Ballina Council has not followed their own planning legislation to assess the environmental significance of a Lennox Head fig tree slated for removal, according to local planner John Sparks.
Yet a press release by Ballina Council on Friday says that with multiple specialist reports being commissioned, all options to retain the tree on Castle Drive have been exhausted.
It reads, ‘All identified options presented to Council were cost prohibitive and provided no assurance of success.’
Yet Sparks told Echonetdaily he is requesting Council lodge a Development Application (DA) for vegetation management, ‘As required in chapter two of their Development Control Plan (DCP) and by their Local Environmental Plan (LEP) 2014.’
He’s also calling for the significant tree to be included in their Heritage Register ‘and change the zoning around the tree from R2 Low Density Residential to RE1 Public Recreation, similar to their zoning around other fig trees in the area.’
Independent Ballina councillor Jeff Johnson told Echonetdaily, ‘Back in December, I lodged an urgency motion with Ballina Shire Council requesting further investigations in an attempt to save this 200 year old fig, which is the standout natural feature of the Castle Drive locality.’
‘We are in this situation owing to poor planning decisions in the past that allowed a concrete slab on ground house to be constructed underneath the Fig’s canopy.
‘The area around the tree should have been declared a public reserve so that we wouldn’t be in this situation.
‘Something similar is now proposed with the new subdivision at Skennars Head where a 100 year old pine tree is facing the axe due to the developer not placing a value on these significant trees and the public’s desire to protect them.’
Tree vs Council
Sparks said, ‘The Ballina Environment Society would like to see this tree to act as a plaintiff against the Ballina Shire Council, based on the rights of the tree to defend itself and its significance to the natural ecosystem it has created over the last 200 years.’
The claim against Council and their insurance company would be for the costs of replacing the natural services and resources provided by this tree for the next 200 years of its life.
‘The Council decision to remove the fig tree relies on the laws of liability, both public and private, their rights of ownership and physical enjoyment of their environment as desired by the individual property owners.’
‘We are considering its options and may speak as guardians on behalf of the tree. Legal advice has been sought from the Environmental Defender’s Office (EDO).
‘We would like to hold a ceremony to honour the spirit of the tree and take cuttings from the tree to transplant these so that the spirit of the tree lives on.’