A century old Lemon-Scented Gum tree in the northern Melbourne suburb of Parkville will soon face the axe, despite a wave of community opposition.
The 22m tree, which has sprawled across Flemington Road since the early 1930s, was scheduled to be removed last week to make way for new lanes on the busy street.
VicRoads gave the aged gum a brief stay of execution after pressure from local residents, the National Trust and City of Melbourne Councillor Rohan Leppert, who moved to protect it at a council meeting on Tuesday night.
But a senior VicRoads source said the organisation is determined to go ahead with the tree’s removal.
“The tree is going to need to come down, people are concerned but if we were acquiring people’s homes or hitting tram lines, we’d have protests about that instead,” the source told The Newsroom.
Last week, a group of protesters taped a banner around the tree’s metre-wide trunk with the message “please don’t cut me down” and Parkville resident Ann Read, 70, has vowed to chain herself to the tree when the bulldozers arrive.
A National Trust of Australia change.org petition to save the ancient eucalyptus has already attracted 1095 signatures, and the society scrambled on Monday to register the tree for heritage protection.
The Lemon-Scented Gum is the largest and most significant specimen in Melbourne, according to National Trust Victoria acting advocacy manager Anna Foley.
“It will take a hundred years before a replacement seedling has the same value as this one, and it will be several generations before a new tree grows to the same proportions as the gum in Parkville,” told The Newsroom.
Ms Foley said VicRoads had failed to explore options that would allow a widening project on Flemington Road without damaging the tree.
“It hasn’t been demonstrated that we can’t build an intersection without chopping down this fine tree in an otherwise ugly streetscape,” she said.
Retired taxi driver Peter Bruce has more reason than most to value the tree—in 1983 his son was born under its branches.
Mr Bruce told The Newsroom the tree is an iconic landmark for local residents.
“I’m not one of those people who just opposes every change but it’s really a fantastic old tree. When I was driving cabs people would comment on it all the time,” he said.
Mr Bruce hopes to bring his family together for a final photograph under the gum before it is removed forever.
“I’ve been meaning to do it for a long time, and if I wait much longer I’m unlikely to get the chance,” he said. – Geir O’Rourke
Image courtesy of The National Trust of Australia (Victoria)