Monday, June 3, 2019

Destruction of Native Trees in Historic Brighton by Bayside City Council

Peter Johnston -
B r i g h t o n ,  V i c t o r i a,  A u s t r a l i a  - 

Leafy Church Street, Brighton. Credit: Facebook.
The leafy, seaside suburb of Brighton in Melbourne is famous not only for its colourful beach-boxes but for its wide, tree-lined streets and beautiful Victorian and Edwardian villas.

Today, not only are many of these wonderful houses currently subject to wanton destruction by developers constructing ugly, multi-unit buildings but the suburb's established native trees are being torn down.

The Bayside City Council has not only been responsible for the loss of irreplaceable houses and gardens, but has approved the destruction of these Melaleuca (paperbark) trees in Brighton's Chelsea Street, opposite the Brighton Baths and Yacht Club.

The chopping down of these trees is an evironmental disaster for local endangered birds and insects. Eight of these trees have already been destroyed on Saturday, despite public outcries from residents and environmentalists. The trees also offer pleasant shade in summer and give the street its distinctive beauty and amenity.

One of eight trees already removed.
The destruction of the trees by the Bayside City Council was done at the behest of a private petition, organised by a wealthy resident of the street who did not want the evergreen trees to drop leaves or sap on to their Mercedes vehicles parked in the street (even though the house has a double garage).

The thick-trunked Australian trees with sculptural white bark have fragrant flowers and bushy canopies that are home to many native birds and insects, including finches, Little Friarbirds, rosellas, Scarlet Honeyeaters, Orange-bellied Parrots, the Eastern Curlew and native bees.

Called paperbarks and belonging to the melaleuca family, the trees in Chelsea Street are more than 50 years old and can live to a great age. The trees are in a healthy state and conservationists say they are important to the survival of a wide range of endangered native birds, animals and insects that rely on them for shelter and food.

Brighton MP James Newbury received "numerous approaches from residents" about the issue and he wrote to the Mayor of the City of Bayside, Councillor Michael Heffernan. The Mayor responded that he received the petition last year in February 2018. Although he states, the trees are to be destroyed because they are in "declining health"; independent arborists say the trees are all in an excellent state and there is no need for the so-called "Large Scale Tree Replacement" by the council.

Native paperbark trees in
Church Street, Brighton.
Even more alarming than the destruction of these trees is their planned replacement by the fast-growing Chinese Elm. This alien species is against all current conservation practices and will do nothing to enhance the local environment or provide for the myriad number of native birds and insects which make Brighton such a magnet for locals and visitors.

The Chinese elm is not native to Australia and does not only offer no food or habitat for local birds and insects, but is considered highly invasive. It spreads its seed easily in the wind and is self-pollinating and is listed as an invasive species by Brisbane City Council and the Queensland Government along with other local government authorities.

We are living in an age when endangered Australian birds are disappearing at an alarming rate because of the destruction of their habitat. Experts across the country point out how important suburban gardens and streets with native plants and trees are to their survival.

The bottlebrush-like flowers of the paperbark tree also attract nectar-feeding birds, such as honeyeaters and lorikeets. Paperbark trees are considered excellent for attracting Australian wildlife into local gardens and streets.

It is time Mayor Michael Heffernan not only started to protect the historic built enviornment of Brighton but also its natural one, from destructive vested interests, by stopping the felling of the Paperbark trees in Chelsea Street.


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