By Colin MacGillivray
WORKS to remove 29 Monterey cypress trees at Kilmore Racecourse began on Friday despite the protestations of a group of community members.
The trees along the northern boundary of the racecourse reserve were deemed hazardous by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning, DELWP, and are due to be replaced with new trees once they are removed.
Local arboricultural group Tree Tactics is expected to take about a month to remove all 29 trees.
DELWP Hume land and built environment regional manager John Downs said the removal of the trees would reduce risk to the community.
“The works will significantly reduce the risk to people visiting the reserve as well as drivers along the Kilmore East Road,” he said.
“An arborist report determined the majority of the trees had reached the end of their life expectancy, posing an increased safety risk to the community.
“We understand these trees are aesthetically pleasing, however our number one priority must be the safety and wellbeing of visitors to the reserve.”
Several members of Kilmore and District Residents and Ratepayers Association, KADRRA, expressed dismay at the prospect of the trees being removed.
KADRRA president Vyvienne Whitehurst said the decision to remove the trees was ‘disgraceful’.
“Just because these trees are over 100 years old doesn’t make them unsafe. If you look at the trunks of the trees already cut down you will see that the trunks are solid inside, there is no sign of rot,” she said.
“If DELWP had bothered to maintain these heritage trees over the years, as they are paid to do, we would not need to be fighting to keep them.”
KADRRA member Anne Rose said it would be ‘a big loss’.
“It’s very regrettable. It’s a pity that some of them can’t be pruned and preserved. To have so many go at once seems drastic,” she said.
“It’s a bit strange that so many are in the same position where they all have to go at the same time.”
But Kilmore Recreation and Racecourse Reserve trustees chairman Danny Laws and Mitchell Shire Mayor Rhonda Sanderson both supported DELWP’s position.
“In recent years a number of limbs have fallen within this specific area, increasing the risk of injury to visitors,” Mr Laws said.
“As the committee of management for the reserve, it’s important that all relevant measures are undertaken to try and mitigate the potential of injuries.”
Cr Sanderson said the trees would be replaced as soon as possible.
“As recommended by the arborists report and the trustees group, complete removal is the most effective way to reduce the risk to the community, which is our number one concern,” she said.
“While these trees are not heritage listed, we understand they are highly-valued by the local community, so it’s fantastic that new tree plantings will give the space a new lease on life and be part of our community moving forward.”
The removal works have been funded through the State Government’s Public Safety on Public Land program.