Council orders trees be removed

A COUNCIL order that prominent Norfolk Pine trees blocking scenic views of the Pacific Ocean be chopped down has horrified some Kingscliff residents and the developer who was told to carry out the deed.

Two years ago, Tweed Shire Council read the riot act to homeowners thinking of improving sea views by chopping down or poisoning trees.

But last month, councillors slipped through an amendment to approval conditions for a controversial block of units in Seaview Street, ordering the builder do just that.

“I was instructed to remove them,” said Gordon Bismire who was forced to modify a unit block he built in the street after it exceeded the approved height, blocking the sea views of his next door neighbours.

Councillors accepted his modifications but insisted two Norfolk Pines “be removed prior to the issuing of an occupation certificate”.

That was despite council officers initially recommending the trees remain while any potential risk was assessed by a tree expert every six months over two years.

Mr Bismire, who faces a fine for originally building his units too high, was horrified by the extra order.

“The council initially made a requirement they be retained as part of the landscaping,” he said.

Mr Bismire said opponents to his development then argued the trees were damaged although “the council’s own arborist went there and his report was the trees go through a two-year probationary period”.

“They complement the building and also have thermal qualities,” he said.

“They create a lot of shade for the building and they look good too. I had another arborist report done and he said they were fine.”

In November, 2007, the council was taking the opposite view to protecting trees that might hamper views.

After a spate of illegal tree-clearing on beachfronts along the Tweed Coast the then council administrators vowed to prosecute those responsible, and if that was not possible erect “shaming signs” blocking the views created.

Cr Barry Longland, who voted against the final motion ordering the trees to be cut down, said he only did so because he was opposed to amending the approval for the building, which was higher than originally allowed.

He said a late report from council staff said the trees were unsafe and the builder had interfered with the trees’ root zone.

“I don’t like trees, particularly mature Norfolk Pines, being removed,” Cr Longland said.

Mr Bismire disputes that they are unsafe.

A council spokesperson said that following concerns raised at a community access meeting by neighbours who had complained about lost views, the council’s arborist and ecologist had re-inspected the trees and formed a revised opinion that the two Norfolk Pine trees should go.

“They further noted that although the trees are still relatively young for the species and may persist for some years, any risk management approach would now have to conclude that the trees may pose a safety hazard such that we cannot guarantee a satisfactory level of risk to adjoining land use,” she said.

“If the trees were to fall, particularly after significant wind and storms, it is most likely that they would fall toward Seaview Street.”

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