SCC Urged to Reconsider Decision to Chop Down Fruit Trees in UFS

Western Australia Councilor Chris Cornish is urging the Sunshine Coast Council (SCC) to consider reducing the red tape around verge gardens – after council workers cut down 18 fruit trees in the Urban Food Streets (UFS) precinct at Buderim.

The gardens span 11 streets and provide sufficient produce to feed approximately 200 households – but the council has decided that if residents do not obtain free permits and take out public liability insurance on the land, the trees would be removed. So far, more that 20 residents have received permits, while others have continued to refuse on principle.

According to the Insurance Council of Australia, public liability insurance is generally included in any household policy – extending to liabilities arising from incidents that would occur on a nature strip or verge. Since it’s easy to get this coverage, there would be no reason to “expose every resident” of the Sunshine Coast to the additional cost of insuring against it, said SCC’s director of community services, Coralie Nichols.

“It’s not a difficulty for homeowners to extend their insurance to cover the verge for this purpose,” she said. “Of the 23 residents who’ve actually taken permits, they have also successfully gained insurance in that space.”

Nichols added that the process is straightforward and in line with the policy of other councils. However, City of Bayswater councilor Cornish was shocked by the response.

“That is just so harsh – I mean, how is a resident meant to go and get (insurance) over what is public land?” he said. “In Bayswater, any resident can do whatever they want on their verge in terms of planting things, including raised garden beds. They don’t need approval, they don’t need to get insurance because we’ve sorted that out.”

More than two years ago, Bayswater removed the requirements for permits or insurance – enabling residents to grow verge gardens similar to those in UFS. In fact, a number of other Australian councils also provide public liability insurance for verge gardens, including the City of Sydney and the Waverley Council in New South Wales. While some of these councils do require residents to apply for a permit, Bayswater simply asks residents to follow a short set of guidelines.

“Keep the two meters next to the road flat if you don’t already have a footpath there for pedestrians, don’t have poisonous plants, and other than that, people can do whatever they want,” he said. “It just makes so much sense to make productive use of our assets, and the land on the verges is an asset. Let’s use it productively.”

Still, Nichols said the SCC has been very supportive of the UFS’ “fantastic initiative,” and has worked with the community to sort out issues since last November. She said the SCC would even be open to more parts of the Sunshine Coast getting on board with the project.

“The issue is that we want to set some standards for how it is rolled out – what it looks like, how safe it is – and we do that through a permit system that’s governed by our local laws,” Nichols said.

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4 thoughts on “SCC Urged to Reconsider Decision to Chop Down Fruit Trees in UFS

  1. I have two very conflicting opinions that I’m trying to resolve in reading this story (here and elsewhere).
    Firstly, something is seriously messed up in our culture if we destroy fruit trees which can take decades to grow, and provide significant benefit to both residents (human and otherwise) and land, and we do it simply because a permit was not obtained (which shouldn’t even be necessary).

    Secondly, if the city tells you to do something so stupid, but also so easy, just go freakin’ do it before they do something stupider and cut down the trees.

    If it gets to the point where the city destroys the trees, I’m not sure who is stupider, the city, or the idiot that didn’t take an hour out of his day to get a permit. I’m sure the answer is all of the above.

    1. Can’t disagree with you! However, I think it’s safe to say that the greater sin here is destroying — in this time of a looming climate change emergency and food crisis — anything that is providing sustenance. The time, energy and money it took to cut down the fruit trees could have been spent meeting and talking with the homeowners (who, as taxpayers, are the verge owners).

  2. I was so very disappointed with the totally unnecessary destruction of the fruit trees. In my opinion it was a show of strength by the council for reasons we can only guess at.
    The verges look very generous in width and the council needs to mark out a footpath if traffic mixing with people was a real issue.
    If the council was acting on one complaint, I’m of the view that democracy is allowing the majority’s reasonable ideas to prevail.

    As mentioned on other forums would the council have razed privately planted ornamental trees?

    All the best to UFS schemes everywhere and may this hiccup lead to really positive approaches in the future that can be used to avoid any conflicts of views. Our children deserve a safe and nurturing street environment and UFS appears to be a fabulous option.

  3. I have had several conversations with my local government about planting fruit trees along public walk-ways and they had some viable concerns, parking safety while harvesting (not blocking traffic or forcing people off the walk-ways), walking safety (hazard of falling on fallen fruits) , harvesting safety (falling from trees and poles hitting power lines) and pest control (spoiled fruits lure pests that are aggressive to walkers). What my town officials have done is installed beautiful built raised beds (donated by local builders) & wine barrels and volunteers have planted them with herbs, perennials, seasonal veggies and ornamental plants. Our town hangs beautiful flower baskets, runs a watering truck and they also water the mixed veggie beds on their morning route. Anyone can walk through town and pick-a-meal. I’ve run out of something and have picked fresh herbs myself!

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