Needle match looms — Middleton Beach Norfolk pines petition prompts special meeting

Headshot of Sarah Makse
Sarah MakseAlbany Advertiser
John Hammond with Yana Appleton and One Nation Albany candidate Michelle Kinsella.
Camera IconJohn Hammond with Yana Appleton and One Nation Albany candidate Michelle Kinsella. Credit: Sarah Makse/ Albany Advertiser/Sarah Makse

A City of Albany special electors’ meeting will be held next month for the community to have their say on the removal of nine Norfolk Island pine trees from a carpark in Middleton Beach.

Albany woman Yana Appleton and Pauline Hanson’s One Nation Albany candidate Michelle Kinsella presented a petition to the council last week calling for a special electors’ meeting under the Local Government Act.

The petition, written by Hammond Legal director John Hammond, included more than 100 signatures.

It was received by the council after a unanimous vote at Tuesday’s council meeting.

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The carpark works tender was also awarded at the meeting, with works expected to begin as soon as next week.

The carpark works were originally earmarked to start in mid-November, including the resurfacing and repainting of bays.

Ms Kinsella has also made a formal request to the City to stop work on the carpark until the electors’ meeting.

A City spokeswoman said the trees would remain in the carpark until the meeting on December 8.

Earlier this month, the City of Albany defended its decision to remove 10 trees as part of the $9 million Middleton Beach Foreshore Enhancement project.

Six would be removed from the middle row of bays in the Middleton Beach carpark, and three from the grassed area between the carpark and Flinders Parade.

A City spokesman said those 20 to 30-year-old trees were “destroying the infrastructure and making it unsafe for drivers and pedestrians” at the Middleton Beach carpark and would be replaced with native species.

Another tree would be removed from near Three Anchors.

The petition presented to the council followed an online “save the pines” petition organised by Ms Appleton which garnered more than 1000 signatures calling on the council to preserve the trees.

“As concerned members of the public we are asking for transparency and public consultation,” the online petition said.

“If they absolutely cannot be left where they are, that they be possibly transplanted instead of mulched.”

Ms Kinsella said she believed locals had a special affinity with the trees and a decision to remove them should be done after “wide community consultation”.

“We would like to see more Norfolk pines planted,” she said.

“At the very least, if they still decide with a development that the pines need to go, they should be transplanted elsewhere.

“At the very least, keep them here, rearrange the development around, catering for the pines, and keep that historic link.”

City executive director of infrastructure, development and environment Paul Camins said transplanting the trees would not be easy.

He said it would take a minimum of six months to condition the trees before transplanting them, which would “exceed our funding time frames”.

“It is unfortunate to lose the trees that aren’t thriving in the middle of the carpark, however, public safety is a priority and servicing and infrastructure constraints sometimes require that trees will be removed where necessary,” he said.

Mr Camins said the council was seeking independent advicefrom a specialist arboricultural consultant on the most appropriate replacement and additional trees.

Mr Camins said “many passionate community members” had provided valuable feedback that had been incorporated into the final design outcome.

“There were no less than five community information sessions held regarding the Middleton Beach Foreshore Enhancement Project since the initial session in April 2018, and details of the project have been regularly updated since that time on the City of Albany website,” he said.

The special electors’ meeting will be held at Council Chambers on December 8, at 6.30pm.

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