On Thursday 16 June, VicRoads informed the National Trust that the significant Lemon-scented Gum on Flemington Road will be demolished on Saturday 25 June. The Lemon-scented Gum, and four smaller trees, are set to be removed for the CityLink Tulla Widening Project. We have requested further information from VicRoads and the City of Melbourne to better understand what options have been explored by VicRoads/Transurban in reaching this conclusion.
Update, 23/6: You can scroll to the bottom of this post to download technical documents from VicRoads.
Back in April, when VicRoads first announced their intention to remove the tree, there was a public outcry. City of Melbourne Councillors immediately stepped in, and unanimously voted:
“that no work order be made or issued, or permission be granted, for the removal of lemon scented gums near the Flemington Road / Church Street intersection, due to the CityLink Tulla Widening project leaders not demonstrating to the satisfaction of the Council at this time that the trees (at least at the eastern end of the row) cannot be retained.”
VicRoads went back to the drawing board, and things went quiet, so today’s announcement comes as a shock to many – including Cr Rohan Leppert from the City of Melbourne, who penned this e-mail to concerned residents earlier today:
Representatives from VicRoads, Transurban and CPB Contractors will be on-hand at two upcoming drop-in community sessions to field questions about their analysis for the design of the Flemington Road interchange. Technical reports will be available to view. The sessions will be held in the Curzon Room, Mercure Hotel, Cnr Flemington Rd & Harker Street, North Melbourne and anyone can drop by at any stage during the following times to talk to the project team:
Saturday 18 June, 10.00am – 12.00pm
Wednesday 22 June, 5.00pm – 7.00pm
Obviously, this is a terribly disappointing announcement because this lovely tree forms the gateway to the capital of the Garden State. Thousands of people admire it every day as they leave the freeway and enter Flemington Road. It beautifies an otherwise unremarkable entrance to the city. It provides shade in summer as you wait for the lights to change, and on sunny days, you can smell it’s citrus aroma if you put down the window.
The tree was classified by the National Trust in 1982, but as a community organisation, that classification does not provide the tree with legal protection. There are no Council Overlays that protect the tree, and it would seem VicRoads have the intention and power to remove it.
The National Trust laments the loss of this significant tree and asks you to sign the petition if you think this tree is worth saving: https://www.change.org/p/vicroads-our-lemon-scented-gum-is-worth-saving.
We will be presenting this petition to the Roads Minister to demonstrate that the community values this tree enormously.
It’s easy to see why this tree has been admired for generations from these photos taken since the 1930s.
Post script, Monday 20 June: Channel Nine did a story on this issue tonight; it features VicRoads CEO John Merritt, local resident Ann Read and the National Trust’s acting conservation manager Anna Foley:
Post script, Thursday 23 June: Late on Tuesday, in response to a request from the National Trust made last Thursday, VicRoads provided the technical reports that detail the four alternative option that were considered to retain the tree. VicRoads have confirmed that these documents can be made public. The City of Melbourne responded to our request and provided advice over the phone.
Click here to download the VicRoads memo including the assessment summary and recommendation, 12 May 2016
If you have any questions about these documents you can contact the CityLink Tulla Widening Project on 1300 783 947.
If you have concerns about this tree being removed, or you think trees should be valued more highly when in the design of 21st century road projects, you can contact the Roads Minister’s electorate office on 03 9706 0566 or his ministerial office on 03 8392 6150 or send him an e-mail with your thoughts at [email protected]