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Byron Shire
May 26, 2024

Tree removal heralds demise of a special place

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David Morris, Byron Bay. 

The strident racket of chainsaw and mulcher before 8am the other day alerted me. Hurrying round to Jonson Street I witnessed the first of several mature paperbarks felled. They were growing on a strip at the edge of the car park. I have stood under one for shade in the heat before now.

Assured later by a council officer there was council ‘approval’ for the removal of ‘five trees’, I remarked that it had been partly the anticipation of such that contributed to my earlier letter of objection to the proposed development. After speaking with the council’s ‘enforcement officer’, I now wonder about the fate of the other trees near the Plaza. Specifically, the row of splendid silvery trunked eucalypts that have so graced this area.

When I have lamented and fumed about what has happened to the town in recent years, I have found a little solace in these trees. Their beautiful sinuous lines, the silvery trunks often rose-tinted in the late afternoon (no tinted spectacles necessary) by the declining sun. I have taken some pleasure in the various flocks of birds that are evening tenants of the trees. There is also the delicious scent on a wet day.

I don’t know whether these fine specimens are designated for the chop. The council officer remarked that as they were lemon-scented gums they posed the hazard of dropping their limbs. That indeed may be a possibility occasionally. But, as I said, nothing compares with the hazards a pedestrian here faces from traffic, including speeding vehicles, and irresponsible cyclists and skateboarders. Not only around the Plaza, but everywhere around town (roads and pavements alike). I will take my chances with these trees; I regard myself in hazard of injury from human origins of various kinds both day and night in this town. But such concerns I suspect will be ignored or dismissed.

It is, as a pedestrian walking around town, that one witnesses the manifold changes that have occurred over the past decades and all that so-called ‘development’ has foisted on this place and continues in the process of turning a small country town into a quasi-city suburb by the sea. Some say, ‘You should see other places. At least there are no high- rises.’ That might be so; but there are many ugly edifices lacking in aesthetic appeal, nonetheless. Many older houses were no great shakes as architecture; but at least they were homes in the community. Not bought up, demolished and redeveloped as high- priced holiday lets.

Some call this ‘progress’; I see it as the demise of a rather special place.


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