RESIDENTS’ battle to save a manna gum overhanging a road in Balnarring has been lost.
Mornington Peninsula Shire councillors have given the go ahead for the tree to axed because it is too close to the road and the legal liability it would face if the tree fell.
The decision at council’s 22 February meeting was the second time the tree had been ordered to be felled after officers were told in November to look for other ways to manage “the hazardous manna gum” in Balnarring Road.
A follow-up report on 22 February by principal transport engineer Doug Bradbrook stated that the original (November) “recommendation remains to remove the tree from the road reserve”.
Mr Bradbrook said the alternative to chopping down the tree – diverting the road and speed reduction measures – would cost about $150,000.
An $810,000 package of “traffic safety treatments and footpath links” had also been developed, although no money had been budgeted for either option.
Although he gave no cost estimate of removing the tree, Mr Bradbrook said it could be paid for from the current budget.
“The identified road safety risk [of the manna gum] cannot remain unmitigated, and action must take place as soon as possible,” Mr Bradbrook said.
The “background” section of Mr Bradbrook’s report said bus operators had raised concerns about being forced to drive on the other side of the road to avoid hitting the tree’s overhanging branches.
He said an “arboreal inspection confirmed that the mature street tree has a natural formation that extends over the road carriageway”.
The shire was obligated “to promote a safe and efficient local road network… [which included] a clear envelope 3.75 metres” above the road.
Mr Bradbrook said pruning was not viable.
A move by Cr Debra Mar (seconded by Cr David Gill) to divert both the road and “budget and staff resourcing from existing projects to enable this to commence this financial year” was not supported by Crs Antonella Celi, Sarah Race, Susan Bissinger, Paul Mercurio, Lisa Dixon and Anthony Marsh.
Council – with Crs Mar, Gill and Bissinger opposed – then agreed to remove the tree and find an “appropriate” place to place its trunk “for habitat purposes”; investigate where to plant new street trees nearby; offer free indigenous trees to “urban” Balnarring Beach residents; and donate the foliage from the manna gum to a wildlife shelter.