By Rowan Forster
Ratepayers of Ludlow Court, Beaconsfield claim they are serving as council’s “unpaid garden labourers” in their quest to tidy and maintain pest gum-trees lining their street.
The fight to have the Wallangarra White Gums removed has reportedly turned bitter, with residents slugged thousands of dollars to repair plumbing, water pipes and property foundations ravaged by “monstrous” roots.
Bob Pulford, 79, has been personally asked by Cardinia Shire to rake leaves into the gutter so a street sweeper can collect them, despite his age.
Mr Pulford said he and his ailing wife are forced to embark on a “never-ending” quest to tidy up the mess.
“Residents continue to devote countless hours to picking up after the trees and filling their own green waste bin with the residue,” he said.
“I recently spent $1,200 having a plumber repair water pipes beneath my en-suite that were damaged by the trees’ roots.
“There’s the ever full gutters and spouting that is clogged up, the loss of any opportunity to maintain an attractive and lush garden and the fear that huge limbs may well drop soon from any one of these massive trees and that someone or someone’s property will sustain serious injury or damage.”
Mr Pulford initially asked council to provide an additional green bin for the waste, but was told it “did not have the resources to do so.”
Eventually Cardinia Shire budged and allocated an additional bin and ramped up street sweeper visits, but it has not been enough to quell the neighbours’ concerns.
Barry Wilson, a botanist who lives in the court, said he is considering selling up because of the physical and financial burden brought on by the trees.
Mr Wilson’s neighbour, of 6 Ludlow Court, recently sold his property and relocated, apparently due to the issue.
“The way it is going, we won’t be far behind,” Mr Wilson said.
“It seems like the council are more concerned about the wellbeing of the trees than the wellbeing of the residents.
“We’ve already spent thousands of dollars, and we’re now just waiting for the day we get a knock at the door to find out one of the branches has fallen and hit a child.”
Council’s arborist Scott Mulholland acknowledged that the trees on Ludlow Court were of “fair to poor health”.
“(It is) due to the high insect infestation of psyllids, a sap-sucking insect, which cause excessive leaf drop,” he said.
“As the psyllid infestation is normally seasonal, most eucalypts can cope with high psyllid numbers for a couple of seasons, and recover after the psyllid population declines.
“In light of this, Council will not be removing the trees at this point in time but will continue to monitor the trees closely and will take appropriate action if there are further changes to the health and structure of the trees.”
According to the shire, there are 300 of the trees across the council area.
Acting general manager of assets and services Ben Wood said council were not considering the removal of trees.
“Removing healthy trees is not synonymous with good vegetation and environmental management,” he said.
“While council will continue to monitor these trees it is expected they will return to their usual good health in due course. As such, removing these trees is not deemed to be an appropriate response.
He also revealed each tree would cost at least $2500 to remove.