My constituency question is for Minister D’Ambrosio. My constituent raised with me that with the harsh winds and the many storms in recent weeks trees throughout my electorate have fallen, putting the health and safety of our community at risk. I would like to thank all the SES units who have assisted with this clean-up. We are so fortunate as a community to have the SES volunteers take their spare time to assist those who are in trouble. Whitehorse City Council alone received over 800 requests relating to tree damage in the last week. A tree removalist in my electorate informed me that 70 to 75 per cent of work from the storms has been eucalypts. Eucalypts continue to be planted as street trees despite the high prevalence at which they fall. They do not call them ‘widow makers’ for nothing. So I ask: what risk analysis has the government carried out regarding the appropriateness of these types of trees planted in residential streets and the impacts storms and strong winds can have on these trees in our ever-changing climate?
RESPONSE RECEIVED 4 January 2022 Hon. Shaun Leane MP
Dear Mr Barton MP
Thank you for your letter of 14 December 2021 regarding the use of Eucalyptus as street trees in the Eastern Metropolitan Region.
I thank you for bringing to my attention your concerns regarding the hazard posed by falling trees and limbs during severe storm events. I also note the issues you raise regarding the selection of eucalyptus trees for urban environments.
Councils are responsible for selecting, planting, and maintaining street trees. When planting new trees, councils carry out risk assessments, or adhere to specified selection criteria. The requirements for these assessments are set out in each council’s Street Tree Management Plan (or equivalent).
While the assessment criteria vary between councils, it generally includes risk of tree and limb failure in different weather conditions. For instance, Monash City Council’s Street Tree Strategy outlines that council should select tree species that tolerate extreme weather conditions like the storms Victoria experienced recently. Councils also consider other safety risks, such as proximity to underground pipes or restricted soil volume.
Furthermore, councils conduct regular inspections, pruning, line clearing, and maintenance work on street trees. When a tree is identified as at risk of falling or dropping limbs, councils conduct remedial maintenance work. Where this is not possible, councils replace the tree with a suitable variety. As such, councils continually manage risk relating to street trees from selection to removal.
I note your concern that eucalyptus trees are at higher prevalence of falling and dropping limbs, thereby posing a safety risk to people and property. An officer from my Department, Local Government Victoria (LGV) contacted several councils in the Eastern Metropolitan Region to inquire about the safety hazards posed by eucalypts.
LGV was advised that the eucalyptus species is not at higher risk of falling or dropping limbs than other trees. While most tree maintenance requests after the recent storms related to eucalyptus trees, this reflects the high proportion of eucalyptus in urban environments.
Councils regularly select eucalyptus as street trees because they perform well in risk assessments and have many favorable characteristics, such as longevity and climate adaptability.
I trust this information has been of assistance to you and I appreciate you raising this matter