THE council will not take further action against a developer who cleared trees from a residential block, in breach of development conditions.
Contractors felled well over an acre of trees from the land bordering May and Chiswick St, Eastgrove on June 24. The clearing has angered residents and dismayed local environmental expert Rodney Falconer. He has contradicted council claims the trees were mostly insignificant.
Council general manager Warwick Bennett confirmed that the owners did not have a construction certificate legalising the work. Staff verbally advised the contractor to stop work until this was done.
“Minimal clearing had taken place at the time,” he said in a statement. “The contractor packed up equipment and left the site. No further clearing has occurred and no further enforcement action is proposed.”
Questioned further on this decision, Mr Bennett said Council’s Enforcement Policy indicated that if the property owner complied immediately with enforcement requests, Council did not take legal action unless the damage was “significant.”
“My staff have advised me that only approximately six trees of significance where lowered (felled) from this site.
“The majority of the clearance was regrowth from an order to clear the site given by Council for fire safety some years ago. We estimate that less than five per cent of the subject site has been damaged.
“Our experience is that because the damage to significant trees was minimal and that the developer (via the contractor) was immediately compliant, any enforcement action would not result in a court imposed penalty.”
He said Council had tried to contact the developer numerous times without success.
COUNCIL approved the 29-lot residential subdivision at 99 May St in 2008, subject to a construction certificate. A local family owned the land but the Goulburn Post understands it has been onsold. The owner could not be contacted.
The DA states the developer had to prepare a plan of management for the site before a construction certificate could be issued. This had to address weed control, pest management, enhancement of ecological values, action prior to and during construction to prevent disturbance of an area identified for protection, funding and community involvement.
The plan had to be submitted to Council and approved by a panel of independent experts before a construction certificate was issued. In addition, before work started any disturbance to the topsoil associated with the subdivision had to be monitored by Aboriginal groups involved in the study and a qualified archaeologist.
The land sits just below Rocky Hill, known for its indigenous heritage, and opposite Chiswick St homes.
Mr Falconer is far from impressed. He was involved in an earlier ecological study of the area and was on Council’s environment committee when the subdivision was proposed.
“It is among the best quality native wildlife reserves in the area,” he said.
“There is Yellow Box, red stringy barks, wattle and grevillea arenaria, which is a significant shrub. Goulburn has one of the largest populations of this species on the planet, covering Rocky Hill and Mount Gray. It is a dense bushy plant flowering most of the year, allowing honeyeaters to migrate here to safely nest and feed.”
Mr Falconer said it was also an important corridor for kangaroos making their way to the golf course and wetlands.
He questioned how the ecological community would be restored and weeds prevented from flourishing. Part of the cleared area on the eastern edge was to be dedicated as a public reserve.
The council was offered the land before 2007 but it rejected it and the block subsequently sold to private interests. Mr Falconer said he expressed his concerns about the subdivision when he was on the environment committee around 2008.
“I felt we were faced with a situation we couldn’t challenge easily because of prior agreements (about ownership),” he said.
“Those agreements show the former council put 1940s notions of progress and private profit above amenity and the environmental quality of the town.”
Mr Falconer said it was disappointing to see the development “forced” on Goulburn without any clear benefit to the city.