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This koala habitat tree at Lawrence has been removed; the stump is due to be removed, too. According to a NSW Environment Department fact sheet, “the retention of hollow-bearing trees … is extremely important in retaining animal biodiversity”. Images: Contributed

Lawrence koala tree is no more

Geoff Helisma |

Who would have thought getting a straight answer about the removal a koala habitat tree could be so convoluted?

On Thursday November 8, Robert and Marjorie Murphy visited the Independent’s office to talk about their concerns regarding a tree in the process of being cut down at corner of Conway Street and Ridge Lane, Lawrence.

The couple are new to the area, having moved to a property near the tree in early September.

After they arrived they spotted several koalas in trees on their property and a koala in the tree that has been cut down.

Curious about koalas and their needs, the couple attended a workshop conducted by Clarence Valley Council (CVC), which, in a media release on September 18, encouraged citizens to report koala sightings because “Clarence [Valley] koalas were under threat from fire, cars, dogs and disease”.

“We were motivated to contribute to the protection of koalas,” Marjorie said.

“We often see in the media people talking about populations being decimated due to habitat loss.
“We wanted to find out which trees they like for their diet and habitat.”

Within days of attending the workshop, work began on the tree’s removal, after which they contacted CVC in an effort to find out why the tree was being removed.

As far as the Murphys knew, after speaking with a neighbour and the contractor removing the tree, it was being removed because it had either suffered damage from white ants that could cause limbs to fall or it was judged to be a danger to powerlines.

Come Monday November 20, the Murphys had not yet received a “satisfactory answer” to their enquiry.
During the intervening period, the Independent asked CVC via email: Why was the tree was being removed?

CVC’s communications officer replied: “Have spoken with our natural resource management people.
“They’ve advised that Essential Energy [EE] would have needed to do a risk assessment because of the proximity of the tree to the powerlines.

“If it was assessed as a risk they have the authority to remove the tree.”

 

The Independent forwarded CVC’s response to EE, along with the following inquiry: “Can you please tell me the reason the tree – which is koala habitat, with recent sightings of a koala in the tree on the record – was cut down, as it appears to be some distance from powerlines in the picture?

“Also, it appears to have been ring barked (see pic) at the base around the hollow (perhaps so the stump could be maintained as habitat) – can you please confirm whether or not that assumption is correct and explain EE’s purpose for leaving the stump in place and ringbarked (if that is the case or not)?

EE’s response: “Essential Energy contractors are in the process of removing a large tree located in Ridge Lane, Lawrence following its classification as a hazardous tree situated within the inspection zone and safety clearances of the nearby overhead powerlines.

“As the tree poses a bushfire and public safety risk and could damage or interfere with power supply, following collaboration with Clarence Valley Council, it is being removed in stages to just below ground level, allowing for grass regrowth.

“Should the public see any vegetation close to powerlines particularly after inclement weather, they should stay 8 metres away and call Essential Energy immediately on 13 20 80.”

 

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