Bulldozers move in on Viveash gumtrees to be cleared for residential development

The bulldozer clearing trees on Friday.
The bulldozer clearing trees on Friday.

VIVEASH residents are angry about some of the last gumtrees in the area being bulldozed for a residential development.

Residents who tried to save the trees said if the land was in a high tourism area, it would not have been cleared.

Melinda Brackley and Shannon Astill watched as the eucalyptus wandoo was cleared last Friday at the developer Pindan-owned sites near Winston Crescent and Bernley Drive in Viveash.

It follows a Gazette report in December about how a planning loophole allowed the developer to start clearing the vegetation without community consultation or a clearing permit.

“We firmly believe that if this was a high potential for a tourism area, if we were down south in Margaret River, even in Kalamunda, they would listen to us,Mrs Astill said.

“They would listen to the part about the nature and how important it is for the people around and the animals that live in it.

“But because it’s in Viveash, it’s forgotten about.”

Ms Brackley said the area was of importance to Aboriginal people.

“This is a significant area of Aboriginal movement in the early 1900s,” she said.

“The artefacts that have been collected here are 32,000 years old. Ken Wyatt has said this is a really important area to Aboriginal people as well.”

Residents had appealed to the City of Swan for support as the land was identified in the City’s biodiversity strategy.

But developer Pindan said last year an independent environmental assessment had “found nothing of significance should clearing be required”.

Residents had appealed to the City of Swan for support, but chief executive Mike Foley said the matter was now out of the City’s hands.

“Following the recommendations provided by the City of Swan, the developer has subdivisional approval from the WA Planning Commission to proceed with the subdivision,” he said.

“This is now a matter for the WAPC to respond to.”

Ellenbrook ward councillor David McDonnell moved a motion in March that should the WAPC want to approve the development, it do so with conditions that both the council and developer agree on.

These conditions included “a reduction in lots and creation on a protection zone, which would preserve the wandoo trees that had been there for over a century and localised canopies, but still allow the developer to earn a substantial yield”.

Cr McDonnell shared his dismay on social media after hearing the gumtrees had been cleared.

“On March 3 my fellow councillors resolved to support my motion to refuse a poorly planned development in Viveash,” he said.

“As a councillor, I knew given the incredible pro-development environment we see ourselves in, this development was likely to be rubber stamped by the powers above.

“So I moved a motion that should WAPC wish to approve the development, they do so with conditions.

“Last week the faceless panel at WAPC resolved to grant full approval for the bad development and with zero of the conditions recommended by the council.

“Today saw the bulldozers onsite and the destruction of a natural habitat that has been in existence for 100+ years. Today is a sad day. What more can I possibly do?”

Department of Planning director general Gail McGowan said land in the Viveash subdivision was zoned urban.

“Certificates of title and road reserves for the area were created in the 1960s with no time restriction for landowners to develop the land,” she said.

“Most of the area has since been developed with the exception of the area that has been recently cleared.

“On April 26, 2016, the WAPC’s Statutory Planning Committee approved a recommendation to subdivide land in the area (Lots 1 and 206 Winston Crescent and Lots 210-213 Bernley Drive) now owned by Pindan.

“Clearing of native vegetation must be carried out under the authority of a clearing permit granted under the Environmental Protection Act 1986 (EP Act) by the Department of Environment Regulation, unless a valid exemption applies.

“There are exemptions under Schedule 6 of the EP Act, such as clearing done in accordance with an approved subdivision.

“Vegetation that has been planted on a site for purposes other than conservation is not defined as ‘native vegetation’ and therefore does not require a clearing permit.”

“It’s all about money, and it’s always going to be that way,” Mrs Astill said.

“We just feel like they don’t listen to residents unfortunately.”

“My 9 year-old daughter is going to come home from school and see this.

“She’ll be absolutely devastated.”