$50,000 to knock down tree in city: Tough new laws

Toowoomba Regional Council Parks and Recreation Services portfolio leader Cr Joe Ramia says trees are a valuable asset in Toowoomba.
Toowoomba Regional Council Parks and Recreation Services portfolio leader Cr Joe Ramia says trees are a valuable asset in Toowoomba.

TOOWOOMBA'S reputation as the Garden City will be protected under a new tree policy that will require developers to pay to fell trees and surrender bonds before undertaking works.

The Street and Park Tree Policy was endorsed unanimously by the Toowoomba Regional Council yesterday, legally enshrining protections for trees that have helped define Toowoomba's image nationally.

It's the first policy approved by the council for the management of both street and park trees, but did not go so far as to cover trees on private land.

The new protections will ensure that the environmental, social and economic benefits from trees to the region, community and visitors benefits are promoted, safeguarded and protected into the future.

Their protection and retention will now be given a high priority during the assessment of development applications across the region.

The council will condition bond payments from developers, permitted park users, event organisers and other such parties to ensure the protection of council-controlled trees.

If developers wish to remove trees they will need to pay the costs of removing trees, for the loss of amenity or any costs associated with replanting.

Do Toowoomba trees need protection?

This poll ended on 11 June 2017.

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This is not a scientific poll. The results reflect only the opinions of those who chose to participate.

Under the policy, council-controlled trees will be seen as vital components of public infrastructure and the public realm.

Any activities or works that could harm trees will be avoided or redesigned.

The council will select sizable and long-lived tree species when planting in the future and attempt to increase the species and genetic diversity of its tree population.

Environment and community services general manager Nick Hauser said some principles of the policy had been in effect for some time.

Mr Hauser noted the Bunnings Warehouse development on Ruthven St where 28 trees were identified as being significant.

"We attached amenity values to trees and some were quite significant, which raised a few eyebrows with the development community."

Mr Hauser said engineering solutions then became more attractive than removing trees.

"If you put a $50,0000 value on a tree they start to look for other options."

Cr Megan O'Hara Sullivan called for the policy to go further, arguing it should be applied to privately-owned land.

Planning and development services general manager Stewart Somers said attempts had been made by other councils to apply tree policies to private land and it was fraught with difficulty and highly political.