Community & Business

25 February, 2024

Community plea to have say on trees

A POLICY aimed at guiding how Tablelands Regional Council manages trees and other vegetation on public land has come under fire because it does not include any kind of community consultation on tree removal.

Community plea to have say on trees - feature photo

Council may be open to further changes to the policy though after Glen Allyn resident Matt Lachlan and Rainforest Reserves Australia president Carolyn Emms spoke to councillors at a recent meeting about how it could be improved.

“I believe it’s an extremely weak policy that is not going to instil community confidence that trees will be protected (removed as a last resort) – indeed the priorities state the opposite,” Mr Lachlan said.

“I think there are so many issues with the policy that it is very hard to identify one. Having said that, if I had to name one, it would be that there is literally no conservation in the priority list.

“There is no trigger for public consultation which is a massive failure in my view. 

“I believe the exceptional tree provision as outlined in Cairns Regional Council’s policy should be adopted at a minimum to ensure that we don’t lose high conservation value trees unnecessarily, without public consultation as part of the prescribed process.

“I equally believe that is should not be left to council officers to decide whether a tree holds biodiversity or Cultural Heritage value under the policy.

“I strongly believe that engagement with experts including scientists, local environmental organisations and Traditional Custodians should be stipulated as part of the process where applicable to assess such values. That is not the case under the current wording of the policy.”

Following the presentation by Mr Lachlan and Ms Emms, there was some discussion at the January council meeting as to whether to defer endorsing the policy until issues raised could be looked at and considered as amendments.

But council approved the policy and subsequently invited Mr Lachlan to attend the Natural Asset Management Advisory Committee (NAMAC) meeting.

“The issues I raised were shared by other representatives on the committee. As a result of ensuing discussions, NAMAC committee members have been invited to provide comment and propose amendments to the policy by 28 February,” Mr Lachlan said.

“I am confident this will lead to major improvements in the policy which I hope will be implemented as a matter of priority. 

“I think this policy is really important for the Tablelands, (2030+ and regular comments on social media enforce that view), and I’d really like to see TRC take the lead and set the bar with a clear, thorough policy the community can have confidence in.

“Time and time again, a lack of consultation is raised as a key frustration with council. 

“Ultimately, I’d like to see a dedicated portal set up, whereby proposed legislation and policy changes could be revealed at least 3-4 weeks prior to council meetings, giving the community a chance to have their say. 

“I believe public input could help improve policy outcomes. Enabling the community to have real input and to feel like their concerns are being considered, would certainly lead to a more inclusive approach, and would ultimately be a win for both council and the wider community.”


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