By Helen Tatchell
“I can confirm there
will only be
three trees removed,
none of them in
the main street, and
22 trees will be planted.”
– Derek Madden (CEO MSC)
A small branch of Gordon residents has caused a frenzy amongst locals as they took to social media saying 21-trees in the main street were to get axed by Moorabool Council.
They say they’ve been misled by council after uncovering ‘plans’, from November 2017, on council’s website that show a proposed three-staged main street upgrade that includes red crosses on 21-trees for removal. Council denies they have misled the community.
The group went to great lengths to protest the alleged action by tying yellow ribbons around the main street trees, only to have confirmed by Moorabool Mayor Paul Tatchell at a community meeting last Thursday evening in the public hall, only three trees were on the chopping block, and they were in Russell street, off the main street that is the old Western Highway.
“Looking for something that isn’t there can only lead to frustration,” Cr Tatchell said.
“The organiser’s made a lot of noise, made a lot of media and made a lot of allegations; the only thing not made was common sense.
“People do funny things, but we don’t always laugh,” he said.
So, was it all just a media stunt, after the group was seen on 9 News Western Victoria and in the Ballarat Courier?
“The concern for the trees and the yellow ribbon campaign was just to gather awareness of what is happening,” Alicia Gordon said on a facebook post.
Scott Graham admitted to the Moorabool News via facebook “the tree issue is the issue to get us talking.”
One Gordon local said he believed the meeting was all about chopping down the trees.
“I along with others were conned that it was all about the removal of the trees. The meeting was so negative I had to leave,” he said.
The 50-60 people who attended the meeting in good faith of ‘saving the trees’, soon heard the meeting was about “lack of community engagement and consultation”. This was in reference to Stage 1 $350,000 budgeted streetscape works to begin in the area and included a further 22-trees to be planted. This also caused an uproar as the group wanted to be consulted further on the types of trees and did not want crepe myrtles.
Local indigenous resident Barry Gilson said he has lived in Gordon all his life and his family for maybe 100,000 years and spoke about the trees.
“There is nothing wrong with these trees, maybe a couple of them, but the flowering gums nothing wrong at all.
“$350,000 is a lot of money. I reckon I could buy a $30 chainsaw and cut all those trees down,” he told the laughing crowd.
“I’m a taxpayer and a ratepayer and they won’t be cutting my trees down, there is nothing wrong with them.”
Mr Gilson said Moorabool in Wadawurrung meant ‘monster’ so “Moorabool shire is the monster shire,” he said.
“We don’t want to be another Ballan or Bacchus Marsh,” was a common catch cry.
“I’m an archaeologist and any works over 500-metres requires a heritage study. How far is it from the pub to the hall?” one lady asked.
The group again had been misinformed.
The Stage 1 streetscape works are to improve the landscape and safety in the Main street in the vicinity of Russell and Lyndhurst street intersections.
The works, due to start mid-February include drainage improvements, new bins to replace existing, improved parking, relocated bus stops, a new traffic island at Russell street intersection and better pedestrian connectivity, including a path to the primary school.
Whatever the plans, the current plan from numerous community consultation meetings with Ward Councillor Pat Toohey over the last two years, indicates the works to be implemented are “what the community wants, not what council wants.”
The proposal was brought to council and approved to be included in the budget.
“As a councillor for the community of Gordon I have taken on broader and wider opinions from the community of their needs. We have a lot of young families, a wide sector of youth and aged in Gordon who all have needs we need to address, including improved infrastructure for any intersections, which is one where these works will be undertaken, which is in the vicinity of the hall, the post office and the Gordon Bleu area.
“We will be making sure we put forward a quality outcome for the community of Gordon, based on the feedback we’ve had, to deliver what is needed for a growing community and deliver it in a manner that respects the ambience and beauty that is the hamlet of Gordon.”
Cr Toohey said these outcomes are nothing to do with what council wants.
“This is over a decade of continued consultation with the community of Gordon, to put forward their aspirations for the future, to put forward how they wanted Gordon to look going forward, and to make sure we intermingle the improvements with preserving the beauty of Gordon as it currently is.
“Over the past couple of years, we have been able to bring forward the plan and discuss with the community the ability to deliver an outcome which takes on board the input of the needs of the wider community of Gordon. It is not just about the loudest voice or the squeaky wheel, it is about giving a quality outcome for the needs of the people at Gordon. I’m very confident the community will see the works and then have further opportunity to participate in future improvements through the township,” he said.
Cr Toohey responded to community members at the meeting voicing their concern that he is not contactable and does not return phone calls or emails.
“Out of all this I have only had three phone calls and four emails which tells me the overwhelming response from the Gordon community is extremely positive, saying “good on you and get on with the job.””