By David Kavanagh | posted on November 7, 2019
THE site set to house a new Baptist church in Denmark has begun to be cleared, prompting some residents to voice concerns about its environmental impacts.
More than a dozen trees were felled at Lot 166 at 987 South Coast Highway last week to make way for the building expected to be constructed there in the coming years.
Environmental activist and vocal critic of the new development Tony Pedro described the “destruction” he witnessed at the site as “pretty confronting”.
“They’ve totally clear filled some of Denmark’s most significant pieces of remaining karri and marri country, big trees that would be 200 to 300 years old,” he told the Weekender.
“Denmark doesn’t have a lot of mature trees because the timber industry in the late 1800s and early 1900s took out most of that country. These trees survived because they were within the town site.
“Now, a century or so later, our ethics don’t seem to have improved a great deal.”
Mr Pedro and a small group of other residents first raised concerns about the church’s potential environmental impacts during a public consultation process conducted by the Shire of Denmark earlier this year.
The Shire originally refused the church’s development application over worries the building would be used for purposes other than worship.
It approved the application in September after the church took the original decision to the State Administrative Tribunal for review.
Pastor Graeme Ritchie said the community had been “overwhelmingly supportive” throughout the process and denied the clearing was having a significant impact.
He said a majority of the trees cleared were smaller regrowth trees that displayed signs of rot and added the church intended to replant trees after the church had been built.
“We’ve tried in all sincerity to keep what we’ve needed to keep. That’s not the point anyway. It’s our property and we have permission to remove what we’ve removed.”
Mr Pedro said he did not believe the trees were rotten.
“They were very good examples of their species. To say they were rotten I find quite insulting to be honest,” he said.
“I’d say the church is rotten for doing what they’ve done.”
Clearing at the site should be completed sometime this week, with finals drawings expected to be considered by council in the next few months.