Shire in limbo over tree issue

Up in the air: Moyne Shire Council has been left unsure of which direction it should take in regards to the Avenue of Honour, after a motion to inform the organisers of a petition that a same species replacement trial would go ahead was voted down.

MOYNE Shire Council is at odds over what to do with Mortlake’s Avenue of Honour, after a motion to start a four-year tree replacement trial was lost at last week’s Ordinary Meeting.

Shire acting director of sustainable development Michelle Grainger confirmed council had secured a Heritage Victoria permit to replace 18 trees with 21 trees of the same species (Monterey cypress) as part of a four- year trial, with a long-term view to replace the entire Avenue of Honour.

She said community consultation would then be conducted at the conclusion of the trial to decide on the preferred tree species to be used.

However, the project has been left in limbo after a tabled motion to inform the organisers of a petition that the same species trial would go ahead divided councillors and was voted down.

The petition called for council to overturn its decision to use the same species and was accepted at the September Ordinary Meeting.

Ms Grainger said the decision to go ahead with the same species trial was made after “extensive consultation, including mostly with the Mortlake Returned and Services League and Heritage Victoria”.

Speaking for the motion, councillor Jill Parker said the council should listen to the wishes of the Returned and Services League and Heritage Victoria on the matter.

“It (the tree issue) has been considered over a considerable period in Mortlake,” she said.

“A number of them have been affected by canker and it has spread quite a bit, as we’re all quite aware, throughout the Western District.”

However, Cr Parker said she was also concerned with the decision to replace the trees with those of the same species.

“I can understand people being concerned about replacing like for like,” she said.

“However, when we had the consultation in Mortlake, the feedback from the community on species selection has been inconclusive. There’s been no concurrence.

“We can probably tolerate four years to make sure that we’re doing the right thing.”

Speaking against the motion, Cr Mick Wolfe said another species of tree should be considered.

“It just doesn’t make sense to me,” he said.

“I just don’t think it’s financially wise to do it with the same sort of tree.”

Cr Daniel Meade also spoke against the motion and said the $42,728 bill for the four-year trial was an area of concern.

“Even though it may not be a huge amount of money, it’s still ratepayers’ money,” he said.

The motion was lost four votes to three, with Crs Jim Doukas, Mick Wolfe, Daniel Meade and Colin Ryan voting against.

Cr Parker said she was “totally confused” about what direction the council was supposed to take after the loss of the motion, but said it would be discussed at council’s monthly workshop.

“It’s quite unsatisfactory for both parties involved in it. We’re in limbo,” she said.

Mayor Jim Doukas hoped the council would be able to consult the community to reach a more appropriate decision on the species of replacement trees.

“Let’s go back to the drawing board,” he said.

“It was never even put to the community.

“At the end of the day, it’ll be up to the community to make a decision.”

Mortlake RSL president Merv Hampson said the league held “grave concerns”.

“Our main concern is the time it is taking to finalise any outcome,” he said.

“We’ve had meetings for continuous years now, with nothing achieved or decided.”

Mr Hampson said a consensus would need to be reached before going ahead with replanting.

“Another concern is whatever species is selected must be planted for the entire length of the avenue, or a mismatch of trees will occur and all significance and respect will be lost,” he said.

“Never forget that the Avenue of Honour is a war memorial and due respect should be shown.”

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