GEORGE NEWS - An outcry from local conservationist Monica Vaccaro and residents of Camphersdrift (Ward 3) compelled George Municipality to stop a contractor who began felling some giant Eucalyptus trees in that area on Tuesday 30 March.
The contractor was working on orders of the municipality. The latter has since undertaken to obtain an opinion from an expert from outside the Southern Cape on the merits of keeping the particular trees.
According to an unhappy Camphersdrift resident who is a professional in the timber industry, Eucalyptus trees use a lot of water but they give a lot more to the ecosystem and environment through transpiring and creating rain, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and supporting substantial bee communities, insects and raptors.
The giant-sized trees get water from deep down and have little bearing on the flow of stream and rivers. Rather, the young alien trees growing prolifically along river and stream systems should be targeted as they have an impact on the water flow.
"In this instance the felled trees were 100m from the riparian zone or river. The felled trees were being cubicated on site and were probably being felled for commercial reasons only."
He said there should have been a public consultation process as the felled trees were in a public space. "They could still have grown for many, many years. Bluegums grow over 200 years."
'Need for tree committee of experts'
Vaccaro said the contractor went for the oldest, biggest trees. "The first two to go were the biggest - 1,16m and 1,24m in diameter respectively. These trees may be well over 60 years which means they could have heritage status. The same happened in Blanco where only the biggest ones were removed. The rest were left in the river."
She made a plea for a tree committee of experts to be established. "They can give their input so that educated decisions are made based on expert knowledge. We have lost many of our oak trees as well as indigenous trees. We need to be more circumspect about the management of our trees."
According to the Nemba (National Environmental Management Biodiversity Act) Alien and Invasive Species Regulations, gum trees in urban areas are not listed for removal if they have a diameter of more than 400mm when measured at a height of 1m from the ground. The trees that were cut off in Camphersdrift were mostly bigger than this.
George Municipality said the bluegum trees are classed as Category 1a under Nemba and must therefore be removed and destroyed immediately.
It said resurrecting a tree committee (which had existed previously) is being considered.
"It is agreed that the black wattles in Camphersdrift in the riverbed must be dealt with, but the municipality has a limited alien clearing budget. The areas selected for clearance of aliens are in spots where human safety is a priority. The contractor has been doing the cutting of very large trees for the George Municipality at no cost, thus saving the taxpayer sums in excess of R200 000," said the municipality.
Vaccaro commented, "If human safety was part of the motivation for cutting down the trees, why did they start with the ones farthest from the houses?"
'We bring you the latest George, Garden Route news'