two weeks ago, locals say a magnificent old paperbark tree in the Terrace caravan park was chopped down by NCHP contractors, upsetting some of the permanent residents living there.
Brunswick Heads Progress Association member Patricia Warren said NCHP was ‘establishing a well-known history of lopping or “pruning” trees to accommodate high-roofed camping vehicles such as caravans and mobile homes in the parks they manage’.
‘Plus they took out the tree on Council’s road reserve at the Ferry Reserve recently.’
That tree has been replaced by a sapling, but NCAT was fined $1,500 by Council for chopping it down without authorisation.
Ms Warren told Echonetdaily that in 2004 Byron Shire Council wanted to remove the forest redgum in Banner Park but a local petition ‘stopped that removal and surprise, surprise remediation work saved the tree’.
The progress association met last week and resolved to request an independent arborist’s report on what options are appropriate for the gum tree.
Excessive ‘pruning’ of old trees in the Terrace Caravan Park, including coastal cypress pines which are native to the Brunswick Heads area, has incensed many locals living nearby.
One resident confronted the contractors recently pruning trees along the road reserve and NCHP managers called police to resolve the dispute.
As a result, Council had to step in and stop the ‘pruning’.
Another elderly resident who lives adjacent to the Terrace Caravan Park told the progress association meeting that the cypress pines in the Terrace Reserve were planted in memory of a number of his fellow students at Brunswick Heads Primary School who died after an outbreak of diphtheria during the Depression years.
The school principal at the time had organised for the continuous planting of the cypress pines as a memorial to those children.
The pines, residents say, are also listed as endangered.
Residents say that gum trees on the Terrace Road reserve have been poisoned by what appears to be excessive use of herbicide by NCHP contractors.
Poison is also used by their contractors on the estuary foreshore in the park leading to the local bowling club, which locals say contributes to erosion of the riverbank there.
Byron Council staff told Echonetdaily that parts of the Banner Park gum tree which could be an immediate risk to the public or property ‘may be removed’ before the DA is determined with prior notification and supervision of Council.