This should probably be title ‘Why Trees Matter (Fullstop)’ but for now I’ll stick with my home town. It’s appropriate following the events of the last couple of weeks in Beaumaris and the discussion (or lack of) over possible tree removals at the Beaumaris High School site.
Last Monday was to be the start of tree removals on site and concerned community members gathered early to protest this action. This came after a week of generally ignored emails, phone calls, social media posts, talkback radio interviews and any attempt by the community to obtain further information about what trees were to be removed.
But this is the site of a brand new school isn’t it? Why are we complaining about a project that is clearly good for the suburb? What is wrong with these people in Beaumaris? You can’t make a cake without breaking a few eggs and trees can be replanted can’t they?
From the outside these appear all valid points and the Beaumaris community does come across as a spoilt bunch of bored greenies.
Unfortunately the suburb of Beaumaris is undergoing rapid change and the High School project is just one of a group of major projects that have recently altered the natural and cultural fabric of the area.
The Beaumaris RSL site now sits bulldozed and windblown up the hill from the High School. Council inaction into that proposal has resulted in a poorly designed subdivision that stands out as a blight on the suburb.
The Beaumaris Hotel is now an entirely rebuilt apartment complex. Opinions on the rebuilding, rather than retention, of the historic facade are mixed, however it is still a historical element of the suburb that is changed forever.
Then there is the concerning trend of buying beautifully treed blocks in Beaumaris, demolishing older homes and moonscaping to squeeze in oversized McMansions. The attraction of our suburb is the natural beauty, the remnant canopy trees, the tea-tree and bush gardens, planted out nature strips and heathlands.
The High School and Long Hollow Heathland is the largest area of natural open space inland in Beaumaris. These trees and understorey are a vital part of our suburb and to be told that some of it is being cleared was concerning.
So when, as concerned community members invested in our suburb and in this great school, we asked the question “which trees are being removed?” and received silence, it struck us as a secretive, underhanded and aggressive move by the Victorian School Building Authority.
All it took was research by the Authority, by the Department of Education, by the architect, into the local area and the local context.
On plan, some of the areas being cleared look like messy scrub and overgrowth. On plan, it looks like a good idea to clean these areas up with paths, manicured gardens or new wetlands. On plan this looks like a great result.
Anyone who knows this area, or who even talks to the people who walk through the heathland every day, would see it differently.
To hear The Hon James Merlino, Minister for Education, speak on radio and tell us that these trees will go and the project will move on, it tells us that he doesn’t know Beaumaris.
So the people of Beaumaris expressed their concern, through a week of trying to contact the Authority formally, then through more visible means with our protest on site. In the face of morning television cameras and live crosses to Sunrise, the VSBA agreed to halt tree removal until the plans can be reviewed, independent arborists assess the trees and the COMMUNITY CONSULTED appropriately to hear their concerns.
That was over a week ago and again the silence is deafening.
Once again we are being treated like the spoilt little people of Beaumaris, who if ignored will go away and let the adults continue with their important project.
Trees matter in Beaumaris, Mr Merlino, and if you took the time to talk to the community invested in this school, we can achieve an amazing result.
That would be a great legacy for your government.