The unsuccessful fight to save a giant oak tree from destruction in Footscray has become a rallying point for the protection of significant trees in Maribyrnong.

The oak tree, understood to be more than 120 years old, was completely removed last Friday despite an urgent request to the state planning minister to place an interim protection order on it.

The minister last week argued it wasn’t up to the state government to “bail out” councils who hadn’t taken appropriate steps to protect their significant trees.

Maribyrnong Council was powerless to intervene in any attempts to harm or remove the tree,
sparking calls for a more proactive protection system.

Neighbours spent a fortnight fighting the removal of the tree from a private property at the hands of a local developer, refusing to allow the arborist undertaking the works access to their properties.

But Lesley Walker, a neighbour who campaigned to save the tree, said the last of the removal was carried out with a crane.

“It would be great to see council and community creating guidelines so this doesn’t keep happening to the very few old trees of Maribyrnong,” she said.

 

The oak tree before its removal. Photo by Benjamin Millar

The oak tree before its removal. Photo by Benjamin Millar

Almost 600 people have signed a petition calling for stronger protection for Maribyrnong’s significant trees.

As well as calling for the council to introduce a significant tree register and create planning overlays to require a permit to remove significant trees, campaigners now want to see a default diameter permit system in which all trees above a certain diameter require a permit before removal.

They cite Hobsons Bay as an example, where no tree with a trunk diameter over 45cm at a height of 1.5m from the ground can be removed without a permit.

A state government spokesman said the minister expects that the council will now withdraw its application for interim protection, given the tree is gone.

Maribyrnong Council did not respond to repeated requests for comment.