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Letter Regarding removal of trees without permission

The following letter was written by Macdonaldtown Residents Group in protest at TIDC / Leightons claiming to have approval to remopve mature trees and then removing the trees near Macdonaldtown station without approval.

Macdonaldtown Residents Group, c/- 33 Albert St, Erskineville 2043

30 August 2006


Chris Lock and Martin Halliday                                              John Watkins MP

CEO/Director, Planning & Environment                               Minister for Transport

Transport Infrastructure Development Corporation                Level 30, Governor Macquarie Tower

Locked Bag 6501                                                                    1 Farrer Place

St Leonards NSW 2065                                                           Sydney NSW 2000


Dear sirs

We are writing to register our vehement objection to deliberate and unethical action by TIDC/Leighton outside the scope of approval for the Macdonaldtown Stabling Project.   

In July, Leighton’s project engineer Richard Scott emailed the City of Sydney’s arborist Matt Wareing claiming to have Ministerial planning approval to remove all the trees along Leamington Lane in order to build the approved noise wall.

No such approval for this tree removal existed.  

Nowhere in the Environmental Assessment (REF, Submissions Report or the Conditions of Approval) was any tree removal along Leamington Lane disclosed, sought or granted.

And yet, the Review of Environmental Factors was obliged to identify and assess all environmental impacts.  The Conditions of Approval for this Project state construction must be carried out consistent with the Environmental Assessment.

Residents therefore strongly disagree this action, additional to the approved Environmental Assessment, is ‘consistent’ (to use Leighton’s term) with TIDC planning approval. 

Protesting to Leighton’s PR drew a response that boiled down to ‘we need to knock the trees down and we will be knocking them down’. 

We checked with Council as to what ‘consultation’ (Leighton’s term) had taken place. Mr Wareing said he had inferred from Mr Scott’s email that the tree removals were beyond the control of Council’s usual Tree Removal Permit process*. He had no input into Leighton’s assessment the trees had to go or consideration of other design solutions from the perspective of preserving the trees. He is still awaiting requested landscaping plans.

Mr Wareing alerted Mr Scott and TIDC’s Brendon Baker to residents’ objections and sought a stay of execution for just five of these trees - 8-10m tall poplar trees along a pedestrianised section of Leamington Lane - while authorisation could be verified and wall construction reviewed.  

Mr Scott consulted his client. TIDC’s shameful direction to him was to proceed regardless and the trees were felled as scheduled during the rail possession of August 19-20, along with another unauthorised and unadvertised removal of a mature tree at the Burren St site entrance.

*The Conditions of Approval also state: ‘These conditions do not displace any obligation to obtain all other approvals and licences from all relevant authorities required under any Act.’  Accordingly, we expect Council to levy the appropriate fines for unauthorised tree removals.

This is why TIDC should not have the power to self determine what is proposed, approved and executed in this project.  What is to stop TIDC from reneging on promised mitigation measures if they prove too difficult or too costly?  What other surprise environmental impacts are lurking?

TIDC shirks accountability. Residents view complaints to the TIDC infoline as futile when these are redirected to Leighton for response, who disclaim ‘we’re just the contractor’. 

It is a Condition of Approval that TIDC replicates all the vegetation and trees removed to build the temporary access road.

Consistent with that, we demand TIDC also replants five 400 litre poplars, or the equivalent, as they were in Leamington Lane.

We are also concerned about the bulk of the noise wall supporting structure that necessitated the trees’ removal and require design visuals and landscaping plans.  Eight months after approval, we are still waiting for repeatedly promised design visuals of the stabling exterior. 

We will be looking for greater scrutiny of construction activity and impacts by the Environmental Management Representative on the project Community Liaison Group and the Environmental Protection Agency to verify future work is, in fact, consistent with the published and approved Environmental Assessment documents.

TIDC clearly has the might, but not the right to do as it likes. The undersigned residents expect Leighton and TIDC to act in a more principled way in future and do the right thing when it comes to protecting our environment.

Yours sincerely

Gaynor Stanley
Gillian Mauchan
Simon Lillis
Trevor Ahearn

CC:  Brendon Baker, Jeremy Kidd, Caroline St Clair, Georgina Dorsett – TIDC
Jo Robertson, Environmental Management Representative, CLG
Vince Graham, Chief Executive Officer, Colin Coakley -Railcorp
Frank Sartor MP, Minister for Planning, Carmel Tebbutt MP
Barry O’Farrell, Shadow Minister for Transport, Peter Debnam, Leader of the Opposition
Sylvia Hale, Greens MP, Chris Harris, Greens Councillor City of Sydney
Dermot O’Meara, Alice Pryke, Richard Scott - Leighton
Clover Moore, Philip Jamieson, James Zanotto, Matt Wearing - City of Sydney