MidCoast Council responds to public criticism over removal of trees at Bight Cemetery

The golden cypress trees gave the cemetery a sometimes suitably gloomy atmosphere. Photo: Julia Driscoll

The golden cypress trees gave the cemetery a sometimes suitably gloomy atmosphere. Photo: Julia Driscoll

MidCoast Council has responded to public criticism over the removal of the nine remaining golden cypress trees along the roadside at the Bight Cemetery.

A major storm in December ripped two of the 11 golden cypress trees out, damaging a number of graves in the process of the trees being removed. This prompted an assessment of the remaining nine trees by a qualified tree specialist.

This assessment indicated that the trees had shear plane cracks with an imminent likelihood of failure and therefore council had no choice other than removal. The assessment also indicated that failure of the trees was likely to result in significant damage to gravestones or severe injury to members of the public if they were in the area when the trees failed.

“This is not a decision we take lightly – for a number of reasons,” director of Community Spaces and Services, Paul De Szell said.

“Trees are an important part of our landscape, they not only offer shade and enrich the visual amenity of the area, they support the creation of a peaceful atmosphere in our cemeteries in particular.

“We recognise that the trees aren’t something that can be easily replaced.”

Mr De Szell said there is also an unbudgeted cost to remove damaged trees.

However public safety outweighs all other factors, we have a responsibility to our community to remove trees that place people at risk in public places.

Paul De Szell

“However public safety outweighs all other factors, we have a responsibility to our community to remove trees that place people at risk in public places.”

The December storm had a widespread impact on parks, gardens, reserves and cemeteries across the MidCoast region, with the clean-up bill from that event alone estimated to be more than $300,000.

Cemeteries across the region have been systematically cleaned up following the storm, with tree branches removed due to safety hazards at a number of Manning cemeteries.

“We appreciate the removal of the trees at the front of the Bight Cemetery has left the area barren, however our priority has to be the protection of the public and property," Mr De Szell said.

As earlier reported by the Wingham Chronicle, council said there were plans to replant the area, and this would be undertaken as soon as weather conditions were favourable.

Meanwhile council continues to assess the damage from the most recent storm, which centred on Taree, Chatham and Cundletown on Saturday March 9. This storm resulted in significant tree damage at the Taree Rec Grounds and Endeavour Place Reserve.

Damage was also sustained to a number of hangars at the Taree Airport, the roof of the Manning Valley Aero Club, fences at the Taree hockey fields and solar panels at the Manning Aquatic and Leisure Centre.

Assessments are currently being undertaken on trees and council assets