Geoff Helisma Clarence Valley Council was well prepared for councillors to support general manager Scott Greensill’s report to last Tuesday’s council meeting – to remove all of McLachlan Park’s camphor laurel trees. A media release was emailed to the Independent (and councillors) at 5.08pm on Tuesday July 21, during the meeting and about 30 minutes after eight of the valley’s nine councillors voted in favour of the trees’ “removal with the current redevelopment works”. The document’s metadata shows that the media release was initially created at 3.33pm the same day. Declaring that “all the hurdles have now been cleared for the redevelopment of Maclean’s riverside park, McLachlan Park”, the media release continues: “Clarence Valley Council tonight voted to amend its earlier decision for a staged development of the park and will instead complete the work in single, continuous development. “The decision means four camphor laurel trees, which were to be removed over five years, will go at the same time.” In the media release, the mayor, Richie Williamson, says the “council had listened to the residents who wanted the trees retained but had to make a decision that was in the best interests of the entire community. “We want this park finished as soon as possible,” he said. “It has already dragged on too long.” At the November council meeting, councillors resolved to remove the two trees closest to Spar supermarket and the two remaining trees at five year intervals. Last week’s report to council states that “retention of the trees as originally proposed has future cost implications toward the ultimate development of the park from both financial and constructability perspectives”. However, confusion remains regarding how much money will be saved by removing the trees in one go. Mayor Williamson says in the media release, “completing the work in a single, continuous development would save around $50,000”. “That was not the only consideration, but it was an important one,” he said. Works and Civil director Troy Anderson reportedly told ABC radio last week that the saving would be in the vicinity of $76,000, which concurs with last week’s report to council that: “The estimated cost to undertake the required works at a future [date] is approx. $75,900. This estimate is based upon current dollars and does not take into account any indexing. “It is to be noted that a cost of $16,000 is attributable to the cost of removing the trees (01 and 02) and tree removal costs will be incurred regardless of what stage of works the trees are removed.” But at the November meeting the report to council stated that “the estimated costs to remove 3 Camphor Laurel trees in a staged process would be $30,000 ($24,000 tree removal and reinstatement of park asset plus $6,000 for replacement plantings)”. Removal of the fourth tree (near Spar) was costed at $8,030 (including a replacement species). Meanwhile, in the summary of funding for the proposal at the end of the council’s media release, council’s matching funds for the $130,000 State Government Better Boating grant were not stated, which has some Maclean residents wondering where that money went. What the mayor says about the park’s future “What we will have at the end will be a showpiece and I’m confident that, over time, even those who now oppose the removal of the camphor laurels will see the benefits of what we are doing,” he said in the media release. “I encourage Maclean residents and others with an interest in the park to have a look at the artist’s impressions that have been installed at either end of the park. That will illustrate what a great community facility it will become.” Cr Williamson said the upgrades to the park would provide visitors with complete and improved picnic and recreational space for gatherings, a great place of family outings and an attraction for tourists. “We’re looking forward to beginning the developments and making the park environmentally sustainable and practical for the community,” he said “The developments will provide a link between River Street and the foreshore of the Clarence River, shelters, amenities, performance areas, terraced seating, picnic and barbecue areas, bike racks and new lighting. “The important thing is we will have a park that will be a much better asset to the community than we have now, and I can’t wait for it to get underway.” He said the redeveloped park would be planted with established native species like Port Jackson fig and red cedar and they would quickly become practical shade trees for park goers. Funds for the project came from a federal government grant of $500,000, another $500,000 kept aside from the part sale of Cameron Park, Maclean, and a $130,000 State Government Better Boating grant. Work on the park is expected to begin by October.