A ‘stay of execution’ has been won for Boonah’s Evergreen Ash trees with a move initiated mid-last week by Cr Marshall Chalk and then pre-empted by Mayor Greg Christensen.
Cr Chalk began the process by submitting a ‘notice of motion’ which appeared on the agenda for the Scenic Rim Regional Council ordinary meeting, timed for Monday (September 7).
His move was to ask fellow Councillors to back him in calling for a review of the second stage of the Boonah town centre redevelopment … “to investigate any alternative solutions to the removal of trees”.
The agenda carrying the Notice of Motion was made public on Thursday and the Guardian & Tribune published the story online about the motion in anticipation that it would spark debate during the Council meeting.
On Friday, Cr Christensen issued a media release announcing the review would go ahead in what appeared to be a circumventing of the normal process reminiscent of moves which occurred when Cr Derek Swanborough submitted a Notice of Motion calling for a review of the planned demolition of the old saleyards in Beaudesert.
“While the motion is still to go to Council, Cr Chalk and myself have spoken to Chief Executive Officer Jon Gibbons and suggested a review of the engineering designs now,” Cr Christensen stated in the release.
“We recognise the proposed removal of the trees has caused some concern in the community and we want the community to know that we are listening to them.”
However, the tight framing of the review, as outlined in Cr Chalk’s Notice of Motion, remained the same.
He asked that any alternative solutions be considered within the framework of:
• the impact any solution may have on the overall project outcomes;
• the impact any solution may have on fulfilling grant funding terms;
• the impact any solution may have on legislative compliance; and
• the financial impact on Council of any alternative solution.
As part of the motion, Cr Chalk acknowledged … “the prior two years of consultation regarding this project” but asked that Councillors be given details on the extent of community engagement and consultation throughout the development of the project.
At Monday’s Council meeting, Councillors agreed to back Cr Chalk’s move to review the options in regard to the fate of the trees.
In speaking to the intent of the move, Cr Chalk added the rider that he didn’t want to trade off community safety to save the trees.
“The review will give us more in-depth knowledge towards making a decision.”
Cr Duncan McInnes said that he didn’t think the trees should be saved at all costs.
“We have to be careful that [saving the trees] is in the best interests of the community … it will affect all community members.”
And he noted concerns about potential safety issues or loss of carparks.
However, Cr Derek Swanborough said he considered the number of signatories on the petition that was to be presented to Council as “remarkable”.
“It’s an extraordinary number … during my last term on Council I think the largest petition we received carried about 1,000 signatures. [It seems] that at least half the people in the town want to save the trees.”
Cr Chalk agreed that it was a great show of support for the saving of the trees.
“By undertaking the review, it shows we are listening and making sure it is the right way to move forward.”
He later presented the petition and the majority of Councillors voted to ask the CEO to analyse it and bring a report back to Council when it was completed.