Heartbreak over felled tree

By Charlotte Wooldridge | posted on November 19, 2020

THE felling of a century-old “magical” tree in Denmark has sparked a blame game between private and public offices over whether the tree even needed to be removed in the first place.

The 1900s-planted fig tree was situated on Lot 275 Beaufortia Gardens in Springdale Beach, a piece of private land owned by developer LWP Property Group.

During last fortnight’s clearing works, LWP bulldozed the tree and all surrounding vegetation, despite a February 2018 agreement outlined in a letter to nearby residents that the tree would remain.

LWP Executive Chairman Danny Murphy said they were simply following Shire clearing requirements to protect the community against possible bushfires.

“During recent clearing work a fig tree which has been on our property for many years was felled,” he said.

“Whilst we make every effort to carefully consider the local amenity, at this time we have remained very focused on the need to ensure we are bushfire ready to help further protect lives and property against the threat of bushfires in WA.”

According to LWP, the 2018 plan which guaranteed the retention of the fig tree was rejected by Council, due to the Shire wanting the land retained as a “tourist precinct”, making their promise to residents null and void.

Therefore, when ensuring “stringent bushfire protection” was in place in the bushland areas surrounding its Springdale Beach project, LWP removed the tree as part of those works.

However, Shire of Denmark Acting CEO David Schober said that had LWP sought clarification over the Shire’s Fire Control Notice, it is likely the tree could have remained in place.

“Any property owner or occupier can apply for a variation to the Fire Management Notice (FMN). LWP at no time applied for a variation,” he said.

“The vegetation in question is fire retardant and these considerations would be taken into account.

“The Shire has not previously had an issue with the tree.

“Property managers can provide alternative fire breaks if they desire and work with Rangers to achieve the intent of the FMN.”

Local resident Emma McKay said she and her family were devastated when they arrived at the property to find the tree destroyed.

“We moved to the Springdale Beach estate three and a half years ago,” she said.

“My hubby is a FIFO worker, so it was always nice to get out of the house and go for a magical walk through the pines.

“The fig tree was the perfect place for the kids and I to recharge in nature.”

Ms McKay said the whole community had been devastated by the loss.

“When you discussed the fig tree with other residents, everyone’s face would light up,” she said.

“It has provided so many memories and I felt so blessed to have this magical tree in our area.

“It cannot be replaced, and my kids are heartbroken.”

A Denmark resident, who wished to remain anonymous, said the developer should be held accountable for their actions.

“At the very least they should be forced to try and replant it. They didn’t say, ‘we made a mistake’, they’re saying they’ve bulldozed to clear it for fire control,” they said.

“There are lots of trees around here that are not native but they don’t get bulldozed, so they clearly just wanted to bulldoze the area, but now they’re claiming they’re doing it for fire control and trying to put it back on the Shire, which is just wrong and total bulls**t.”

However, LWP was clear in their message to the Weekender.

“At this time, we have had to prioritise to ensure we are bushfire ready to help protect lives and property against the threat of bushfires in WA,” Mr Murphy said.

“As a result, the Springdale Beach project area has seen significant clearing of shrubs, weeds and trees not endemic to the locality to protect existing residents.”