No punishment for felling trees on public land

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Almost gone… stumps remain as trees are removed in 2016 at the east side of the Brindabella College, near the Sullivans Creek drain. Photo: Lyneham Community Association

FOR quite a few years there have been tensions between the Lyneham Community Association and the Brindabella Christian College.

Paul Costigan.

The main focus here is not what the school corporation has been doing. Like all developers, they do what they do because they can.

The far more serious matter is how the ACT government deals with planning issues. Other community associations will be familiar with these problems.

You would expect that the local community would be informed when a private corporation (Brindabella Christian College) moved to take over a significant portion of a public oval. Not so when, in late 2014, the community discovered what was about to happen. The government’s response when questioned was that the community would benefit – what’s the problem?

What followed were angry meetings, the development application was withdrawn and reappeared in 2015. More meetings. One local member, Shane Rattenbury (Greens), took some convincing even though he attended the meetings. Later in 2015 he worked out that the community was right that public green spaces should not be handed over to a commercial entity for private use. Rocket science?

Just stumps remain of the removed trees in 2016 at the east side of the Brindabella College, near the Sullivans Creek drain. Photo: Lyneham Community Association

What sort of government thinks this was okay? Even more puzzling, who were the influencers behind the scenes? Why is the community voice treated as questionable and of lower priority than a commercial entity? These puzzles remain unanswered to members of the Lyneham community, who formed the Lyneham Community Association in response to this attack on public open spaces.

But let’s go back further. The same school had built a large facility thanks to the Rudd government money for school buildings. They had built it on what was their car park (their land). So what to do for a car park? They were granted a lease to take over part of the adjacent oval for another facility and ancillary car parking.

No sports facilities have ever appeared and when questioned on this recently, Minister Yvette Berry closed off the conversation because it was a matter between the corporation and government. Residents love that secret stuff between developers and government!

Removed trees in 2016 at the east side of the Brindabella College, near the Sullivans Creek drain. Photo: Lyneham Community Association

As for the car park, despite being told it was for public use, the corporation chained it off for private use. After a community effort this restriction was removed. Yes, it took community energy to get this private corporation to do what it was supposed to do and for the government to act. But still no sports facility and no more on this from Minister Berry.

Now to something more recent. In October, 2016, to make way for construction site offices, the same corporation had a line of significant trees removed. A few were on the corporation’s land, but most were on public land. After some community advocacy, the government tree officers agreed that this was not right. They offered to seek compensation from the corporation rather than apply the appropriate $90,000 fine. Several years later, not much has happened. Letters to an ACT minister, Chris Steel in this case, have resulted in spin and gobbledygook!

It is this simple: The corporate body that runs the Brindabella Christian College chopped down a swathe of significant trees and has not been punished for this misdemeanor. Good government?

People continue to wonder what are the connections between such private entities and the ACT government that results in rules being put aside. There is nothing subtle here. These events are a blatant example of how this Labor/Greens government’s decision processes have been corrupted – by processes not visible to the public.

The Lyneham Community Association is to be commended for its efforts to combat these continual questionable decisions and actions by the Labor/Greens ACT government.

The residents would much rather be putting energies into celebrating their wonderful neighbourhood. But annoying stuff involving developers and large corporations just keeps happening; they keep coveting their neighbour’s lands! Should we mention the realities of the commitment by this government to trees and open spaces – and therefore the climate?

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