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Tree Relocation in Hobsons Bay: Balancing Conservation and Community Input

In a recent development, Hobsons Bay council has undertaken the task of relocating 160 trees that were initially planted in 2022 along a segment of the picturesque Bay Trail. This decision comes after careful consideration by council members in response to concerns raised by residents from Hobsons Bay, Brimbank, Maribyrnong, and Wyndham. These residents expressed their dissatisfaction, asserting that the trees had been planted without adequate community consultation.

Council's Tree Cutting Service Decision: During a council meeting held on Tuesday, May 9, the councillors faced the challenging task of addressing this issue and determining the most suitable course of action. After deliberation, they arrived at the decision to remove every second tree of the 320 initially planted as part of the 2022 tree planting program. While this outcome may not be perfect, council members believed it to be the most viable solution given the circumstances.

The impetus for the tree removal can be traced back to a petition presented by residents. This petition, signed by concerned citizens from various municipalities, highlighted the perceived lack of community involvement in the tree planting initiative. To address this concern, Hobsons Bay council initiated a consultation process that spanned from January to March 2023, during which a total of 743 submissions were received.

Among the submissions, a significant majority—94 percent, or 697 respondents—advocated for the retention of all planted trees. However, a nuanced picture emerged when considering the opinions of those residing directly adjacent to the trail. Council officers were able to engage with 34 properties in the immediate vicinity: 19 expressed a desire for the removal of all trees, nine were in favor of preserving all the trees, and six proposed a reduction in the number of trees.

Councillor Matt Tyler reflected on the outcome of the consultation process, acknowledging the lessons learned and the potential for a different approach if given the opportunity to revisit the decision. He stressed the complexity of the situation, stating, "There are no winners from this, but we have to find a way through; it's a compromised solution."

It is noteworthy that, prior to the tree planting, council officers had taken steps to engage with the community. Signage had been strategically installed at multiple locations along the trail segment in question, with the intention of informing and involving the community in the project. Interestingly, during this period, council reported receiving no negative feedback regarding the tree plantings, which contributed to the decision to proceed with the planting.

However, not all council members were in full agreement with the decision. Cr Daria Kellander voiced her dissent, characterizing the move as a drastic measure and a questionable use of resources. She expressed her concerns by stating, "This is a terrible outcome for everyone involved, for the residents impacted because they don't want the trees there and also for the greater Hobsons Bay because they support tree planting."

In conclusion, the decision to relocate trees along the Bay Trail in Hobsons Bay reflects the challenges of balancing conservation goals with community input. While the outcome may not satisfy all parties involved, it underscores the importance of engaging with the community in future tree planting initiatives, striving to create a harmonious environment that aligns with both environmental and community values.

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