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Government misleads ACT residents – destroys more local trees

The government’s words are not matching their actions with regard to the environment in Canberra. There will be six stories built in the south-east corner of 72 Dickson. Last year, Urban-Renewal Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said that it would not happen.

In mid-February a cabal of ministers had been reporting that certain trees had been saved. Politicians naturally resort to sugar-coating and bringing up positive things when they are about to do something misleading.

The construction of the six stories was slipped under the radar. The old bait and switch saw them talking about saving trees and bolstering the urban tree coverage in Canberra whole they approved the removal of the same trees for the construction of a new building. Yvette Berry the member for Ginnidera said many years ago that there will be social housing along Northbourne Avenue.

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This has never materialized and social-housing tenants have been peppered throughout Canberra.  Berry has in essence chosen to ignore the community aspirations for cultural community facilities. In an ideal world, she should have been made to account for this injustice. Residents have previously asked what can be the negative effects of floods when the Dickson drain overflows and properties become inundated which previously did happen in February 2018.

The answers to the concerns were vague and bureaucratic (as is the norm with regards to answers from politicians). Furthermore, the answers indicated that there are no serious problems.  The fact that the 2018 Flood Map of the area showed that floodwater may not enter the site was used as justification.

One critical thinker did research on the ACT Environment and Planning Directorate’s 2014 published flood map which showed that a corner of Section 72 could be flooded. The new development could thus impact the site and cause damages to people who utilize underground parking for their vehicles.

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Another serious worry is that there is not enough parking allowed for the 30 housing units which are planned.  Tenants will always end up with cards, guests and visitors. There is no logical spin for this! The site will have no roads and an estimated 50 trees are set to be removed. The root systems of the mature trees will create construction complications that will need to be overcome.

The site which should have been used is the south-east corner which locals have given permission to be used.  Despite what is being said by politicians, the number of trees are diminishing in order to make way for industrialization and new businesses.

Always beware of what politicians are saying which will influence their policies. There are however some times in which the best thing to do is remove trees though they must always be replaced.  According to, whenever trees are removed in Canberra, the site concerned should end up having more trees and shrubs replanted to replace them, to allow the biodiversity which was existing in the area to continue to live.  The public needs to stand against monetary penalties for companies which eradicate wildlife and trees.

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On paper, fee penalties may seem appropriate but at the same time, it may be used as a way for companies and businessmen to evade their environmental responsibilities. Whilst paying a few millions or thousands will set the average person back a lot, it is a minimal penalty for many top businessmen and multi-nationals.

A 2011 report titled: “Investigation into the Government’s tree management practices and the renewal of Canberra’s urban forest” suggested that a government tree curator be established. The curator would need to have legislative authority in order to reduce the destruction of urban forests. Some decisions will not be easy and will require the relevant agencies to work in an integrated manner in order to improve the future of the city and its trees.

The curator should ideally be someone who has in-depth knowledge of the environment and trees and not someone who only has a political history. If someone with just a political history is ushered into the position, it is likely that they will just become a puppet of the current establishment.

Judging by all the mystery surrounding the issue, one would think that progressive politicians will speak up and demand clear answers for the people that they serve. To date, that has never happened. It looks as though politicians are once again putting profits and business above the people and the environment. 

About Suzan Vega