A large and well established Moreton Bay Fig tree on Castle Drive, Lennox Head, is earmarked for removal by Ballina Shire Council, sparking the ire of an independent councillor and a resident.
Councillor Jeff Johnson told Echonetdaily that it could be up to 200 years old and was shocked to learn that fellow councillors had voted for its removal. Cr Johnson says he was unwell and could not vote at the last meeting when it was before Council.
‘This issue has been before Council around four times and was often discussed in a confidential session. I have always voted against its removal’.
‘This tree was there first and is a significant feature of the area. Council should be doing all it can to reduce the damage to canopy.’
Cr Johnson says Council’s cheif engineer John Truman advised him the removal is planned for Monday or Tuesday.
He said, ‘The property owner is somewhat responsible for this… there is a building under the canopy of the tree. Council could have done more to save this tree.’
Cr Johnson says the tree is located on Council managed land and has been used by the community for events over the years.
‘I think this decision was driven by Council’s insurers, who may have said to councillors: “we are not going to cover Council”. It probably spooked councillors.’
Neighbour Jenny Grinlington told Echonetdaily, ‘Ballina Council has approved this without any community consultation and only yesterday advised neighbours to be “patient” while works were happening this coming Monday to remove it.’
‘I suspect it has gone quietly under the radar because there could be a backlash from the community. Council’s arborists have been keeping the canopy maintained over the years.’
Ms Grinlington says, ‘I am emotional about this but also angry. How long will it be before every shred of our local Big Scrub heritage has been eliminated? This is a sorry Christmas gift for our community.
‘I’m happy to be involved in a campaign to save it.’
Ms Grinlington believes a neighbouring property owner – not affected by the tree – threatened Council with legal action unless it was removed.
Ms Grinlington says she is happy to be contacted and help with efforts to save the tree. Her number is 0420 543 257.
Cr Johnson also said he was also happy to help with those efforts. His number is 0438 677 202.