The measures, part of a motion unanimously approved by Councillors at the the March Council meeting, reflect growing community unease at increased camping in Queenscliff’s original botanic gardens and the scale of vegetation removal undertaken in response to damage from last October’s significant storm.
The motion, put forward by Councillor Fleur Hewitt, called for an immediate end to further tree management works and restricted public access to areas that could pose a safety risk.
It also called for an immediate ban on all future bookings of double-axle or ‘big rig’ caravans on the western side of the park.
“Council acknowledges the concerns raised by the community in relation to Victoria Park and the vegetation loss in the area,” said Cr Hewitt. “In moving this motion, we’re seeking to halt further works so we can better consider alternatives for managing the damaged vegetation and consider options for revegetation.
“As a council, we’ll also need to look to establish a long term strategy for Victoria Park determining how we can bets protect the core environmental values of the park and set the appropriate nature and extent of camping needs for the future,” she added.
As a result of the motion, Council officers must now prepare a plan for re-opening closed areas of the park within five months and provide a detailed tree management and planting schedule.
A Council spokesperson confirmed that as a result of the motion alternative accommodation had to be found for some campers, who had already booked for Easter.
He also defended the extent of vegetation clearing undertaken to date.
“The major storm in October 2021 inflicted serious damage on a large number of trees throughout the Borough, particularly in Victoria Park. In the weeks following the storm, Council commissioned an independent arborist to examine the health and safety of the trees in Victoria Park,” the spokesperson said.
“This independent arborist made a number of recommendations to trim or remove damaged trees that posed an unacceptable risk to public safety. Council’s subsequent tree works in Victoria Park have been carrying out these safety recommendations. While it is always disappointing to have to remove established trees, the sudden failure of limbs or entire trees can be deadly, and Council prioritises public safety in its tree management practices.
“Following [the] resolution, Council will pause works in Victoria Park and close affected areas to all public access while the scope of works is reassessed. Council is reaccommodating existing guest bookings at other sites wherever possible,” he said.
Victoria Park is the site of Queenscliff’s original Botanic Gardens, established in 1868 - 17 years after the bigger Geelong Botanic Gardens - with the advice and support Ferdinand Von Mueller, who frequently holidayed in the town.
As Victoria’s chief botanist, Von Mueller also founded the National Herbarium of Victoria and was first curator of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens.
Recent community efforts have been made to return the remaining 1.5 hectares of the original space to a botanic park and limiting any future camping to Christmas and Easter.
"Victoria Park is one of three of the large public parks in Queenscliffe and it’s’ really important that we get the tree management and planting as well as the vegetation projections right if we continue to have public enjoyment of this area as well as seasonal camping in the park,” said Cr Michael Grout.
The motion called on Council to:
Cease the post-storm tree management program
Restrict all public access to the closed areas
Ensure all future booking that no double-axle or big rigs
Ensure a handout is given to all site users in relation to protecting vegetation
Prepare a tree management and planting schedule for the whole of Victoria Park within five months
The Borough said its existing tree management plan already included new plantings within Victoria Park.