$250 fee for nominating trees abolished

Central Coast councillors have voted to abolish a $250 fee for nominating trees for inclusion on the Significant Tree Register, just weeks after approving it.

The $250 fee was included in a raft of fees and charges approved for 2020-21 on June 29, but quickly raised a red flag with Councillor Louise Greenaway and concerned community members.

Councillors also voted at their meeting on July 13 that criteria for listing a tree be expanded to include cultural significance along with heritage and historical value.

Cr Greenaway told fellow councillors that the register had been a matter of discussion since August 2019, when it was resolved to expand the Significant Tree Register which had operated under the former Gosford Council, to include trees from the former Wyong council area.

“I supported the motion, having lived under the devastating Tree Policy of the former Wyong Council, which saw the removal of trees and resultant damage to habitat, amenity and heritage,” she said. “Nearly a year later, we are yet to have a process by which people can nominate trees from the former Wyong Shire.” Cr Greenaway said nominating a tree was a community service of no benefit to the nominator.

She said other council areas have registers which celebrate trees for their horticultural, aesthetic, indigenous and heritage value, with many of them providing interactive maps showing trees of significance and heritage trails incorporating trees.

Councillors also requested the CEO to investigate the opportunities for incorporating the Significant Tree Register in Council’s Local Planning Instruments, with the specific intention of providing long term protection to the trees listed on the register.

The decision followed an impassioned address from environmentalist Joy Cooper in the public forum prior to the meeting. Cooper said the register maintained by the former Gosford Council had been valued by the community and easily accessible, with no fee required to nominate a tree. “Since the amalgamation, I have observed the register having less and less visibility and even an attempt by staff … to persuade councillors to not even have a register.” she said.

“Fortunately for us, the councillors valued this register. “Our region should be showing off, highlighting and differentiating our uniqueness and beauty. “I find it astounding that it has taken 11 months for the register to be reactivated and be back on the council web site. “The extensive community consultation with the Community Strategic Plan – One Central Coast clearly showed that the Central Coast Community valued the natural environment and visitors to the Central Coast did as well.

“This being the case, the Significant Tree Register should be being embraced and adopted post haste,’ Cooper said. “A Significant Tree Register and current technology should allow for locals and visitors to our area to download an app and be able to either take a drive to all local historically significant trees, or all significant trees in their suburb.

“The Significant Tree Register in the past has allowed me to have a deep understanding of the trees in our area and the love others have of particular trees.” Cooper said two London Plane trees on Henry Parry Dr were planted because they were the favourite trees of former Mayor and State MP, the late Malcolm Brooks.

“These trees and knowledge of these and other trees, help to make this area unique and add to the layers of understanding and history of the area,” she said.

Source: Agenda item 6.3 Central Coast Council meeting, July 13