Townsville's urban forest is an invaluable asset to the city. Our trees and other vegetation provide shade, shelter and habitat, prevent erosion, mitigate the impacts of flooding and store carbon. They are arguably our best weapon for adapting to climate change and preventing biodiversity loss.
When two large, beloved trees were removed from Anzac Park in March 2021, Townsville locals (and former locals) were saddened and shocked. Joanne Keune, who regularly passed the site on her morning run, shared photos to social media, attracting significant attention. Sadness of their loss soon turned to distress and anger, as questions arose regarding the reason for their removal and the lack of community consultation. Realising there was work to be done to ensure this didn't happen again, the Townsville Tree Advocacy Group formed. Below is a timeline of what happened next.
19 March 2021: Two large, seemingly healthy shade trees are removed from Anzac Park with no public notification or community consultation.
26 March 2021: A vigil is held for the lost trees, attended by local tree lovers, the media, Councillor Ann-Maree Greaney and Matt Richardson (Construction, Maintenance and Operations). Our story is featured on Win News, ABC Radio and in The Townsville Bulletin.
23 March 2021: NQCC publishes an open letter to the three government agencies responsible for the trees' removal, which receives 247 signatures and many heartfelt comments.
May 2021: NQCC lodges Right to Information requests with the three government agencies behind the trees' removal.
July 2021: Bernadette Boscacci lodges an e-petition with Townsville City Council, which receives 97 signatures. She presents to Council where her e-petition is to be tabled.
August 2021: NQCC receives a document bundle (from FOI requests), including correspondence and arborist reports.
August 2021: Joanne and Crystal attend a meeting with Mayor Jenny Hill, Matt Richardson (Construction, Maintenance and Operations) and Greg Bruce (Environmental Services), in which we are informed of the drafting of a Tree Management Policy. We insist that the community should be consulted in the drafting of the policy.
8 September 2021: Townsville City Council's Public Tree Management Policy is presented to the Infrastructure Committee meeting, prior to its release for community consultation.
9 September 2021: Bernadette Boscacci, Crystal Falknau and David Cassells make a presentation to the Community Health, Safety and Environmental Sustainability Committee.
11 October 2021: NQCC's submission is one of 70 submissions received by Council.
18 October 2021: Council officers meet with NQCC, CDTLI, MINCA and MICDA to provide feedback to detailed responses which were received during the consultation period.
21 October 2021: A Report to Council is issued into the Townsville City Council Public Tree Management Policy and Guidelines.
29 October 2021: Townsville City Council's Public Tree Management Policy is tabled at the October Ordinary Council meeting and is adopted (to find the video in the link, go to the left side panel labelled "event bookmarks" and scroll down to "Townsville City Council Public Tree Management Policy and Guidelines").
16 September 2022: Following some reports via Facebook of the unexplained removal of some public trees, the Townsville Tree Advocacy Group meets.
22 September 2022: A letter is sent to TCC's Community Health, Safety and Environmental Sustainability Committee, Matt Richardson and Reece Wilkie (Parks, Open Space and Environment), requesting an update on the effectiveness of the Public Tree Management Policy.
This advocacy work has been driven by the people power of our community, and we would like to particularly recognise the time and energy that the Townsville Tree Advocacy Group has contributed to the above activities.
Principles we would like to see for managing "problematic" trees/vegetation (i.e. sick, damaged, hazardous, impacting on infrastructure etc.):
- Their social, economic and environmental value should be taken into consideration
- Alternative options to removal (such as pruning, root walling and changes to nearby/planned infrastructure) should be seriously considered
- The local community should be consulted with, particularly regarding the management of significant trees/vegetation
- Removal/destruction of vegetation should be a last resort
- If removal (or significant pruning) occurs, appropriate offsets should be established nearby and as soon as possible