The announcement that the trees, planted by the ‘Man of the Trees’ Bruce Chick and Wollumbin High School students when the school was founded, will not be removed has been warmly welcomed by the local community. However, the mega-school merger of the two primary and two secondary school at the Murwillumbah High School site will lead to the removal of 158 trees.
‘Following consultation with staff and other stakeholders, the Department of Education (DoE) has committed to retaining the trees located in the carpark at Wollumbin High School,’ spokesperson for the NSW Department of Education told The Echo.
‘The focus in designing the redevelopment has been to retain as many trees as possible. Feedback from the community regarding the legacy plantings of Bruce Chick OAM was a key consideration. The location of proposed buildings was adjusted during the concept design phase so that a large area of rainforest trees planted by Bruce Chick could be protected and retained.’
One tree has now been removed from the Wollumbin High School site to allow for installation of a learning space for students with additional learning or support needs. It is understood that the tree was not a threatened species or of significance in terms of its size and maturity and the DoE will plant a replacement tree.
‘I am delighted that the Education Department has listened to the views of the community and has now notified our Mayor, Chris Cherry, that they will not remove the 48 trees at Wollumbin High School car park,’ Tweed Shire Councillor Dr Nola Firth told The Echo.
‘Thanks are due to the many people in our community who spoke up in letters, on [social media], radio and at the protest rally. Happily our community is increasingly aware and protective of our trees, including our urban forests. We know that in this time of catastrophic native species loss and the increasing need for heat bank mitigation that trees are irreplaceable assets.
Ecological value not recognised
‘I remain bothered however, that the Education Department assessment of the trees was done by an arborist and not by an ecologist and that every tree of the 48 trees except two was listed as having no ecological value at all. Several important trees were not identified. For example, one tree, Owenia Cepiodora, was not listed, even though it is rare and federally listed as vulnerable. All of the trees are local native rainforest trees and would be treated with care and protection under Council policy.
‘It is clear we need the state government to be much more proactive about valuing native trees in this time of climate change, species loss and Cool Towns initiatives,’ she said.
‘The NSW State of the Environment 2021 report itself identifies habitat destruction and native vegetation clearing as presenting the greatest threat to biodiversity in the State. We urgently need the state government to listen to their own advice and consistently act on it within all its departments including forestry, urban planning and the Education Department.’
As part of the merger of the two primary and two secondary schools, that has seen significant community opposition and a damning response to the DoE’s development application, 158 trees will be removed from the Murwillumbah school site.
Some of these trees would need removing regardless of the development such as 58 trees from a hoop pine plantation for bushfire management and 11 that are in poor health. There are also 40 trees to be removed that have been identified as weed species. Another 49 trees will be removed to allow for construction of the new buildings.
It is understood that there will be a total of 180 native trees planted as part of the project, that will result in a net increase of 22 trees across the site and an increase of 48 native trees.