Brunswick Heads residents are outraged at what they say are plans to cut down historic memorial cypress trees in a public foreshore reserve under contentious redevelopment plans for the town’s three public caravan parks and five Crown reserves.
As submissions close tomorrow (21 February) for the draft plans of management for the foreshore parks, residents say they were horrified to learn the heavily pruned historic cypress pines in the Terrace reserve south of the caravan park are earmarked to be cut down.
The plans by the NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust include a report by a consultant which says most (around a dozen) old trees in the reserve (endangered Coastal Cypress Pines) need ‘immediate removal because of extreme decay and threat to the public’.
But the locals are calling for a second opinion, claiming the trust management have been removing much of the tree growth by stealth over the years to make more room for extra campers from the nearby Terrace caravan park in peak times.
The reserve is not a formal part of the caravan park’s operational boundaries, yet comes under the management of the Trust which runs the commercial parks, controversially taken over by the state government eight years ago under former disgraced lands minister Tony Kelly.
Resident and local progress association member Patricia Warren says a second opinion, one ‘not on the Trust’s payroll’, is needed on the trees’ fate ‘given the inclination for NCHP (North Coast Holiday Parks which runs the reserves) to lop first’.
‘This is so important, particularly as these pines were planted as memorial trees to WWI soldiers and to primary school children who died from dyptheria during the Great Depression when an epidemic swept through Brunswick Valley,’ Ms Warren told Echonetdaily.
Lifetime local Darcy O’Meara, who lives opposite the park and went to primary school with those children and has fought to preserve the trees, (see Sharon Shostak video, link below) has told other locals how ‘vacant seats would appear in the classroom’.
He is one of many locals outraged at the move, who say the Trust should do all it can to preserve them in the centenary year of WWI, which would add to the attraction of the area if they were properly promoted with plaques etc.
Ms Warren said she had been in contact with officials in Canberra from war graves ‘who say that unless there is a heritage order or tree preservation order then anything goes.
‘Worse, if the trees are on Crown land it looks like open slather for (management). But that does not take away outrage at what is in the plan of management’.
But general manager of the NCHP, Jim Bolger, this morning denied the trees would be chopped down.
Mr Bolger told Echonetdaily that ‘there is nothing in the draft PoM which states that there will be chopping down historic memorial cypress trees by saying they are dying’ and that ‘vegetation management will continue to be undertaken in accordance with Byron Councils Tree Preservation Order and the Native Vegetation Act’.
But residents say they’re puzzled as to why a report in the PoM for the Terrace by Idyll Spaces Environmental Consultants which says ‘recent tree hazard assessment of the Holiday Park (Finlayson 2009) identified 12 Coastal Cypress requiring immediate removal because of extreme decay and threat to the public’ was included.
Mr Bolger responded by saying it was ‘not referring to future works. If any future works are proposed they will be done so in accordance with the Councils Tree Preservation Order and native Vegetation Act’.
‘Trees are now inspected at least once a year by qualified arborists,’ Mr Bolger said.
However locals aren’t convinced given the history of the pruning of the trees and the trees face an uncertain future.
Ms Warren and Foreshore Protection Group member Sean O’Meara say the apparently healthy old trees since the caravan park was managed by NCHP from 2006 have been systematically and ‘savagely pruned’.
They claimed it appeared park management was removing branches that would otherwise interfere with higher-roofed camping vehicles, which, since the takeover when only camp sites were allowed in the reserve, have proliferated.
The intensification of use by bigger vehicles, they say, coincided with the systematic ‘pruning’ of the memorial trees ‘and thus the disappearance of the lower branches on the cypress pines’.
‘When Byron Shore Council managed the parks, the area south of Nana street was used only for primitive camping at Xmas and again at Easter and limited the areal extent of that camping by the regulatory 100-metre distance of the toilet facilities,’ Ms Warren said.
‘But when NCHP took control, management changed the conventional use of the area from primitive camping to short term sites, and to facilitate the large mobile homes and caravans, the memorial Cypress Pines were “pruned”.
‘NCHP completely violated the conventional use of the land by changing it into 24/7 short term sites
‘No development contributions would have been made for this extension, albeit illegal, of the caravan park.’
She said to this end, a temporary toilet block was moved toward the southern end so camping could be extended further south, then management provided water and power to a number of sites which were unauthorised.
One of the town residents across the road from the caravan park at the time, she said, ‘woke up one morning to find a toilet block outside her bedroom window… and I might add that it stinks, particularly in wet weather’.
* Documentary video on the issue by Sharon Shostak
The draft plans can be viewed at the Brunswick Heads Library and council offices in Mullumbimby.
Or you can visit the Crown Lands ‘Have Your Say’ website, www.crownland.nsw.gov.au or go to the North Coast Holiday Parks website, www.northcoastholidayparks.com.au/about_us/documents_on_exhibition/.
Written submissions due by February 21 can be addressed to: NSW Crown Holiday Parks Trust, PO Box 647, Ballina NSW 2478
Email submissions can be sent to [email protected].
For phone enquiries, call 6686 5171