• Tony Bosworth

Ninety-five mature trees being felled from today at Redbank – angry locals try to get it stopped

News that Redbank North Richmond is going ahead from today with a mass tree felling program as part of their plans for further development at the new homes site, is causing much anger in some sections of the community.

Some 95 mature trees are going to be cut down between today and July.

The developers say there is a wildlife expert on site who works for Molino Stewart, although that company appears to be primarily environmental experts.

Neither WIRES or other local wildlife rescuers have been invited onto the site as the trees are being felled.

According to a spokesperson for developers Redbank Communities, “as part of the tree cutting process, each tree is gently shaken, so if there are any birds it allows them to leave that habitat”.

"Our Environmental and Natural Hazard consultant Molino Stewart are onsite full time doing both fauna checking, fauna protection if required and clearance to remove a tree, whilst tree removal is underway," said the spokesperson.

The part of the site where tree cutting is taking place today is well fenced off, but local Robin Woods managed to get a couple of pics

He added, Hawkesbury Council is both "the works compliance certifier and principal certifying authority".

We've just heard that Council has requested certification from the appointed ecologist that the required flora and fauna measures have been implemented.

We're also told Council staff have visited the site today in their role as Certifier for inspections to double-check the specific trees to be removed and those which are to be kept. Council's Development Engineer has asked for details to confirm the developer's contractors are sticking to the development consent.

The Redbank North Richmond spokesperson added the company is planting new trees and will be placing 15 nesting boxes around the site – they have already installed around 150 nest boxes elsewhere on the site - and he said there had never been any evidence of koalas on the development lands.

For every mature tree the developers cut down, another four trees will be planted on the site, the spokesperson said. Around 1025 new trees will eventually be planted across the site, says the spokesperson.

Ten mature trees in the new construction area – called Southern Heights - will be saved.

The tree felling was effectively given the tick of approval by the State Land and Environment Court in September last year which allowed tree removal, the demolition of existing structures, removal of three dams as permanent water bodies, plus construction of roads and drainage.

People took to social media to vent their anger this morning about the tree felling, with Hawkesbury Greens councillor Danielle Wheeler putting a post up urging residents to Stop the Destruction at Redbank! She is telling people to call Mayor Patrick Conolly, State Environment Minister Matt Kean, Hawkesbury MP Robyn Preston, and Rob Stokes, Minister for Planning to try and get a stop on the tree felling.

Cllr Daniele Wheeler's appeal to people to get on the phone

Resident Alison McCarthy-Phillips said the developers were, “with the approval of the NSW State government, going to cut down a bunch of big old native gum trees in Grose Vale. They are full of hollows for our precious and increasingly rare wildlife. Hollows which take many, many decades to develop. These trees would be beautiful features of a public park”.

“Can our elected public representatives please explain to our community why, as we are reaching the tipping point of runaway climate change, our NSW State Government continues to approve projects that enable wealthy developers to destroy our local natural environment? For what purpose?

“With planning, it is entirely possible to build houses around already established trees and water bodies such as dams - all important habitats.

“Most of us live here because of the natural beauty of the Hawkesbury. Why would you mandate its destruction?”

Deputy Mayor Mary Lyons-Buckett said approval for the Redbank development was originally passed more than six years ago.

“There was huge community opposition to it at the time with loss of key habitats, loss of agricultural heritage of the Keyline Dam system and issues associated with development in an area poorly serviced by infrastructure such as traffic congestion being major concerns,” Cllr Lyons-Buckett said.

“This current round of works is for one of the subdivisions within the overall subdivision, with consent being granted after a conciliation conference in the Land and Environment Court. This continues the visual alteration of the once-farmland property as more mature vegetation is removed, two more of the dams removed, and more construction emerging in its place.

“I can fully understand the reactions of community members who find this upsetting and fear impacts on fauna and ecosystems within the precinct.

“However, the current councillors have no input or control into a decision such as this. It is entirely out of our hands and the works have current approvals. The best we can do is to assist residents with concerns and questions to receive answers to those.”

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