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Can't see the wood for the trees

Think Local

North Shore residents and councils have staged a protest against the excessive tree trimming antics of Ausgrid contractors and have forced the organisation to engage in more community consultation and vegetation management.

The situation has become inflamed recently with residents left devastated and angry after large suburban trees had been hacked and "butchered" - particularly in the Chatswood, Killara and Lindfield suburbs.

Ku-ring-gai mayor Jennifer Anderson has called for an urgent review of the processes, saying the council understands the need for trimming - but the community is "upset" at the appearance of some of the trees where the pruning has taken place.

"I have received a flood of calls and correspondence from residents expressing their shock at the extent of the pruning," Ms Anderson tells North Shore Living. She adds that council staff are continuing to assess the damage of the most severely affected trees and to ascertain if they need removing all together and replanting.

"We need Ausgrid to urgently review their guideline practices, that are appropriate for the size and maturity of trees found in Ku-ring-gai, which are some of the loveliest in Sydney," she says.

In a statement to North Shore Living, Ausgrid has confirmed a community stakeholder working group has been established to help look at vegetation management. General manager of asset management John Hardwick says Ausgrid understands trees are an integral part of the streetscape and customers want them to dedicate more time and resources to improve the process. "We do have a legal obligation and a responsibility to make sure branches are not growing too close to powerlines,“ he says. "And historically, in many areas of the network, inappropriate species have been planted on nature strips directly under powerlines.”

Killara resident Peter Wilkinson, who lives in Marian Street, says he was very upset to see the damage done in his street to a very large Dawn Redwood tree, which is over 40 years old.

He says he contacted the council immediately after viewing the extensive pruning, which he describes as "butchery". Since then, he says he has been lobbying both the council and Ausgrid over the matter. “We can‘t put all the branches back but hopefully, something can be done to stop it happening to such a degree."

Mr Wilkinson wants a number of strategies put in place to stop the destruction of so many special, mature trees on the North Shore. He believes there has been a "lack of consistency" in previous prunings and new guidelines need to be established, adding, “Ausgrid appear to be listening to the community but we will wait and see the results.”

Mosman deputy mayor Roy Bendall says over the past few years, Ausgrid seems to think that decimating the area’s beautiful tree-lined streets is "a right”.

"We understand trimming but wholesale destruction without any sort of regard for aesthetics or the health of the trees shows a disregard to Ausgrid's customer base and the community and councils.” Mr Bendall tells North Shore Living.

Cr Bendall adds that it's a great pity that the organisation does not take a more holistic and co-operative approach to the right to trim trees.

"The state government should also bear some responsibility for their reckless disregard to the community - as it empowers utility companies to act unilaterally with neither the consent of agreement of the local councils.

"They seem to be under no obligation to speak to the community or Mosman Council before they get their Chainsaws out," he notes.




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