Does Dubbo have the worst tree protection policies in the state? Environmentalists think so.
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Members of the Dubbo Environment Group say the planned removal of mature gum trees for an $11-million townhouse development highlights Dubbo council's lack of protection for trees on private land.
"From the point of view of large regional centres, Dubbo has by far the worst tree preservation order in the state," Barbara Sutherland, from Save Our Street Trees, told the Daily Liberal.
"If you look at them in comparison with other councils, we're very let down by our council. The forestry development is a very classic example of that. It's quite devastating."
In December, a Sydney-based developer submitted an application to council proposing to transform the 1.35 hectare former forestry office site on 2 Monash Street into a row of 47 units.
The Dubbo Regional Council currently has no policies in place protecting trees on private land and no requirement for trees to be planted in their place if they are removed.
In nearby Orange, on the other hand, a council tree protection order prohibits the pruning, cutting down or "wilful destruction" of any tree on a list of protected species or with a trunk size greater than 300 millimetres.
"You can't blame developers, their objective is one of profit within the guidelines provided by council," said Ms Sutherland.
"It's the council who's failing the community because they're falling into the pattern of thinking development is so important and it's the only thing that matters.
"But what about the amenity? What about the environment?"
Some have welcomed the development - to be made up of two and three bedroom two-storey dwellings - for providing a much-needed middle ground between stand-alone homes and apartments.
Ms Sutherland said she agrees there's a need for more housing in the area but thinks trees don't need to be sacrificed for the cause.
"By tweaking plans and having those discussions with developers there's certainly a way to have both. Dubbo's not on its own in relation to a housing shortage, everybody has it," she said.
"We have to look at ways of increasing our housing supply but it has to be in the context of providing a livable city - you can keep the mature canopy trees to make it walkable and cyclable."
During the May 25 council meeting, councillors Damien Mahon, Matthew Wright and Josh Black also questioned council's tree policies in a discussion about the proposed development.
"I think that as a council we really need to get a tree preservation order in [...] so that we can have a local government area that's liveable as the climate warms," Cr Black said.
While Ms Sutherland credits councillors for raising the issue, she said action needs to be taken immediately before it's too late.
"There [have been] some moves but it is painstakingly slow and in the meantime we just keep losing massive amounts of canopy," she said.
"It was in 1995 that Dubbo council removed any legislation to protect canopy - that's nearly 30 years ago and the world has changed so much - but council hasn't come along with that change."
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