LXRP fells River Red gums at Merlynston for car parking hot asphalt with no justification

Felling a redgum beside the Upfield Bike Path at Merlynston station

Two iconic River redgum trees are being felled to make way for car parking at Merlynston Station. Many cyclists cycling past the station on the Upfield path will have appreciated the shade and cooling these trees provided. No more.

There was not even a good reson to remove them. Council Officers had inspected the trees and their location and assessed that the car park and drainage could be constructed around them. Similarly an employee of Downer who looks after gas mains said there was no need to remove the trees.

When the consultation for the car park expansion was done, these trees were not in scope for removal. So there has been no formal engagement or consultation with the public about their removal.
Moreland Council requested the trees retention including an urgent motion at Council meeting on 8 June.

On Friday 10 June, arborists contracted by LXRP felled one tree in Bain Avenue, completely ignoring local community objections.

The removal ignores best practice for retaining green infrastracture to help reduce the urban heat in the micro-climate. (See S. Pfautsch S et al (2022) Despicable urban places: hot car parks.)

Councillor Bolton said:

Shameful. The Level Crossing Removal Project has started chopping down the two huge majestic River Red Gums on Bain Avenue Coburg North (Merlynston). This is beside the Merlynston Station carpark.

They are being cut down to expand the carpark.

The most shameful thing is that this destruction is totally unnecessary. Moreland council officers have come up with a solution which could save these to old River Red Gums. They have been in discussion with the LXRP project team about the solution and the project team recognises that the council’s proposed solution would work.

But it would mean that they would have to remove a small number of the 300 car parking spaces. The decision was probably made higher up than the project team.

You might say “Why is the Level Crossing Removal Project involved with expanding a small suburban station carpark?

The answer might be that the Level Crossing Removal Projects have extraordinary powers under the Major Transport Projects Facilitation Act.

Even though these two River Red Gums are partly on council land, this act removes the council’s power to require a permit for the removal of the trees or to ask for compensation for the destruction of the trees. This is all in the name of “cutting red tape” and removing any impediments to “getting on with the job”.

Next time that you see any government or council proposing to “cut red tape”, you need to remember that “cutting red tape” usually means removing the democratic rights of the community to have a say and to protect their community or the environment or their rights as workers.

The Major Transport Projects Facilitation Act strips away the rights of the community.

It also means that the consultations are sham consultations, giving people the illusion that their viewpoints are being listened to. In this case, the local community have never been shown the final plans for the station carpark and what would or would not be saved.

Even more cruel is that one community member received a letter on 27 January from the LXRP community engagement team saying that there were no plans to remove these two magnificent River Red Gums.

Cr Sue Bolton Facebook Post

City of Moreland Mayor Cr Mark Riley posted the following message:

“We are extremely disappointed to hear of the removal of two significant River Red Gums along Bain Avenue, Coburg North as part of the State Government’s car park upgrade at Merlynston Train Station.

We join the concerns of our community, who lobbied the State Government for the protection of these River Red Gums.

We have shared our concerns with the Level Crossings Removal Project numerous times, with Council Officers actively working to provide design alternatives that would see the trees remain, at the cost of only a small number of car parks.

Unfortunately these attempts have been ignored and the result is the removal of very valuable trees, that were landmarks of the local area.

I join many community members in feeling anger that these significant trees have been destroyed. We have lost valuable canopy cover that will take decades to replace and to make matters worse, the cooling trees are being replaced with impermeable infrastructure that will add to the urban heat island in this neighbourhood.”

City of Moreland Facebook Post

This shows the River redgum in all its stately glory beside the Upfield Bike Path.

River Redgum beside Upfield Bike Path at Merlynston Car Park. Photo: Ruth Sandy.

So what did the aboricultural report prepared for the LXRP say on these trees? This report was not made public until a FoI request was put in, and even then took several weeks to get from the LXRP. There was no need to chop them down.

This is not the first instance of bastadry done by Level Crossing Removal project.

Camp Road Level Crossing Removal

Four years ago the LXRP did the Camp Road LXR in late 2017 early 2018. They cemented cabling into the portion of the rail bridge allocated to pedestrian/cycling use. None of their cycle paths on the plan were implemented, despite Hume Council requesting the cycling infrastructure as part of the project. Not doing cycling infrastructure as part of Camp Rd LXR was a failure to implement the mandate of the Transport Integration Act 2010.

This lack of implementation of plans resulted in the Extend Upfield Bike Path to Upfield FB group and this website.

When Bell to Moreland LXR was proposed LXRP failed to engage with the local community and consultation was mearly tick the box. They even closed the Sydney Road office so that residents had no face to face method of consultation (this was pre-pandemic). Gandolfo Gardens mature trees were obliterated over objections by the local community. The community weren’t listened to.

Felled trees a monument to Pascoe Vale MP Lizzie Blandthorn

Now with Merlynston Station Car Park they are felling two trees which weren’t even in the scope for removal, with absolutely no consultation, or justification.

There was Expert advice from Moreland Council officers that the trees did not need to be removed.

LXRP going ahead says a big Fuck you to the local Moreland community. This is bastadry.

This project was initiated 4 years ago by Pascoe Vale MP Lizzie Blandthorn, who is standing for the Legislative Council and not recontesting Pascoe Vale in 2022.

A new monument to stupidity. She won’t even face the wrath of local electors from her old constituency.

“They paved paradise, put up a parking lot” (Joni Mitchell)

Reference Notes:

Some background to Merlynston Station Car park upgrade from Climate Action Moreland:

Some background to Camp Road level Crossing:

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