Rules governing the removal of trees on private property have been changed by Sutherland Shire Council.
External arborist reports have been accepted as supporting evidence for tree removal applications.
But now Sutherland Shire Council will accept tree removal applications without question if they accurately apply the internationally recognised Tree Risk Assessment Qualification (TRAQ) methodology.
The TRAQ is a risk assessment tool developed by the International Society of Arboriculture which provides a standardised process for assessing tree risk.
Earlier this year, Cr Kent Jones moved that the council amend its current requirements so landowners would be able to remove a tree on their property without the need to obtain the council’s consent except for trees that are indigenous to Sutherland Shire or was locally significant or endangered, with each removed tree to be replaced by two others.
But deputy mayor Peter Scaysbrook called it the most significant watering down of Sutherland Shire’s environmental policy in decades saying it would remove the council’s involvement in the removal of trees.
The matter went back to council for further debate and councillors came up with what they thought was a final solution.
This included allowing council staff to query or question an external arborist report attached to a tree removal application if it was considered to contain inaccurate information.
But Cr Steve Simpson submitted some last minute changes at last Monday night’s council meeting including the adoption of the TRAQ methodology.
TRAQ was included in the original staff recommendation but had been opposed by Cr Simpson.
But he told the council he had changed his mind after studying the TRAQ methodology.
Details of his final recommendation, which was adopted by the council included:
hat council’s website identifies land covered by the 10/50 Vegetation Clearing Scheme which gives people living near the bush the right to clear trees on their property within 10 metres of their home, without seeking approval, and clear underlying vegetation within 50 metres of a home, without seeking approval.
that properties outside of the 10/50 legislation and wish to have trees removed or pruned more than 10 per cent of cover require either a council application or a TRAQ report from an arborist.
That council staff are to accept a TRAQ report and act within 10 days.
Each application is for 2 for 1 on their own property or 4 for 1 elsewhere for removal and six trees for pruning.
The new system will have a six month trial period.
But Cr Pay Plibersek said that councillors had been ambushed by the changes.
“I’m disappointed that there wasn’t more notification,” he said.
“I’m happy that all councillors have accepted the TRAQ methodology being an objective and reliable way of assessing the health and safety of trees,” he said.
“The policy is better than the previous policy. I’m just disappointed that we have not had a further opportunity to discuss the likely effects of the changes, as proposed by Cr Simpson will have on the tree cover of shire.
“We didn’t have the benefit of briefing of from staff on the interaction between the 10/50 legislation and the proposed TRAQ policy.”
He asked that the matter be deferred for two days until Wednesday’s special council meeting so he could speak to the staff and have them explained the differences.
Cr Simpson said the changes were minimal. Cr Plibersek’s request for deferral was voted down.
“We needed time to consider it but that time was not allowed,” Cr Plibersek said. “We needed to know if this would have unintended consequences on the shire’s tree canopy.”