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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