AUGUST 29, 2013: LIKE a recurring itch, the issue of removing troublesome trees in Naracoorte's main street has come back to the council.
Businesses located on the northern side of Smith St next to a row of lagunaria patersonii trees - also known as pyramid trees or by their detractors as "itchy pod" trees - last campaigned for their removal in 2009, but overwhelming community support to retain them defeated the move.
Now, a letter from accounting firm Armfield, Wallace and Munro complaining that the trees are having a direct impact on their business and other businesses located in the same building has revived the issue.
In a media release after last week's August council meeting, the council said: "The letter states that the trees are a hindrance to public safety, create an annoyance with dropping of the itchy powder nuts, and are damaging buildings via clogged gutters and drains.
"The trees are continuously intruding over the building where NBC Financial Services/Ogilvie Group, Armfield, Wallace and Munro Accountants and Munro and Mahney are located, blocking drains and gutters to the point that recently there was leaking inside the building through blocked drain pipes.
"The business is seeking a compromise such as planting a different tree, which do not have the annoyance factor or safety concerns.
"It is estimated it will cost $20,000 to remove the trees on Smith St and replace them with a mature specimen of a more suitable tree."
The council received similar letters of complaint from neighbouring businesses Jetset Travel and Maddies Cafe in 2009, and the problem had also been raised with the council four years before that.
At last week's council meeting, Cr Ken Schultz said trees and plants were a feature of Naracoorte's town centre, and the council's general aim should be to retain or plant trees rather than take them out.
"As soon as a tree gets up, grows and becomes useful, we want to cut it down," he said of other recent tree removals.
Cr Craig McGuire said he clearly recalled the last time the issue was aired, and he was sure the community would react the same way if asked if they wanted the trees retained. The public opposition to their removal was "the biggest outcry in my eyes" he had seen in his time in council.
He added that it was misleading that they were being called "itchy pod trees", as that was not their common name.
"I sympathise with people who are allergic to them, I sympathise with the businesses, but those trees were probably there before them," he said.
"I'd urge council not to waste money by going to public consultation."
Cr Brett Armfield asked if Cr McGuire had read the council's tree management policy, saying that it dealt with troublesome trees and he believed those in question fitted that category.
"As soon as they get a bit of weather, they become a problem," he said.
He said replacing the trees with a more appropriate species would be a good outcome.
At worst, he said the issue should go to public consultation so all the pros and cons of removing the trees could be debated.
"We need proper consultation...in my opinion, that didn't happen four years ago."
Cr Armfield - a director of Armfield, Wallace and Munro - clarified that he didn't think he had a conflict of interest as a councillor discussing the matter because he only represented one of several businesses which had complained about the trees over the years.
Cr John Flynn said the council had a "dearth of mature trees" and had to be careful about making snap judgments on removing those it had.
"If we remove too many of them, we will have a very denuded town centre."
But he agreed the matter should go to public consultation and the council had to ensure there was "better consultation than four years ago".
Cr Ken Schultz asked if the trees could be moved to another location, such as the memorial parklands, but was told that would be a very expensive exercise.
Councillors voted in favour of sending the proposal to public consultation.
Written submissions can be posted to PO Box 555, Naracoorte or emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org before 5pm on September 27.
Councillors also voted in favour of having a plane tree in front of the Naracoorte Police Station removed subject to budget availability and other priorities.
An independent engineering report noted that the tree was a contributing factor to cracking in the building's external walls and recommended the removal of the tree.
An independent arborist report suggested that although the tree was currently not a major problem it could be in the future and removal should be considered.
(This story appeared in the Naracoorte Herald on August 29, 2013).