If the current application is approved as it is, all the vegetation on the northern side of Reis Rd (the side where the development will be) will be removed, including the vegetation in the roadside reserve.
As you read the justification provided by the development application, keep the following in mind, i) this vegetation is in a road reserve, ii) the road reserve is public land (council controlled), iii) the Council should manage this community asset in the best interests of the community, iv) the TRC has a tree policy which makes very strong recommendations around the preservation of such assets (read the TRC street and park tree policy (2017)).
A few other considerations:
i) Reis Rd is classified as a distributor road. No direct access (driveways) are typically permitted onto these roads. Take a look at Highfields Rd (between the Village shopping centre and Polzin Rd) for example. A very brutal approach to road widening (could do with some trees or a footpath), but as a distributor it has no driveways directly on to it. The council will have to make an exception to allow the driveways to destroy the roadside reserve along Reis Rd.
ii) Reis Rd can be widened to provide adequate traffic movement without removing all the vegetation. A footpath on the southern side of the road would be one more that it has now! If a footpath is required on the northern side, why not put it on the other side of the vegetation – would make for a more pleasant pedestrian experience.
iii) the vegetation in the roadside reserve includes over 50 species of native plants, many of them remnants of the dry rainforest/vine forests that used to be present in this area. It is not just the big eucalypts that are there, although the EIA consultant didn’t seem to be able to see anything else. Some of those trees are thought to be 50-200 years old. This vegetation forms one of the few remaining links between the escarpment, Klein Ck and Rogers Reserve.
iv) The smaller blocks in the development that won’t support large trees or ‘messy’ habitat, and the the complete absence of any park in the development, means that these roadside slivers of vegetation is all that will remain to provide a veneer of the Highfields character. It will provide a visual break from the sea of roofs, and valuable shade and habitat for the neighbourhood. Being able to see trees and the birds and other animals that visit them is well recognised as being good for the emotional and pychological health of people.
If this road reserve is bulldozed for the convenience of the developer, it sets a precedent that will likely see all roadside vegetation removed along Barracks Rd, Kuhls Rd, Cabarlah Park Rd, and the northern end of Cronin Rd. Huge swaths of irreplaceable community assets, destroyed. The character and liveability of Highfields will be irrevocably changed forever.
There are several justifications for the clearing of this vegetation made in the application. For the most part they relate to the inconvenience to the development and the perceived lack of value the vegetation has, and the danger it poses to the public.
The Ecological Impact Assessment Reis Rd (EIA) commissioned by the developer makes the following findings and recommendations:
“No trees were identified to be retained [either in the development block, or the roadside reserve] due to:
- unsuitability of species present for retention in an urban environment
- extent of works proposed for Reis Rd including road widening, installation of public utilities, the location of the individual trees and their health status, and
- location of inter-allotment drainage, sewer infrastructure and proposed lot boundaries”
The EIA goes on t0 say “Based on an evaluation of the site values, the proposed development is not considered to have a major impact on significant or unique ecological value on the site and in the immediate surrounding landscape.”
The Engineering Advice concludes that “the existing trees pose a significant risk to public safety and must be removed for the following reasons:
- the existing road requires widening to meet the standards of a distributor….
- clear zone and SISD requirements cannot be met whilst retaining the trees. Removal of the trees will result in increased motorist and pedestrian safety.
- installation of services…..cannot be undertaken without significant damage to the root network of existing trees ….
- establishment of future residential allotments in close proximity to existing trees, especially those with poor to fair health scores, create unnecessary risk to property owners due to the zone of influence of tree root systems and the impact of changed soil moisture conditions on footings.
For these reasons we recommend the removal of trees for the widening of Reis Rd and associated development of residential allotments.”
The DA includes a Streetscape Planting Report which includes mock ups of what Reis Rd would look like post-development. I have placed alongside, the current view up Reis Rd. Which do you prefer?