By CAM LUCADOU-WELLS
A FUTURE land developer has been unable to be linked to the illegal destruction of 53 native trees on the former Doveton College site.
During the large-scale felling in April, mature and healthy gum trees were cut down to stumps.
A tree lopper recently pleaded guilty in Dandenong Magistrates’ Court, copping a $5000 fine without conviction – and ordered to pay Casey Council’s costs.
In a Casey Council statement, the magistrate was described as “outraged on behalf of the community” by the act.
The developer, whose identity has not been disclosed by Casey Council, bought the 58,000 square-metre site for $10.6 million in May 2014.
Casey planning manager Duncan Turner said the landowner – the state education department – stated they didn’t consent to the works.
“Further there was no evidence available to link the future land developer directly with the lopping works.
“Council will be considering offset planting obligations for the loss of the trees as part of the future site development approval.”
Councillor Wayne Smith said the clearing was “disappointing”, depriving the council of a say in which of the native trees should be kept in the future housing development.
He said the developer could potentially further profit from the cleared space.
The act undermined the council’s native vegetation controls requiring a permit to legally remove trees.
The vandalism also undermined the council’s specific regulations for the site that developments must incorporate any significant native vegetation in the design.
It must maintain the “long-term, sustainable health and condition of existing vegetation” and avoid the dripline of any retained river red gum trees, the regulations state.
At the time of the prosecution, mayor Sam Aziz said the prosecution gave a “serious reminder” to industry professionals and developers to check with the council before clearing trees.
“With a growing population, trees provide a very important habitat, wildlife corridor and visual amenity aspect in Casey.
“Illegal vegetation removal will not be tolerated and the council will take enforcement action when there is a clear breach of the planning regulations.”
Prior to its sale, the former campus was promoted as a residential development opportunity with four street frontages, adjoining parkland and a nearby golfcourse.
It has been earmarked for medium-density housing by the council.