Hobsons Bay council last week rejected calls for the removal of 45 “itchy bomb” trees from Williamstown’s Bayview Street and other locations around the municipality.
In a recent petition, Tracey Wallace collected 62 signatures calling on the council to remove the Norfolk Island hibiscus trees from Bayview and surrounding streets, saying they could trigger asthma. She said they caused skin, throat and potentially lung irritation from sharp fibres released by their seedpods.
Last week’s council meeting heard that removing the trees from Bayview Street would cost about $30,000, while removing all 1500 across the municipality and replacing them would cost $1million.
The meeting heard that the population of the species had been reduced in the past 17 years, it was not a preferred tree and was not re-planted when removed.
Councillors accepted an officer’s report that stated: “Council is not aware of any evidence that suggests that these trees cause any respiratory conditions or any other health concerns outside of those normally associated with trees (pollen etc) other than skin irritation once contact has been made to open seed pods.”
Councillors agreed to increase street sweeping when seedpods were at their worst.
Maribyrnong Council also lists the itchy bomb tree as a non-preferred species but does not have a program to remove them.
Maribyrnong’s infrastructure services director Sunil Bhalla requests for tree removal were assessed on a case-by-case basis and determined by a suitably qualified and experienced arborist.