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Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Giant Gum Tree felled in Highfields Toowoomba

08th February 2016

It is time for a new Toowoomba Council that cares about our region's environmental assets!! This Giant Gum Tree, (probably hundreds of years old) was felled today on Kuhls Road at Highfields by Toowoomba Council workers, when it was meant to be protected.
In a meeting I had with a TRC representative in 2014 I was assured that all of the trees on the Kuhls Road, (Dirt Road section) would be retained, as a prior agreement had been made with a descendant of the Reis Family and Toowoomba Regional Council.

This afternoon to my utter dismay on driving pass Kuhls Road( at 3.30pm), I was devastated to see that Toowomba Regional Council had cut down this Giant Native Gum Tree on Kuhls Road. This giant tree was well away from the corner of the new intersection and placed close to the eastern fence line, well away from the new road boundary.

I returned to the site after the end of the work day to inspect the many tree hollows on the ground for wildlife and to photograph the giant tree and to take video footage and measurements.  The diameter of the tree was 1330mm wide! and there were branch hollows present that were smashed on the ground, and green leaves from the tree.  The trunk itself had a small hollow in the centre as can be seen in the photographs.  I proceeded to send a variety of emails that night, including one to the Mayor and to local Councillors.

The questions I wanted answered were:

1. Who made the decision to remove this tree and why?

2. Who was notified about the intended removal?

3. Was a wildlife spotter catcher on hand when the tree was felled and if so who?

The sad reality is that none of this changes what has happened and I feel terribly for the family who did what they could also to ensure that these trees were preserved. I feel many will have the attitude of "it's only one tree, what does it matter"... but it does matter and locals I spoke to that afternoon, who were out walking in the area and inspecting the tree themselves were also just as devastated. The Highfields area was always given the slogan "Tall Timbers"... however it seems more and more that "Fallen Timbers" should be it's motto.

Tree by tree, the environmental heritage in our area is being lost and it can never be regained. Toowoomba was once a region proud of its landscape and heritage... 
it seems this is no longer the case.


I wonder who makes the executive decision to remove such a tree when an agreement was in place to preserve it? Please keep this in mind when you go to vote in March for new Councillors in our region.


PHOTOS FROM 8TH FEBRUARY 2016

I am standing beside the trunk of the giant gum tree felled in Kuhls Road, Highfields to show the sheer size of this tree's diameter (1330mm).

I am shown on the left here standing next to the remains of the base of the giant tree, with the butchered trunk of the tree to the right.

Giant Gum Tree felled at Kuhls Road, Highfields. 

Zoomed in shot showing the diameter size of the giant tree trunk 1330mm
GPS Mapping of Kuhls Road Tree 08th February 2016. 
Giant Kuhls Road Tree, photo taken at 3.30pm, 8th February 2016.

09TH FEBRUARY 2016

I again visited the Kuhls road tree site this morning around 9.00am. By this time almost all evidence and remains of the giant tree had already been removed.  I witnessed equipment loading the branches from the tree onto the back of the truck.  The truck then moved off site in front of me as I was driving home and it proceeded to the Kleinton Refuse Station to unload all of the tree branches along side the giant tree trunk in the greenwaste section of the tip, for mulching with residents weeds and lawn clippings!!  This alone is a horrific waste of quality timber, and surely it could have been donated to the local Highfields Men's Shed or to local wood-turners to use instead of being mulched.

The day progressed and I had contact from two representatives of the Reis family who spoke to me about the local family history and the importance that the trees had to their family, who were some of the first pioneering families in the Highfields district, and held in high regard.  The trees adjoined the Reis family farm, at which Mr and Mrs Reis lived for 63 years after their marriage. Mrs Reis enjoyed this part of the property and cared greatly for the wildlife corridor.

By mid-morning I was contacted by Channel 7 Local Toowoomba News, as they had somehow seen my photographs on Facebook and had read the many comments of support from local residents and wanted to speak to me regarding the situation.  At this time, I had not yet received any response from council to my questions.

After lunch, I received an email response from Mayor Paul Antonio, saying that he was quite surprised by the tree removal and would look into the details and get back to me.  I am yet to hear back (11pm 9/02/16).

I met with the reporter and cameraman from channel 7 news onsite at Kuhls road to discuss and explain the situation with the tree, and they themselves had contacted Toowoomba Council for a response and were waiting on a reply.

The story aired on the 6pm news and was the top headline of the night. By this time, my facebook post had been shared over 200 times and I had received many phone calls and messages from locals and complete strangers offering words of support to my inquest.

I received a telephone call from Councillor Sue Englart around 6.30pm and she was able to answer most of my questions and had researched the facts for me thankfully. I am very grateful to Sue for the time taken to ask questions and respond to me with answers.

The responses to the questions I have asked are as follows:

1.  An assessment of the tree was conducted by a local Highfields Environmental Company and the tree was deemed to be "in poor condition" and it was recommended to be removed.  (I am unwilling to name the business until I have spoken to them, the business is highly regarded in the environmental sector and I wish to confirm details with them tomorrow.
2.  No one seems to know who was notified about the intended removal of the tree.  The Reis family was not notified and it seems that only the Toowoomba Council Engineers knew of the decision.
3.  A wildlife spotter catcher was employed to assess the tree and be onsite when it was felled.  One possum and two lizards were relocated from the tree in question.  I have had corespondence with the registered wildlife spotter catcher tonight and he has confirmed the species were a large male Common Brushtail Possum and two Tree Skinks.  I am confident from the information provided to me that the spotter catcher has gone above and beyond his job requirements to ensure the wildlife were relocated safely and he even returned at night to spotlight for wildlife to make sure there wasn't any displacement.

Despite all of these answers, nothing changes the fact that a massive old grown tree was lost from an area in which trees of this size are now rare.  I do believe that this tree could have been saved, with other options taken including,  lopped or having branches lopped if they were deemed unsafe, but have the majority of the tree left, keeping the hollows for wildlife and allowing the tree to 'shoot back'.  By tomorrow there won't be any evidence left that this tree ever existed as the remaining stump had been markedly cut back more today.

I would like to take the opportunity to thank the Highfields and Toowoomba community for supporting me and our area and showing how much the trees in the local area are valued.

Kind Regards,

Judi Gray


PHOTOS OF THE KUHLS ROAD TREE BEING TAKEN TO THE KLEINTON DUMP 09TH FEBRUARY 2016.  (Video footage to come)

Giant Kuhls Road old growth Tree being disposed of at the Kleinton Refuse Station for mulching!


OTHER INFORMATION OF INTEREST AND SIGNIFICANCE:

Screen Shot of High Country Newspaper Article from November 2015 discussing the Kuhls Road Widening and the assurance of the protection of the Kuhls Road vegetation. 


GOOGLE STREET VIEW MAPS SHOWING THE GIANT TREE IN KUHLS ROAD OVER A VARIETY OF YEARS.
Red arrow points to the Giant Tree on Google Street View, Kuhls Road, February 2013.  The Tree clearly has green leaves on it at this stage, but a closer image is not available to see if some of the tree was dead.

Red arrow pointing to the Giant Tree on Kuhls Road in June 2008.

Red Arrow pointing to the Giant Tree (image facing south) on Kuhls Road in June 2008.



2 comments:

  1. A very good post Judith, but a very sad and frustrating story.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Actually I think in this case the developers should forfeit the property.

    ReplyDelete

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