Fingal Head residents are outraged by the ‘wiping out’ early this morning of most of an endangered littoral rainforest remnant on a private property whose owner had a subdivision bid knocked back several days ago.
Police and Tweed Shire Council staff were called out just after 7am by shocked neighbours of the 40 Queen Street property where the tree-chopping contractors were ordered to stop work.
Neighbours, police, council officers, consultants and contractors were mulling over what community leaders have described as a ‘massacre’ of trees on the property which they say are part of a critically endangered ecological community (EEC) protected under federal law.
It is not the first time such clearing has sparked the community’s ire. Earlier this year locals were also outraged when some trees were chopped down there and council officers were called after complaints.
One person at the time took it to extremes by painting large-lettered graffiti ‘Tree Murderer’ on the old house there.
This morning, a neighbour said that the ‘very very rarest’ trees within that EEC appeared to be the ‘first to be cut down’.
The early-morning clearfelling of the trees shocked the community as the word spread around fast.
The owner, Robert L. Nankivell, had his bid for a two-lot subdivision, to remove the existing dwelling and build two new ones rejected by council 4-3 on Thursday night, with pro-development Crs Warren Polglase, Phil Youngblutt and Carolyn Byrne voting to approve it.
The plan included removal of trees on the property to accommodate the new homes.
In recommending rejection of the plan, council planners said approval ‘could set an unwarranted precedent for the location of residential development adjacent to fragile ecosystems, resulting in fragmentation and destruction of significant environmental assets’.
Fingal Head Coastcare president Kay Bolton and Fingal Head Community Association president Karen Morrison were on site this morning and both expressed disbelief and disappointment.
Ms Bolton told Echonetdaily that while the remnant was on private property, it adjoined an endangered littoral rainforest community behind the headland dunes.
During debate on the developer’s plan last Thursday night, Cr Katie Milne said there was a real concern approving the subdivision (which meant removing non-federally protected vegetation) ‘could set a very dangerous precedent for littoral rainforest in this shire’.
Cr Milne said councillors had to be very aware of a new bushfire regulation (vegetation clearing entitlements in designated areas) by which ‘some species are at extreme risk now’.
‘It’s vital we preserve this extremely rare type of vegetation as we can’t afford to lose it,’ Cr Milne said.
Ms Bolton fears some people may try to exploit the new state laws now in place, but she emphasised that permits were required when certain types of endangered trees or vegetation were concerned.
She said littoral rainforest species by their nature were fire retardant and did not pose a bushfire threat and, as far as she knew, there had never been a fire in a littoral rainforest recorded.
Cr Gary Bagnall told Echonetdaily he was incensed at what had happened.
‘We told the owner not to take those trees out and now someone’s gone and wiped them out, that rainforest remnant had been whittled away at recently, now the job seems to have been finished’.
Council officers are now investigating the incident.