Town of Claremont councillors agree to fell mature River Red Gum

The River Red Gum or ‘widow maker’ tree at Links Court, Claremont
The River Red Gum or ‘widow maker’ tree at Links Court, Claremont

THE proposed removal of a mature River Red Gum tree divided Town of Claremont councillors at Tuesday’s council meeting and prompted a passionate plea from a local environmentalist.

Councillors voted in favour of removing the 50 to 60-year-old tree, commonly nicknamed a ‘widow-maker’ because of the risk of falling branches.

Friends of Lake Claremont co-ordinator Heidi Hardisty said she was distressed by the recommendation to remove the tree and pleaded with councillors to retain it.

“Mature trees are an asset to the community providing beauty, shade and increasing property values,” she said.

“I don’t want to live in a sea of houses and concrete.

“I’m not willing to accept it; we need good leaders to protect trees in our community.”

Claremont Infrastructure manager Saba Kirupananther said half of the Links Court tree was on private land while the other half was on council land.

“In April a 6m by 60mm branch broke away and struck the roof of a porta-loo used by builders at a nearby site, this species of tree has the propensity to drop limbs,” he said.

“The owner of the property does not accept any level of risk associated with the tree.”

Arboriculture expert Jason Royal, who prepared a report for the Town of Claremont, said the mature tree was in good health.

“It shows good health and given the correct management and care I would expect this tree to continue to survive for another 50-100 years (plus),” he said.

“(The tree) is quite possibly in the order of 50 to 60 years old.”

Mr Royal’s report said there was “no visible evidence” of any branch failures of any notable size.

Cr Peter Edwards said the tree removal could set a “dangerous precedent” if it was removed based on perceived risk.

Cr Kate Main said the River Red Gum was a “unique situation” and should be taken as an exceptional case.

“This tree is called a widow maker for a reason; it decides to drop weak branches to save itself.

“The reason I think it is so dangerous is because it has been lopped so smaller branches that are inherently weaker can break off.

“Seven branches have snapped off over the year. While it is a travesty when any tree is lopped this is a little more dangerous.”

Cr Chris Mews disagreed and said the tree was deemed healthy.

“The arboriculture report says it is a healthy and beautiful looking tree, I don’t see why we should cut down a perfectly good tree,” he said.

The council report said the removal of the tree would cost $2000 and create a gap in property fencing.

“Normally the removal of the tree should be undertaken by the property owner at their expense…however it is proposed the Town pay the costs,” the report said.

Cr Karen Wood said while canopy was decreasing, she would not like the tree in her backyard if her grandchildren were around.