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City council to approve axing historic North Tce trees

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A majority of Adelaide City councillors have said they will vote to support the axing of 11 century-old trees along North Terrace as part of Lot 14 development landscaping, with Lord Mayor Sandy Verschoor describing her own support as her “hardest decision this council term”.

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How the North Terrace tree saga has played out:

Verschoor, independent councillor Jessy Khera and members aligned with the Team Adelaide majority faction – including Houssam Abiad, Franz Knoll, Mary Couros, Arman Abrahimzadeh and Simon Hou – last night said they would support Renewal SA’s request to remove the street trees.

South ward councillor Alexander Hyde, who is also aligned with Team Adelaide, did not attend last night’s committee meeting and insists he is yet to form a view, but has previously spoken in favour of the trees’ removal.

InDaily revealed last month that Renewal SA was seeking the council’s approval to remove 10 100-year-old elms and one plane tree lining the northern side of North Terrace from Frome Road to the front of the Bice Building to create what it describes as a “seamless entry” to Lot Fourteen at the old Royal Adelaide Hospital site.

Nine of the trees are regulated, with one listed as significant.

According to the council, the trees are expected to live to at least 2039 and hold a monetary value of $660,000.

But the landscaper in charge of the Lot Fourteen development has previously told the council retaining the trees would be impossible without damaging their roots during construction work.

Renewal SA has pledged it would plant 12, 6.5-metre high semi-mature trees along the footpath to replace the trees flagged for removal.

The State Government agency has also said it would pay for upgrades to the footpath in line with the council’s 2001 North Terrace masterplan.

The State Commission Assessment Panel approved the trees’ removal in July, with that decision pending a final approval from the city council, scheduled to be granted next Tuesday.

About ten vocal protestors gathered in the public gallery at last night’s committee meeting to hurl criticisms at elected members following last night’s informal vote.

“These are our trees – not yours, ours,” one protestor yelled.

“I’m a horticulturalist, I went and hugged these trees only half an hour ago, you’re wrong, leave them alone,” another said.

Protesters gathered in the public gallery at last night’s committee meeting. Photo: Stephanie Richards / InDaily

Area councillor Anne Moran, who attended last night’s committee meeting despite declaring last week that she would not be coming back to the council following a factional dispute, attempted to persuade councillors to reject Renewal SA’s request.

 “(The trees) are healthy (and) thousands of people everyday managed to wander past them into the old Royal Adelaide Hospital so they clearly can be incorporated into a new landscape gardening section,” she said.

“I realise that this is a quixotic motion and that the numbers are against it but I think you’re wrong, I think you’re going against public sympathy (and) I think it’s an outstanding thing for a council to do when it’s just declared a climate change emergency.”

Moran was supported by fellow non-Team Adelaide affiliates Robert Simms, Phil Martin and Helen Donovan, but her motives were questioned by Verschoor, who raised a previous council vote in 2005 to chop down 34 street trees further west of North Terrace.

Moran claimed those trees were “very sickly, scrubby-looking” and “had to go”.

But Verschoor said they were of “great standing”.

“I did actually look up the reports and when they went through APLA (Adelaide Park Lands Authority) and it was actually moved by you, councillor Moran, when it went through APLA in 2005,” she said.

“Again in 2009, we removed 33 non-significant trees and one significant tree and that was to complete the landscape and we have now got a beautiful, premier boulevard (along North Terrace).

“We actually have gone back several times to explore whether it would be possible for them (Renewal SA) to go back and design and complete that (Lot Fourteen) work around those trees and we have been informed by various experts that that can’t be done.”

Protestors have erected signs to the North Terrace trees at risk of being chopped down. Photo: Supplied

Verschoor told InDaily after the meeting that her decision to support the trees’ removal was “really, really difficult”.

“I’m so disappointed that we even had to make that decision in the first place,” she said.

“It’s the hardest decision I’ve had to make this term of council and I mean it sincerely when I say I didn’t take the decision lightly.

“I know there are going to be many people that will be upset, as there were when we did previous sections of North Terrace and as there were when we did Victoria Square, but it’s actually trying to set up for the longer-term view for the next generations.

“Those 6.5 metre trees that they’re going to plant are actually going to work for us in terms of canopy, of growth and in terms of the CO2.”

Verschoor said she was unsure when the trees would likely be removed, with that decision pending next Tuesday’s final vote.

“The only thing that I’ve done is go back… and said ‘is there any way that we can work around the trees, can we have paths on either side?’ – basically looking at the designs to keep the trees and what the impact would be if we did the work around the trees,” she said.

“The response from various people was that we couldn’t keep them.

“I feel like I’ve got the information now to make the decision.”

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