Are Highfields’ iconic trees less valuable than Toowoomba city’s iconic trees?

Campbell St, east Toowoomba

Hume St, east Toowoomba

Driving around east Toowoomba brings into stark focus the contrast between the way the TRC protects the iconic trees in these neighbourhoods, and how little value they place on Highfields’ iconic trees.

In east Toowoomba, roads and footpaths, cars and pedestrians work around these 100+ year old trees because of the contribution they make to the character of these streets and neighbourhoods. They are not only visually pleasing, they shade the road and footpaths, keeping them cool, and provide shelter for some wildlife. The services they provide enrich the lives of those who live amongst them.

When it comes to the iconic trees in Highfields, the attitude of the TRC is very different. Our equally old and magnificent gum trees are removed from our neighbourhoods at the rate of hundreds a year. The ‘unique character’ of Highfields is inextricably linked to these trees. However, the TRC does not give them the same consideration it gives the character trees in east Toowoomba. They continue to be cut down and mulched in new estates, roadsides and parks.

Highfields North estate. 2017.

New estates in Highfields are a sea of roofs and bitumen. In the case of Kalimna Park estate, nearly 10 years after this was developed there are few trees that are big enough to shade roofs or footpaths.No attempt is made to preserve existing trees by placing them in the parks during the planning phase. The simplest and cheapest way to develop land is to clear every possible impediment to the installation of roads and services.

The same estate designs are repeated over and over again. There is no innovative town planning to provide variety and interest in the neighbourhoods. Again, whatever is easiest and most profitable for the developer.

Looking south east from Reis Road over the older Highfields developments.

In contrast, the ethos that existed when the older parts of Highfields were developed meant that mature trees were retained on blocks when they were subdivided. There was room for house and trees. The bigger blocks butted up together providing large combined areas in which stands of mature trees could be maintained.

As development moves closer to Klein Creek and the escarpment, and into the more heavily treed blocks, the impact of this scorched earth style development will be dramatic – if it is allowed to continue. In the older parts of Highfields, the trees are not on the roadsides, they are on private land. In the areas that will be developed in the future, the roadside reserves are the only places that large trees have any chance of being retained. The road side reserves are managed by the TRC, and should be managed in the interests of the community, not the developers.

When the roadside vegetation is cleared along with the the land to be subdivided on Reis Rd, Barracks Rd, Cabarlah Park Road, Cronin Road and the like, there won’t even be a veneer of these iconic Highfields trees along the roads to break up the sheer starkness of the developments. The scale of the habitat loss and connectivity across Highfields will devastate the wildlife populations.

The clear felling will extend over hundreds of hectares between Reis Road, Meringandan Road and the New England Highway (see map).

We demand better planning from the TRC now, before the Highfields’ character is irretrievably lost.

Land earmarked for housing developments in NE Highfields.


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