This speech is in relation to significant and regulated trees.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (15:25): I rise today to speak about significant and regulated trees. Honourable members would be familiar with the fact that we amended legislation several years ago, and the regulations have been published but are yet to be brought into force. I would urge the new minister to get on top of this issue and meet with the South Australian Society of Arboriculture and the LGA as soon as possible because they have significant concerns, as does the Liberal Party, in relation to the draft regulations, which were published in August last year. I would suggest that the regulations need to be completely rewritten.
In consultation with arborists, they have said to us that they have done some surveys of their own work in recent years of trees of a circumference of less than three metres and that only 27 per cent would have any protection; trees over three metres, 28 per cent of those would need to be treated for removal because they are usually getting on in age, compared with other lesser circumferences, only 10 per cent of which need that sort of treatment. As an example, for one particular site, of the 1,488 trees, only 10 per cent are greater than three metres. Of 18 metropolitan councils, only four have lists of significant trees.
Our fundamental concern with the legislation at the time was that a large proportion of the detail was to be left to regulation and that the issues to do with amenity and biodiversity contribution were not spelled out, which I think has not been spelled out adequately in the regulations. Unfortunately, we had the issue of the trees removed at The Avenues shopping centre, which I note the Premier tweeted and complained about, yet his own government has led to laws that present the greatest threat to the urban forest and to the river red gums in Mount Barker.
It was the intention of the legislation that local government would largely be responsible for the legislation, yet they have not been adequately consulted in relation to the regulations. The promulgation of lists of species is one of the most critical issues, yet I cannot for the life of me find who came up with the list of species because everybody is complaining about it. In particular, there is one submission to the draft regulations, which I obtained under freedom of information, from Dean Nicolle of the Currency Creek Arboretum, a gentlemen who has qualifications in botany and natural resource management. He has gone through the lists in great detail and literally torn them to shreds in that the person who has written them clearly does not understand either the fire danger of particular species or their propensity to drop limbs and present a threat to people.
In relation to the 30 per cent rule, which the arborists would say needs to have greater reference to the Australian guidelines about pruning, he says:
What is 30% of the tree? In biological terms, about 50% of the trees below the ground...So am I therefore allowed to remove 60% (three-fifths) of the total above ground part of the tree without Council Development Approval?...How often can I remove can I remove 30% of the tree...30% by what measure?
Time does not allow me to read out his entire letter, which is very comprehensive indeed.
There are also issues. We are concerned about potential malicious removal of trees through consecutive bouts of 30 per cent pruning, malicious poisoning, and for bogus applications for pools within the 10-metre zone, which are subsequently not constructed. There is also the 10-metre rule regarding proximity to dwellings, which can potentially lead to a loss of a large number of trees in the urban forest, particularly as block sizes have decreased. This will lead only to increased heat retention by hard surfaces in the summer and I would have thought would be completely contrary to any advice of the Climate Change Council.
We are also concerned about the $50 per tree for the urban tree fund being too low; we were led to believe that it would in the order of $200 to $300. I do not think anyone has commended that measure. Dead trees are also not considered for the useful habitat for fauna that they provide. In Dean Nicolle's submission he has advised that should be revised.