Monash tree vote: Hold the chainsaws

IT was a single casting vote in last year's September council meeting that had Monash's controversial vegetation protection overlay (VPO) scheme retained and just over a year later, it was only one vote that could lead to it being amended.

During a marathon debate last Tuesday night, the council voted to propose amending the VPO in a way that would allow residents to remove trees without applying for a planning permit. But residents won't be able to rid their yards of any unwanted trees just yet.

The council will now take the motion to Planning Minister Matthew Guy. If he supports proposing it to the community, he will authorise the council to take the next step of preparing an amendment to the city's planning scheme. It will then be placed on public exhibition.

Like last year, submissions will be considered but the council can still abandon the move. The planning minister will have to sign off on the final amendment.

Under the proposed amendment, residents can rid their gardens of dead, dying or dangerous trees without any referral to the council. Healthy trees that are cut down will have to be replaced with two new trees within six months of their removal. They must be canopy trees.

Last Tuesday, Cr Geoff Lake described the current VPO scheme as "cumbersome and bureaucratic" and called for change. He was supported by mayor Micaela Drieberg, Paul Klisaris, Robert Davies and newcomers Katrina Nolan and Bill Pontikis.

Councillors Brian Little, Jieh-Yung Lo, Tom Morrissey and Oakleigh's Stephen Dimopoulos and Theo Zographos did not support the move.

Cr Drieberg said that while she personally supported the VPO, she supported the amendment. "All I'm upheld to do is to reflect the ward I represent," she said. "We are just reflecting what we have heard in the community."

But Cr Little said the motion would effectively remove the VPO by allowing anyone to remove trees without a permit.

"The VPO sends a message; it sends a message that Monash cares. It's not a huge burden on our residents."

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