RESIDENTS of “the most beautiful street in Leichhardt” are outraged crepe myrtle trees which line the street have been “butchered” by electricity company Ausgrid’s contractors.
The Carlisle St residents said contractors are chopping up to 6m off the top of trees to keep them clear of overhead powerlines.
“The trees are being butchered,” resident Anita Whitelum said. “Carlisle St is known for its crepe myrtles and is often referred to as the most beautiful street in Leichhardt. The destruction has been absolutely heart breaking. The crepe myrtles and other trees in the surrounding areas are the natural nesting home of currawongs and other bird species and this has been completely destroyed.”
Fifteen residents have formed a group called Stop Ausgrid Butchering Our Trees (SABOT). They fear trees have been cut out of their natural shape, are at risk of failing to flower as a result of excessive cutting or made uninhabitable for wildlife.
They have given a list of demands to Inner West Council including cutting of trees in the area stop until a full assessment of all trees that have been cut is undertaken by an independent arborist.
Ms Whitelum, a lawyer, said crepe myrtles grow about 50cm per year and thehave been “hacked” by 6m.
“That’s 12 years of growth,” she said. “The trees need to be replaced with mature trees of the same species. Many are unlikely to survive at all.”
The street before they were cut.
Ms Whitelum said the tree cutting has been happening for at least a month and residents began calling the council on the day it began demanding it be stopped because of the extreme aggression being used.
Balmain Greens MP Jamie Parker also started a petition to get Ausgrid to rein in excessive tree cutting which has been signed by hundreds of people. He met with Inner West Council administrator Richard Pearson and residents concerned about the “irresponsible and overzealous trimming of trees” in their streets last week.
“Street trees give character, habitat, shade and elegance to Leichhardt’s streets and are an essential and much loved feature of our neighbourhoods,” Mr Parker said. “To see them so badly chopped — in many cases down to unsightly stumps — has caused a great deal of distress in the community. I remain absolutely committed to ensure there is full and transparent reform of the practices of Ausgrid and their contractors.”
Longer-term, residents would like to see powerlines in Leichhardt moved underground.
“Ausgrid should contribute to this as part of their compensation for the damage caused by their work and the years it will take to rehabilitate the damage,” Ms Whitelum said.
Mr Preston has met with Ausgrid and will develop an agreement that will include a review of the standards, and options to try to extend the overall life of the trees. It will also include improved notification and consultation with the community on trimming levels.
Ausgrid said its arborist had now inspected the tree trimming on Carlisle St and other locations in the inner west and found it was done to required standards.
“Our arborist expects these trees to regenerate quickly with fresh growth. Where possible this new growth will be hedged to create a fuller and greener appearance.
“We’ve also agreed to work more closely with the Inner West Council on ways to improve our service delivery, including options for replacing inappropriate species planted too close to powerlines.”
Ausgrid is also establishing a working group to improve collaboration and consultation with council and the community.