It is disheartening to see canopy trees illegally removed by irresponsible property owners and developers. These actions negatively impact the environment and the treed character of Boroondara that makes it such an attractive place to live.

A recent example of such action occurred at 38 Monomeath Avenue in Canterbury where private building surveyors issued Building Permits for the demolition of the existing home and for the construction of a new two-storey house on the land. Neither the demolition nor the new house required Council approval. In the course of the demolition, three trees were illegally removed and a fourth damaged to the point that it was no longer viable and was also removed.

“What is Council doing about this?” “Why isn’t Council stopping it?” These questions have been asked again and again.

The removal of the three trees and damage to the fourth are in breach of Council’s Tree Local Law. Council is taking a range of enforcement actions including issuing fines and seeking a prosecution in the Magistrate’s Court.

However, the $2,000 maximum fine set by the Victorian Government for a breach of the Tree Protection Local Law is totally inadequate and is an ineffective deterrent for the illegal removal or damage to trees. $2,000 is an insignificant amount of money when compared to the cost of building a new house.

Council has written many times over the years to successive Victorian Governments to increase fines for illegal tree removal. Most recently it did so with respect to the recent review of the Local Government Act. To date, the Victorian Government has refused to address this issue.

The Victorian Government has been prepared to increase penalties recently for the illegal demolition of heritage buildings in the wake of the Corkman pub demolition in Carlton. Council believes it is time the contribution made by trees to our environment and the character of Melbourne is also recognised by introducing significant consequences for illegal tree removal. This should not be delayed on the basis that the Local Government Act is being reviewed. Urgent action is required now.

We will continue to vigorously enforce our Tree Protection Local Law and call on the Victorian Government to help us by increasing fines to a level that provides a real deterrent. We need your support to do this and encourage you to write to the Minister for Local Government ([email protected]) requesting that the penalties for illegal tree removal be substantially increased.

Cr Phillip Healey

Boroondara Mayoral Blog