Custom-cut ‘Moonscape’ plan

By Cam Lucadou Wells

A street tree replacement program described as a “moonscape” of Hemmings Street and Weller Dandenong Street has been scaled back.

On August 8, the city of Greater Dandenong announced that 17 trees would be removed from the compound.

This was far less than the original proposal to cut down 71 paperbarks, acacias and a liquid amber tree, which was halted by a furious backlash from the community and councillors.

Major Projects Manager Paul Kearsley told the Star Journal that the 17 felled trees were assessed as “declining or unhealthy, too close to utility/utility poles and/or too close to curb”.

“This project was guided by extensive consultation with our community and regional stakeholders.

“These works have been approved by the Council.”

As part of the work, the municipality began on August 8 to plant street trees in the interstices of the natural strips. All 17 trees are expected to be replaced over the next three weeks.

Resident Peter O’Loughlin said he was glad the campaign “saved 50 trees”, but wanted more details on the trees that were heading for the cut.

“I’m disappointed the council couldn’t give us more details about what they’re doing.”

Councilor Rhonda Garad, who backed the campaign, said the neighborhood “didn’t want to live in a moonscape for 10 years” while replacement plantings grew to maturity.

She said it was “a bit of a victory for the people”.

“There was no malice on the council’s part. He believed they were doing the right thing.

“But residents didn’t want manicured, well-groomed streets. They wanted real streets.

In April, the council backed out of its original 71-tree plan after residents of the council’s Hemmings Street Community Action Group claimed they were caught off guard.

At the time, the council argued that the trees blocked sight lines, turned natural strips into “scorched earth”, created tripping hazards and obscured street lighting.

The council planned to replace them with 102 street tree species plantings in line with its Greening Our City strategy.

The strategy identifies some replaced tree species in Greater Dandenong, including a paperbark species that grows in the Hemmings Street area.

The $160,000 work was co-funded by an $80,000 grant from the state Department of Justice and Community Safety.

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