Dr Greg Moore is former Principal of Melbourne University’s Burnley College and a leading voice in tree cultivation and management.
He says while the decision to bring down the century old Monterey Cypress pines is “very disappointing,” Council’s appointment of a reference group to oersee replanting appears “fair and reasonable.”
“The issue here is you’ve got these significant trees. They shouldn’t be removed before a proper replacement strategy is in place … and there should be proper consultation with the local RSL if they’re prepared to do it, because it’s an Avenue of Honour,” Dr Moore said.
“Often these avenues are not just avenues of honour but avenues in general and essentially gateways to the town and they have a very significant impact… an even bigger impact than most people will realise.
“With an agreed selection of plants and good management , if you do that properly, then you will get your avenue back in a surprisingly short period of time. “
Council announced it would move to replace the trees after an arborist assessment found some were close to their end of life and most were at risk of succumbing to the incurable disease Seiridium Canker.
The oldest of the trees date back to 1918, and were planted in honour of local fallen soldiers.
“Canker can be a real problem. It can also be used as an excuse for removal before other management options have been considered,” Dr Moore said. “If you’ve got the cypress canker then you’re going to have to consider that in choosing your replacement species. The usual recommendation is that you’ve got to wait for a period of up to two years to put cypress back in and that’s probably not going to be acceptable in a community situation. “
There are hundreds of potential replacements but locals, not outsiders, need to make the call, Dr Moore cautioned.
“They didn’t always get their tree selections right with their avenues of honour and so I personally don’t believe that you should be committed to the mistakes of the past if you like.
“All of the replacement strategies have their benefits and their disadvantage and locals really have to decide what they think is best for them, and it will differ for different communities," he said.
“My usual advice for avenues of honour is try and find a connection between the species you choose and the original reason for establishing the avenue in the first place. Sometimes there are trees that are relevant to where soldiers fought, sometimes there are trees that are relevant to the period in history when the avenue was planted and sometimes there are trees that are relevant to the community group that did the original planting. I always advise that you do a little bit of historical work just to see if there is a connection and I would then say that whatever species you are going to consider, they must be appropriate to the site. “