News broke on Nov 1st, 2019, that four ancient river red gums had been removed by Mt Barker district council to make way for a regional sports club. The online backlash from this news has continued for the last 3 weeks, with local residents up in arms over how this incident was handled.
ABC Adelaide’s Facebook post got over 650 comments and 1.3k reactions to date, with no signs of stopping. Cheryl Elvin vented her frustrations;
“Truly speechless! These councils need investigating, councilors and executives need to be sacked and replaced with a panel of Commissioners with expertise in various disciplines. All levels of Government are now the worst this country has ever seen”
But not all residents wanted to dwell on the past and were looking to move on. Jason Walters said;
“Yeah, it sucks, but let’s plant 20 more in its place and move on from our “Nanny state” attitudes.”
That comment was followed by a barrage of unimpressed locals commenting back.
Mt Barker Council had this to say via their Facebook page “A lot of prior work had been undertaken, from a wide range of experts, to determine the optimum site layout in consideration of maximizing the retention of significant trees, and we are pleased an innovative solution was devised to re-purpose the trees to enhance the biodiversity of the Regional Sports Hub. Three trees have been relocated elsewhere on the site, which will become an exciting and unique entrance statement to the Hub attracting hollow-dependent fauna, including owls, bats and parrots.”
Although Mt Barker council has promised to plan 3 fold the trees that were removed, the question still remains, why cut these trees off at the base and stick them back in the ground?
In the end, they are going to be more of a hazard to pedestrians than an asset for local wildlife. Dead timber rots over time, and the trees are likely going to become unstable, dropping branches and could come down in heavy winds.
Even celebrity muscle weighed in, with Gardening Australia’s Sophie Thomson saying;
“While I agree that keeping dead trees with hollows (that take 80 to 100 years to develop) is vital for wildlife, at what point did we decide it’s OK to cut down living ancient giants to make dead trees, all for the sake of moving a driveway 20 metres!!!!!! I know that it is too late for these trees however, when are we going to take care of trees so this sort of thing can’t happen again”.
Although I do agree that the removal of these trees could have been handled differently, I also think that the macrocycle of life locally and globally should be taken into account. We have lost some great specimens today, but we have also invested in the future with 3 times as many trees being planted that were lost.
For humans, 100-year-old trees are “ancient” and should be preserved, but in the grand scheme of things they are a mere grain of sand in the desert when viewing the larger cycle over the globe and through time.
The promise of Mt Barker Council to plant 3 times as many trees that have been removed, means the future is a lot brighter for our grandchildren and the future generations of the local native wildlife.