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1 February, 2022

Outrage over tree clearing

WALKAMIN residents are angry that large eucalyptus trees and shrubs have been chopped down as part of the Kennedy Highway upgrade, saying they were never consulted and are now exposed to unacceptable highway noise and lights.

By Robyn Holmes

Pictured is Dr Carly Starr with a petition all the residents have signed.

Main Roads began removing the trees and significantly trimming others to allow for intersection upgrades between Wilga Street and Wattle Street early last week, sparking outrage from Hibiscus Street residents, in particular, who now have little or no vegetation between their homes and the busy highway. 

A letter from the residents was sent to Main Roads on Wednesday demanding the clearing stop immediately and that the area be remediated with mature trees to replace what was lost. Resident Carly Starr said the trees had provided a vital buffer for Walkamin residents living adjacent to the highway. 

“They blocked out the western sun, traffic noise and lights from the highway, and dust and chemicals from adjacent farms,” she said. 

“There was no consultation with the community on this whatsoever, until an email was quickly sent off the day after clearing once they already decimated many trees.” 

Labelling the tree clearing as “environmental vandalism”, Dr Starr said residents could not understand why Main Roads had not targeted the opposite side of the highway. 

“Given the road is cleared on the other side, and the reduction of 80km/hr through town there was no need for this to occur,” she said. 

Fellow resident Sharon Prior, whose house is totally exposed to the highway now, agreed. 

“There is no privacy and the trees and shrubs provided a barrier for noise and lights from traffic at night, particularly the trucks. There was plenty of room on the other side of the highway where there were no trees to widen the road or are they putting in a turning lane? We don’t even know that,” she said. 

One of the trees that was chopped down on the Kennedy Highway at Walkamin with residents upset that they are now exposed to unacceptable highway noise and lights.

Dr Starr is also concerned about the impacts of the tree clearing on native species.

“These old eucalypts provided habitat for native species, many were old and hollow bearing so resident possums and birds were seen to use them for many years for breeding and food,” she said.

Residents also claim the tree clearing has the potential to devalue their properties. 

“This has likely devalued our property value. We now are left with traffic lights blaring into our houses all through the night and associated noise,” Dr Starr said. 

“The houses on this street are old Tinaroo cabins, with main bedrooms at the front of the houses facing the highway. 

“We now all face the issue of significant noise and dust pollution as a result of these works, and certainly an impact on our ability to sell. In a matter of days, the value of our houses has decreased.“ 

A Main Roads spokesperson confirmed that since residents raised objections to the clearing, the department was now “reviewing options to minimise the effects of vegetation removal”. 

“We conducted environmental assessments and all relevant permits and approvals were obtained before removing the vegetation,” he said. 

The department would continue to consult with the local community as the project progresses but he rejected any suggestion the opposite side of the highway could have been used to provide the room to upgrade the intersections. 

“Widening of the road only on the western side at this location would have required significant realignment of the existing road and intersections, including the relocation of powerlines,” he said.

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