Tuesday, June 21, 2011

EDO requests law reform for Brisbane Trees

Reforms needed to protect Brisbane trees
EDO Qld calls for urgent law reform to allow community input into Brisbane City Council decisions to permit destruction of protected trees.
The Windsor fig tree removal
Environmental Defenders Office Qld provided urgent legal advice to neighbouring residents and concerned community members acting to save the three native fig trees (Ficus benjamina) that are currently being removed at a property at 105 Main Avenue, Windsor.  The trees are at least 60 years old and provide habitat to local wildlife, as well as being an important part of the landscape character of the neighbourhood.  
EDO Qld understands that the trees have been under a vegetation protection order (VPO) for the last 15 years.   Brisbane City Council recently issued a permit under the Natural Assets Local Law 2003  to clear the protected trees. 
EDO Qld understands that the VPO, which protects the three trees, has not been revoked by the Brisbane City Council, and the permit was issued to allow interference with the protected vegetation, as allowed by section 7(2)(a) of the NALL, which requires strict accordance with conditions of the permit.
Brisbane City Council have refused to provide copies of the permit to neighbouring residents, preventing neighbours and concerned community members from ensuring the trees were removed in accordance with the Council imposed conditions.  Brisbane City Council told neighbouring landowners that they had to apply under the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) to obtain copies of the permit, but that process would take weeks.   
Law reforms needed
Mature trees are crucial to Brisbane’s character and amenity, which is why we have VPOs protecting our most significant trees. 
Law reform is needed urgently to give neighbours and concerned community members notification, submission and appeal rights for Brisbane City Council decisions to permit destruction of protected trees. 
In addition, Brisbane City Council has made a commitment to transparency and being clear and open in reporting Council decisions in theircustomer charter.  To accord with this commitment, and in the public interest, Brisbane City Council should provide copies of permits to clear protected trees on Brisbane Planning and Development Online, which already provides public access to development applications.
For more information, contact EDO (Qld) solicitor Ariane Wilkinson: 07 32114466 or edoqld@edo.org.au
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