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Byron Shire
November 29, 2022

Wollumbin High – native trees to be removed to ‘put up a parking lot’ 

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The NSW Department of Education are planning to remove 48 rainforest and native trees to put up a parking lot. Photo Taddy Ridge

The mega-school at Murwillumbah that is being pushed through by the NSW Department of Education (DoE), against strong community opposition, has once again come under fire. This time it is for the proposal to remove 48 established endemic native trees from Wollumbin High School to create more parking. 

Many of the trees that the DoE are removing were planted by school students and respected local environmentalist Bruce Chick who passed away in 2007. The aim is ‘to temporarily accommodate students from Murwillumbah High [for one year] while the mega school, already very controversial, is being built,’ explained Tweed Councillor Dr Nola Firth. 

‘There will be an expanded parking area and also demountables brought in.’

Tweed Mayor Chris Cherry said they had been contacted by locals when fencing went up and the Council is seeking further information from the DoE on their decision. 

The NSW Department of Education are planning to remove 48 rainforest and native trees to put up a parking lot. Photo Taddy Ridge

‘The tree clearing is part of their exempt development conditions. These are rainforest trees and endangered species. Students at the school were told that they needed to cut down the trees to rejig the car park to get more spaces in. I understand there is a need to accommodate students and teachers, but to me it is very short sighted to remove these native trees for one years use of the site,’ she told The Echo

‘We would like to work with the DoE to see what other alternatives are available. Surely for such a short term problem we can sort something out that doesn’t remove these valuable trees.’

A Tweed Council spokesperson told The Echo that Council officers have requested further details and will review this assessment as a matter of priority.’

‘Council has been advised the proposed timing of the removal of the trees is not until late September, during the school holiday break, which will give Council time to assess the situation.’

State protected species

Former Wollumbin High School teacher Garry Shearman who worked in rainforest regeneration for NPWS prior to becoming a teacher told The Echo that the trees that they are planning to remove ‘are nearly all endemic to the local area and include trees protected under State legislation (Owenia cepiodora, Lepiderema pulchella and Syzgium moorei).’

‘Some of these trees now are of a good height, are flowering and fruiting, and provide important ecological value. They are also planning on removing a native Teak (Flindersia australis) that is more than 50 years old and is on the site through natural regeneration.’

The trees that will be removed include trees protected under State legislation such as Owenia cepiodora, Lepiderema pulchella and Syzgium moorei. Mr Shearman is pointing at a Syzygium moorei. Photo Taddy Ridge

Stop the merger

NSW State Member for Lismore, Janelle Saffin, has called for the mega-school merger of the four schools, two primary and two high schools, to be stopped. 

‘I just see it as environmental vandalism,’ she told The Echo.

‘Given the legacy of the trees themselves, Bruce Chick planted them with the students, what lessons does this show our students when we are trying to be sustainable? For a temporary car park they are doing this wanton destruction. 

‘The Nationals in government should hang their heads in shame. It is a result of their cost cutting measures that there is the merger of schools, supported by the Liberals. This merger will lead to the loss of 24 jobs, 20 teachers and 4 four admin staff. They just have to stop. The merger needs to stop now.’

Respect the community

‘This flies in the face of our emphasis on care for our environment and our Cool Towns policy,’ said Cr Firth. 

‘I am very concerned about it and want the state to respect our community requirements regarding environmental protection.’

♦ Questions have been sent to the DoE. They were unable to respond by deadline. Their comments will be published when they become available.

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  1. The Dept of Education and The Dept of Housing have ‘exemptions’ from Council policies that everyone one else have to follow. When vacating a Housing dwelling the govt razes everything one has planted to the ground, “so the new tennant does not have to have the impost of maintenance if it was unwanted!” Local people dig up shrubs to rescue them from the scorched earth policy. One would think as Janelle Saffin stated that a govt dept, especially of education, would be setting an example for the youth, by doing the right thing. Another area where they could set an example is for all schools to have solar panels, and all Dept Housing flats and homes to have them as well. The present govt needs to be made aware the town does not need a megaschool full stop. Or demountables brought in, which is not cheap. A car park so that people do not have to walk a bit further, is hard to justify if trees are to be removed for a temporary situation. Please govt Tax the big polluters, the previous criminals in power cut cut cut, health education, and transport. When they hand out funds before an election to appear caring, (vote for us) it is never as much as they cut when they got into power.

  2. This is appalling, I remember when these trees were planted for the future of the Tweed, not just Wollumbin. There’s already so little left, this legacy of Bruce Chick’s efforts to preserve the unique and precious species of the Tweed valley are so important.

    To destroy yet more native species to create temporary parking, or anything else is environmentally, morally and ethically abhorrent.

  3. I feel a SchoolKidsForTrees protest brewing.

    School kids chaining themselves to the trees and climbing up the trees, to halt these proposed tree murders accompanied by the Joni Mitchell song, “Big Yellow Taxi” blaring out across the community.

    For those that aren’t aware, that famous line – “They paved paradise to put up a parking lot”, is from the Joni’s, “Big Yellow Taxi” song.
    Get yourself onto the YouTube and dial up the Joni for a listen. Its Gold!

  4. Apparently there a climate crisis, dire warning of the end of the earth and these morons want to cut important, ecological trees down????? So is there a climate crisis or is that yet another lie from our apparent leaders and underhanded scientists????

  5. Absolutely disgusting and disgraceful. What about the homes for the native animals that need eventual old growth. These people need to be held accountable. Natural environment is imperative for our children. Too much of our green space is being destroyed by penpushers in offices who have no idea. The education departments in our country need to be disbanded and intelligent non political people need to replace

  6. i wonder how many – if any – of the folks who verbally protest this unethical, environmentally ignorant & plain idiotic plan will actually chain themselves to the threatened trees or climb them.

  7. ‘SOMEONE’ who counts has to listen. This is a rediculous move. Having been taught by Bruce Chick at MHS and followered his work in the Tweed with trees I can’t believe it will aĺl be for nothing. STOP & THINK.

  8. I’ve one good leg & 2 buggered shoulders. At 77 I’d give it a go. Today’s attitude by many explains how deliberately non caring
    the human species is.


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