Letter to the editor: City of Mandurah tree policy review long overdue

Photo: Shutterstock.
Photo: Shutterstock.

I was very heartened to read in the Mandurah Mail (8/10/20) of the decision to review the Mandurah council's tree management policy.

I have been a critic of the way trees are viewed and managed in our area for some time and the danger residents are put in by council insisting on retaining trees that are patently in dangerous and often downright negligent locations, given developments around them.

I live in Erskine and bought my property about six years ago knowing a large eucalyptus tree was just outside my rear boundary, retained by the developers on council orders in a very small four-house cul-de-sac.

It turns out to be a marri tree and borders a tiny open dry space planted with a few melaleuca trees (also proving totally inappropriate) directly under the marri tree.

As the neighbouring homes became occupied, the council pruned several large high limbs off the marri which left the canopy completely one-sided - bowing to the prevailing south/southwest winds, largely facing north/northeast.

The tree also has a strong lean to its trunk, to the northeast, and over the last years the canopy has spread upwards and out over the small open space - and over my property.

Where the council cut the high limbs, small growths appeared and by 2019 were about four metres long.

I became wary of these, and began correspondence with council on management of this tree, including sending updated photos.

Their response was they would "manage it".

At the beginning of May we had a severe storm through Mandurah which resulted in the limbs I had been concerned about being ripped off and slammed into my house, damaging the gutter and ending up in my patio.

So much for council "management".

When I wrote to the council that I would be looking for compensation as/when I had costs, I received an email from their insurer with the subject line "Claim Denial".

I had not even put in a claim! You can imagine my reaction.

Considerable correspondence has been back/forth between us since and the tree is now undergoing inspections as to its true health and strength, but the fact remains it is a totally unsuitable type of tree to have houses directly under it; it has caused me considerable recent expense, time and anxiety.

You don't have to go far to see other similar situations.

The residents of Port Bouvard experiencing issues with the verge Norfolk Pines, are not alone (Mandurah Mail 18/6/20).

Read more:

I realise trees are one of the most contentious and complex issues councils deal with as it encompasses protection of the environment, alongside balancing planning and building laws and providing a pleasing aspect for local suburbs.

However, subdivisions/developments have changed dramatically over the last 15+ years with smaller blocks, denser living, more narrow streets, clearing of natural vegetation for sprawling sterile new subdivisions and the resulting loss of natural habitat and amenity.

While council may like to maintain its "green credentials" by retaining mature trees at virtually all cost in completely inappropriate locations, there has to be a better way.

Large trees are for large spaces!

Eucalyptus are messy and dangerous trees to have homes under and isolating them in completely foreign environments soon puts them under much stress - creating more problems; the stress often extends to neighbouring residents and council staff!

Perhaps a better option may be to create local "green corridors" where mature trees can thrive, collectively.

Likewise, if large and invasive street trees such as Norfolk pines (I would suggest these are also large space or park trees) are now causing damage to private properties and local footpaths, then council needs the strength to say, yes these were a mistake, and to take remedial action to rectify the issue at no cost to the residents.

I strongly support this review and hope it leads to more enlightened action.

Julia Samuel, Erskine

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