After years of fighting, the battle to conserve the rows of trees known as Grey Gums along Mulgoa Road was lost today as the chainsaws began to cut them down.
While the removal coincides with the start of the next stage of the project to widen the road, public safety is being touted as the reason for removal, but conservationists believe it is an act of “devastating destruction”.
President of Mulgoa Valley Landcare Group Lisa Harrold, who advocates for the local environment, said she is sad that the community will lose the towering trees as part of the upgrade work.
“This avenue of eucalyptus trees has been a landmark for the communities of Penrith for generations, in fact, they pre-date colonisation and some are estimated to be over 350 years of age,” Harrold said.
“They have offered beauty amongst the concrete and bitumen; they have offered shade and they have offered habitat.
“A solution to preserve them would have required the compulsory acquisition of 25 properties on the other side of Mulgoa Road but as expected, the cost saving of at least $50 million has meant that the trees must go and sadly there has been no wins for the local environment as a result of the impending massacre.”
Involved in meetings with Transport for NSW (TfNSW) for the last four years to assist with a solution, Harrold is concerned about the lack of investment into the environment and wildlife.
“Transport for NSW ran a slick consultation process over a three-year timeframe during which they made all the right noises about committing to compensatory investments in biodiversity, but this has never eventuated and now they claim any offsetting won’t be undertaken for many years,” she said.
“Dangling carrots, which included the promise of land elsewhere to be dedicated as a new conservation reserve, effectively silenced critics such as myself but they have back tracked recently and the promise of “meaningful compensation” which was their words has evaporated.”
The Weekender understands that TfNSW will remove nine trees in total to access five hazardous trees on Mulgoa Road between Wolseley Street and Blaikie Road, Jamisontown.
It is believed that TfNSW sought the expertise of an arborist regarding the condition of the trees, who found there is a high safety risk to the community with the inspection revealing significant decay and cavities in some of the trees.
Hanging branches could pose a danger to pedestrians and other road users so it was recommended that the hazardous trees be removed.
Qualified horticulturist and Penrith resident David Bowen believes that the arborists report is biased and unbalanced.
“We do not believe mass destruction of the trees is an acceptable way of dealing with some hollowed branches as they are actually remarkably strong and trees deliberately sacrifice the middle of their branches and trunks because it is not needed for strength,” Bowen said.
“Pruning back branches, fencing of areas and warning signs should be enough.
“It is an overkill to the extreme, absolutely unnecessary and is a shameful disgrace to see this carnage occur.”
Bowen also said that that the lack of efforts to relocate the variety of local wildlife could be a “serious breach of animal cruelty laws”.
The Weekender has contact TfNSW for a comment on plans to offset the loss of habitat.
A graduate of Western Sydney University, Emily covers Local, State and Federal politics for the Weekender, as well as crime and general news.