Protester turns to shire for support

April 16, 2018

HANDS OFF: Jennafer Whelan is fighting to save a tree she says is more than 200 years old.

ECHUCA’S Jennafer Whelan is calling on Campaspe Shire to help save a historic gum tree which looks destined to die.

VicRoads confirmed last week the tree would be removed to make way for a widened road as part of the highly anticipated Echuca-Moama bridge project.

Mrs Whelan lives near the tree on the corner of Campaspe Espl and Warren St which now has signs on it saying ‘Please save me’ with VicRoads’ number.

While councillors Annie Vickers and Kris Munro have publicly thrown their support behind saving the tree, the organisation — Campaspe Shire — said it ‘‘does not have any enforceable controls to retain the tree’’.

‘‘Campaspe Shire needs to come on board,’’ Mrs Whelan said.

‘‘And they need to come on board with forcefulness and stand up for what is just so obviously the right thing to do.

‘‘That is to re-configurate the plans. You can’t tell me that those plans for widening Warren St, when none of the works have been done, can’t be altered to make way for the tree. They can be.’’

Council’s regulatory and community services general manager Paul McKenzie said council appreciated the protection of native vegetation was important to the community.

‘‘The second bridge project is equally as important to our community and there will be some impacts to the natural environment and built environment in its construction,’’ he said.

‘‘VicRoads has gone through the appropriate planning processes to get the project to where it is today. This has also included extensive consultation.’’

Echuca ward councillor Kris Munro said she had not spoken to council about the issue but as a community member she hoped the tree could be saved.

‘‘Everyone is fully aware sacrifices have to be made in line with the bridge ... but I think we have to do our upmost to preserve our natural heritage,’’ she said.

On Friday bridge project delivery manager Jason Warren said his team was doing ‘‘everything we can to minimise the number of trees to be removed’’.

‘‘And we’ve explored a range of options for this particular tree,’’ he said.

‘‘Sadly it’s not feasible to incorporate the tree into our plans and it will need to be removed as part of the Warren St upgrade.’’

Mrs Whelan had a meeting with VicRoads on Tuesday, last week when the organisation confirmed the tree would be removed.

‘‘I read the response (in the Riverine Herald) from VicRoads and the department. It was bureaucratic gobbledygook,’’ she said.

Mrs Whelan said she has another meeting with the road agency tomorrow.

‘‘And I believe that’s to tell me 100 per cent the tree is going to go,’’ she said.

If that is the case, Mrs Whelan said she was not sure what she would do.

VicRoads said several options were explored throughout the planning and design phase to try and save the tree but the proposed design alternatives did not meet road safety or road design guidelines nor guarantee the tree’s long-term health.

Mrs Whelan believes closing off Campaspe Espl at the corner of Warren St (impacting three residents) would save the tree.

‘‘I have always said my main priority with the bridge was to save the Octopus tree (which it is affectionately known as),’’ she said.

‘‘VicRoads has known about what I believed was the best option for the tree since long before they started on the bridge project.’’

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