Residents call for ‘jail time’ over damaged tree

A GOLD Coast City councillor says she is "disgusted" after a developer and planners put in danger an historic Norfolk Pine at Burleigh Heads.

A Bulletin report on Friday detailed how councillors at the first full council meeting for the year backed an officer's report to make a vegetation protection order to save the tree.

The Norfolk Pine is the second largest in the area from Goodwin Terrace in the south along The Esplanade to Third Avenue.

In a since-deleted Facebook post, Southport councillor Brooke Patterson said the vote was unanimous but the order could only start from January 30.

"The developers cut down the tree on the afternoon of the 29th, after they were aware of our resolution," she said.

Photos of the city's second largest Norfolk Island pine as presented in a Gold Coast City Council report. Photo: Supplied
Photos of the city's second largest Norfolk Island pine as presented in a Gold Coast City Council report. Photo: Supplied

"I am disgusted by the complete contempt shown to council by not only the developer, but their advisers."

Cr Patterson deleted the post on Sunday. She declined to comment on the issue when approached by the Bulletin and referred the newspaper to area councillor Daphne McDonald.

Residents were quick to react, one in a response saying council should issue a $100,000 fine and "make them plant another full-grown pine tree".

Cr Patterson wrote in response: "I will be looking to see what can be done."

Some residents on the Facebook page of Cr McDonald targeted council, saying the process was "so wrong" and an abuse of democracy.

Parts of the root system have been damaged.
Parts of the root system have been damaged.

"This is not how a representative council works," a resident said.

Cr McDonald did not respond to requests to comment from the Bulletin but explained to residents the process involved issuing a vegetation protection order.

A report to council said council had established the Norfolk Pines Burleigh Foreshore Conservation Management Plan in November 2020.

A map presented to council showing the tree’s location. Photo: Supplied
A map presented to council showing the tree’s location. Photo: Supplied

The plan documented the planting of the Norfolk Island Pines along the Burleigh foreshore area in the early 1930s and into the 1940s.

"The plantings were a combined initiative of the local residents, the Justins brothers, and the Nerang Shire Council," the report said.

"The trees were planted in a number of discrete periods and were conceived as a civic beautification scheme. Over time, the plantings extended from Goodwin Terrace in the south along The Esplanade to the north."

Photos of the city's second largest Norfolk Island pine as presented in a Gold Coast City Council report. Photo: Supplied
Photos of the city's second largest Norfolk Island pine as presented in a Gold Coast City Council report. Photo: Supplied

The council report said the Norfolk Island Pines located north of Third Avenue and west of The Esplanade were not included in the protected area of the heritage listing.

But they were "still significant and should form part of a heritage curtilage as recommended in the Conservation Management Plan".

The Bulletin requested comment from developer consultants. They did not respond.

HOW THE SAGA STARTED

AN HISTORIC but damaged Norfolk Pine at Burleigh has been protected after a council vote on Friday.

A proposed vegetation protection order will protect the second largest Norfolk Island Pine in the area from Goodwin Terrace in the south along The Esplanade to Third Avenue.

A council officer's report said the 28m high tree was believed to be 75 to 85 years old, located outside a property in Second Avenue.

The root system has already been compromised.
The root system has already been compromised.

"The Norfolk Island Pines in this area were first planted in the 1930s and the 1940s and have largely retained their original locations forming a significant landmark for the area since that time," the report said.

The report said the council was aware of plans to remove the tree "through a future development process".

To ensure the tree was protected, the vegetation protection order was regarded as "urgent".

Mayor Tom Tate asked why the item was not before a committee. He was told by officers that it was due to the timing.

"I haven't had enough time to absorb all the information," he said.

But planning chair Cameron Caldwell said there was work being conducted on the site and it was likely the "tree will be lost" due to damage to its root system.

Photos taken at the weekend show part of the root system has been removed and many of the tree's branches have been cut off.

Then + now: the tree in a report to councillors, compared to photos taken at the weekend.
Then + now: the tree in a report to councillors, compared to photos taken at the weekend.


"The actions overnight are reprehensible in my view," Cr Caldwell said.

Officers said 30 per cent of the root system had been compromised.

Councillors unanimously supported a motion to protect the tree.

The full council meeting finished after just more than an hour.

Originally published as Residents call for 'jail time' over damaged Coast tree

Photos of the tree taken on January 30 2021.
Photos of the tree taken on January 30 2021.

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