Update: Tree works in Warburton

stack of newspapers with computer behind

Yarra Ranges Council has been planning works to remove a large tree located in the Warburton Recreation Reserve car park (next to True Value Hardware).

We can’t do nothing. The tree is not safe, and there is a risk of it falling down if some urgent works are not undertaken as soon as possible.

Security fencing is in place around the tree. People and property are at risk while in or under the tree. Anyone in the tree or parked under it must leave the site to ensure their safety.

Council shares the community’s sadness about the tree, however community safety is our highest priority.

We acknowledge that the communications and engagement around this work has not been managed well, and for this we are sorry. We appreciate the community has not had time to process this news nor understand more about the tree’s condition.

After listening to community concerns, we are planning discussions with some community representatives who have contacted us recently.

Community safety is at the heart of any decisions around the tree, and we understand the importance of involving the community in finding a way forward that balances the importance of the tree along with the risks it poses to the safety of our community.

Frequently asked questions

What type of tree is it?

The tree is a large Mountain Grey Gum.

Why is the tree being removed?

A recent arborist report has found the tree to be dangerous. It is of poor structure and has a split in the lower trunk.

Around 80 per cent of the tree’s wood is decayed as a result of a wood-rotting fungus, which means there is little structural wood remaining in the tree.

The tree is close to a main road, walking path and bus stop commonly used by school children, and poses an unacceptable risk to residents and visitors.

The tree looks healthy – how can it be so dangerous?

There is no doubt the tree’s leaf canopy is in good condition. However, the problem with the tree is its structure, not its health.

There is extensive decay at the base of the tree. The tree’s leafy canopy acts as a wind sail. The more canopy and leaves you have, the more wind it catches. The force of the wind becomes trapped into the decayed area at the base of the tree, putting the tree at risk of falling.

Why don’t you just cut the tree in half?

This would either kill the tree because of the lack of leaves that provide food to the trunk, or it could produce lots of regrowth. This regrowth tends to grow very rapidly, but they are not well attached to the main trunk and may fail at any time.

What reports and inspections on the tree have taken place recently?

An initial report was undertaken on the tree in November 2022, which recommended the tree be removed. Understanding the significance of the tree, our arborists sought a second opinion and organised for another arborist report mid-January 2023, where a tomograph was undertaken on the tree.

At first there were hopes the tree could be reduced down to a size where it could be retained, however once the tomograph was done, it showed the decay within the tree had increased to the point where pruning experts said retaining the tree was no longer a safe option.

Following that, Council spent time exploring other alternatives before coming to the unfortunate conclusion that removing the tree would be the safest option.

What steps have been taken to preserve the tree?

Following an arborist report in 2016 for this tree, Council has made numerous efforts to extend and preserve the life span of this tree.

That work has included regular arborist reports, dynamic cabling, bracing and pruning. Despite Council’s best efforts to preserve the tree, reports using a Sonic Tomograph – an instrument used for measuring decay and the structural integrity of trees – have also shown consistent and worsening degradation in the tree wood since 2016.

Currently two cables tied in the tree’s upper canopy are currently providing the main structural support for the tree.

How can a Sonic Tomograph record the structure of a tree?

A sonic tomograph sends sound waves through the tree’s trunk. A number of sensors are placed around the trunk that map the soundwaves, providing a diagram showing the extent of the decay.

Were there any other options to save the tree?

Council has looked at several options to retain the tree. This included reducing the tree to bring the canopy’s height down, but retain some of the branches and leaves so that it still looked like a tree.

However, because there was a crack in the base of the tree, a tomograph test was undertaken, which highlighted the extent of decay meant we could no longer safely pursue this option.

An option was considered to lop the tree down to a very low height, but there was a risk of regrowth that can grow very fast and become a further risk.

However, Council is willing to explore this option further with key community members over the coming days.

What steps would be taken to protect wildlife living in the tree’s hollows?

Council organises a Zoologist to attend the tree to see if any wildlife are in the tree before the works begin.

The Zoologist checks around the tree for any nests that might be in the tree. Any animals found in there can be kept in a bag where it’s dark so they feel safe. They are then released back into the wild during the night.

Has this tree been recognised for any indigenous or cultural heritage?

The tree does not have formal indigenous or cultural heritage, and is not on the list of heritage trees in the Yarra Ranges. However, we understand the tree is of great significance to the local community.

What is being planned to acknowledge the significance of this tree for the Warburton community?

In recognition of the tree’s significance within the Warburton community, Council would take steps to protect the wood from the tree as much as possible during removal, with the hope it could be made available to the community for use in art, furniture and other creative projects.

Any seeds found from the tree would also be collected for replanting in the area.

These options will continue to be explored as part of discussions with the community about how to honour the importance of this tree at the site.

More info

You can read the arborist’s report here

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