Mother of two young children convinces council of need to remove large tree in Gymea Bay

A mother of two young children cried when Sutherland Shire Council approved the removal of an 18-metre high gum tree in the front yard of her family's Gymea Bay home.

The council, at this month's meeting, overturned staff decisions regarding the tree in Yarra Burra Street and another in the road reserve in Arika Close, Bangor.

They were the third and fourth cases to be determined at council meetings since a new system was introduced earlier this year.

All four requests for tree removal have been approved.

The Gymea Bay resident was allowed to address the council after Cr Barry Collier requested the staff decision be reviewed.

She said the tree, which is about 11 metres from the front of the modest, single storey cottage, had caused she and her husband "three and a half years of stress".

"Our concerns for this tree are very real, and particularly in high winds such as those that occurred last weekend," she said.

"The tree is completely oversized for a suburban yard. It is second to none when we have compared it with other trees in Gymea Bay and surrounding suburbs."

The resident said she and her husband had made three applications since April, 2016, to remove the tree, giving consistent reasons.

"First and foremost is the threat to life from falling branches or, worse, the tree collapsing," she said.

"We have two young children, and will do anything to protect them their well being and the well being of other children in the vicinity of this tree."

In an earlier letter to the council, she wrote, "My baby daughter sleeps in one of the front rooms of the house".

"What if a storm hits through the night, which is often the case, and a branch falls into her room?" she wrote.

"The assessment was not undertaken on a stormy or windy day, and the assessor has not been sitting in my loungeroom during a storm, listening to the branches creaking, waiting for a branch to snap and land on the roof."

The resident said other reasons for removing the tree included damage to the foundations of their house and plumbing from the shallow root system.

"The council suggested pruning deadwood in the tree by 15 per cent, but anyone one who has seen this tree will know that 15 per cent is not going to mitigate anything," she said.

"Root barriers and top soil dressing were also suggested.

"We did dump two tonne of top soil on the yard following the council recommendation and it didn't put a dent in the issue.

"Following the next rainstorm, given the slope of our land, our yard was a mudslide."

The resident said, to go further, they would need to widen the driveway to make room for a one metre high retaining wall, dump at least 10 tonne of soil on to the yard and lay turf.

"The estimated cost is well over $25,000," she said.

"We strongly disagree with having to do this work to retain a 60-year-old tree, which may well be reaching the end of its natural life.

"We believe council assessments value the life of the old tree above those of our young family and community members."

The staff report said there was not adequate justification to approve removal of the tree, an 18-metre high Eucalypt Racemosa.

"The best available methodology for assessing tree risk is the TRAQ tool," the report said.

"The tree has been assessed by a council tree management officer using the TRAQ methodology.

"The outcome of the assessment was a rating of a low risk.

"To further minimise risk, mitigations options, including branch pruning and deadwood removal, have been approved though apparently not carried out.

"The resident has been advised of the opportunity to have a private arborist undertake more detailed assessment (such as climbing the tree, resistograph or sonic tomograph internal structure testing) or a further TRAQ assessment.

"If a competent TRAQ assessment found that removal is the only way to manage risk, the resident has been advised that council would approve removal.

"The resident advised that they are not willing to fund a further TRAQ assessment."

The other tree removal application, in Arika Close, Bangor, followed a resident's submission a street tree had lifted a section of driveway, causing his car to scrape when accessing his property.