Easing tree trimming regulations and fast-tracking backflow systems are just two priorities of council

Lord Mayor Graham Quirk

Lord Mayor Graham Quirk

Got a problem in your suburb that needs fixing? email me at lordmayor@bmag.com.au

The January storms this year reminded us all how easily trees can cause serious harm. Brisbane has nearly 600,000 street trees, and council has a maintenance schedule in place to ensure they’re regularly inspected and trimmed. But council officers simply cannot watch every tree at all times.

Another issue, until a few weeks ago, was that residents couldn’t do their own tree maintenance, or trim trees on council property that was affecting their yards, without getting through a significant amount of red tape. That’s why I’ve recently proposed changes to Brisbane’s tree protection laws. These are common sense changes, designed to strike the right balance between respecting the environment and your individual private property rights. Greater weight will now be placed on the risk to life or property when considering applications to remove or trim a protected tree on private and public land – rather than just the tree’s structure or health.

The changes to the Natural Assets Local Law 2003 (also known as NALL) are about responding to a growing community concern that the health of protected trees was being put before residents’ safety. For example, for 20 years residents have not been allowed to prune council trees which directly impacted on their properties. The changes I have announced lift this ban. I have also proposed removing the requirement which stated residents needed to obtain an arborist’s report to apply to trim or remove a protected tree, which has the potential to save residents up to $1500.

All protected vegetation under NALL will still be protected. If any of these protected trees need to be removed for safety reasons, a new one will have to be planted in its place, where applicable. Importantly, instead of a property owner having to come to council every time they want to undertake vegetation maintenance, we will provide a management plan permit for a period of up to 10 years. I’ve also announced on-the-spot fines of up to $550 for people who interfere with a protected tree. I believe these changes achieve the right balance. If you want clarification on whether you can trim trees in your area and what approvals you may need, please contact council on 3403 8888.

Backflow systems accelerated
One of my priorities in this financial year’s budget was to fast-track the installation of all remaining backflow devices in Brisbane, to help improve our city’s flood resilience. So I’m investing $7.5million to ensure what was originally a three-year project is now going to take just one year. This will mean at least 19 backflow devices will be installed and will benefit more than 1200 properties. Once completed, 80 per cent of properties which were affected by backflow flooding during the 2011 flood will be protected.

The fast-tracking of these funds does mean a sacrifice in another area – we will have to suspend the flood buyback program for one year. But I will increase the allocation to $7.5million in the following two years to deliver on my commitment over this full term of council. Backflow systems are one of many flood mitigation tools that council is applying to help protect our city. In addition to backflow systems, more than $55million will also be invested towards upgrading and maintaining Brisbane’s stormwater and drainage network. Backflow systems will be installed in 2013/14 at Castlemaine Street, Milton; Creek Street, CBD; Milton drain, Milton; Sydney Street, New Farm; Coronation Drive, Auchenflower; Gailey Road, St Lucia; and Kenny Street, Fig Tree Pocket.

As seen in bmag issue 260