Hilltops Council accused of environmental vandalism

The Hovells Creek Landcare Group have expressed their concern to Hilltops Council over what they have called 'environmental vandalism.'

"Hovells Creek Landcare Group (HCLG) expressed serious concern to Dr Edwina Marks, the General Manager of Hilltops Council, about what it called an act of environmental vandalism," HCLG chair Dr Gordon Refshauge said.

According to Dr Refshauge the group complained that Council plant operators working in its area, had 'quite unnecessarily' destroyed an 74x15m area of Acacia decora (Western Silver Wattle) a known food for the Superb Parrot.

"Furthermore, the large patch of acacias was next to an LLS-managed Travelling Stock Reserve, where HCLG has undertaken extensive tree and shrub planting with funding support from CMA/Local Land Service," Dr Refshauge said.

In its letter, HCLG noted that the length of road where the damage occurred was classified as having 'High Conservation Value' in the former Boorowa Council's 'Roadside Vegetation Management Guidelines'.

"Unfortunately the guidelines, which state, 'Only do what you have to do and cause as little disturbance as possible', had been completely ignored," Dr Refshauge said.

"HCLG's Committee feels this suggests a lack of concern for environmental issues and therefore feels that in the circumstances the matter needs to be aired more widely."

However, Hilltops Council General manager Edwina Marks said Council had cleared the trees as they were a road safety issue a statement the Deputy Chair, of Hovells Creek Landcare Group John Baker described as rubbish.

Mr Baker said in one of several responses the group had received Dr Marks acknowledged that an operator had gone off track without relevant permissions and that it was a training and planning issue.

He also said the council had agreed to replant the area a move he said was "a bit strange if it had been cleared for road safety"

"Council has the authority to clear trees as part of its road management activities," Dr Marks said.

"This is part of Council's road safety responsibility to provide adequate visibility for drivers."

According to Dr Marks Council understand the importance of balancing its responsibilities with the preservation of environmentally important species and are working with the HCLG to come up with a guide for the future.

"Council are working with the Office of Environment and Heritage and the Hovells Creek Landcare Group to develop a set of Hilltops guidelines to identify protected species and to conduct a review to update the 2014 Boorowa Shire Guidelines on the clearing of roadside vegetation," Dr Marks said.

"As part of this process, Council will be providing staff with improved training in relation to species identification."

Dr Marks said Council will continue to work with Hovells Creek Landcare Group in relation to a tree replanting program in the Frogmore area.