Highway matters

Vicroads engineers held a briefing session at Newstead on Thursday March 3 to consult with local people about plans for works along the Pyrenees Highway between Castlemaine and Newstead. The session was heavily attended by residents with interest in a range of matters, from a pedestrian crossing for schoolchildren to a wider shoulder for cyclists [there’s not enough money for this one], and concerns about tree removal.

FOBIF’s interest centres on the last of these: the plans involve the removal of 10 large  [larger than 70 cm in diametre at breast height], 7 medium [between 52 and 70cm dbh, and 126 small [less than 52 cm dbh] trees. The removals are to reduce the risk of ‘run off road’ accidents involving tree collisions. There have been five of these since 2009, one of them fatal.

Engineers have gone to some trouble to avoid vegetation clearance with these works, a welcome change from a few years ago, when they seemed to want to scorch the earth for three metres on both sides of the road. This time they’ve been more judicious about placement of safety barriers. And removal of a mere 10 large trees doesn’t seem much: but FOBIF is always concerned about such incremental inroads into what is a rare resource in this region: a big tree. We’ll report on this in more detail when we’ve done a detailed examination of the proposed removals. Safety is, of course, a central consideration: it would be good to achieve it without unnecessary environmental damage.

The project is still at the stage of community consultation, and will then have to go through an environmental impact assessment before implementation. A spirit of co operation seemed to be the order of the night on Thursday: but memories of such disasters as the Western Highway tree massacre justify close attention to projects like this.

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4 Responses to Highway matters

  1. sally says:

    thankyou for your vigilance!

  2. John Ross says:

    If the VicRoads plan is as described I fully support it. Don’t want to see any ‘scope creep’ though.

  3. Gregg Muller says:

    Often cost is stated as a reason for not adopting alternative, less destructive plans. Perhaps an argument can be made to apply a ‘real replacement value’ on these trees, which might make alternatives such as safety barriers or road realignment more attractive. An interesting paper here , but alternative valuation methods are available. Essentially they calculate the volume of the tree canopy that is to be removed, cost a small replacement tree (usually advanced nursery stock) and calculate a cost per volume of the small tree, then calculate the value of the larger tree. Big trees can come out at $50000 replacement value. Yep, count the noughts. Ten big trees could be worth half a million dollars. Just a thought.

    • Gregg Muller says:

      Sorry, the link didn’t work. google Burney Method Tree Valuation – but there are alternative methods.

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