By Cam Lucadou-Wells
Residents who maintain a Berwick laneway garden have accused Casey Council and its contractor of needlessly destroying scores of plants in recent years.
Joy Rainey has for years planted and tended a stunning variety of native shrubs and flowering groundcovers beside the short lane between Quarry Hills Drive and Princes Highway.
She says up to 80 trees and shrubs had been routinely destroyed by contractors’ weed killer or slasher in the lane as well as a nearby roadside reserve next to the highway in the past four years.
“It’s very worrying that the contractors in the City of Casey don’t seem to be able to recognise a weed from a native plant.”
Recently, whole shrubs were pulled out of the lane because walkers had complained to the council they feared of people hiding in the bushes.
Ms Rainey says the undergrowth was a haven for native birds not only to feed, but to hide from predators.
In recent weeks, some of the 20 replacement plants planted by Casey and volunteers were mistakenly sprayed by contractors.
Resident Geoff de Jonge said the contractor allegedly targeted “tiny blades of grass” with “wide circles of weedicide” that spread for metres across the lane’s garden bed,
“One contractor stated that he had been instructed by the Casey supervisor that not a blade of grass must remain.
“Why? I wonder, what is the mortal danger.
“Ratepayers pay twice, first for the planting and then for its destruction.”
Ms Rainey says mowing contractors had slashed more than 40 trees and shrubs – including some protected by garden stakes – from the nearby highway reserve in recent years.
Most of the native grasses – again good feed for native birds – had been lost.
“The mowing equipment … is too large, they go too fast and when spraying weedicides, they misidentify, overspray and allow drift to kill adjacent natives.”
She said some councils had banned spraying due to its toxicity to humans, animals and the soil’s worms and essential bacteria.
“It’s not a one off. It’s continuing,” Ms Rainey said.
“If it’s happening here, it’s happening all throughout the City of Casey.”
Residents have also confirmed similar destruction in a laneway between Tasman Place and Hobbs Court in Endeavour Hills.
Angelo Gaiardo said several shrubs planted by residents in the lane had been removed by Casey, with all but one of the replacement plants later destroyed by weedkiller.
Casey city presentation manager Dave Richardson said the council had recently removed the Quarry Hill Drive shrubs after people complained feeling unsafe walking at night.
“After consulting the resident who maintains the walkway, council removed the shrubs that would have been too woody if pruned and carried out pruning works on the other plants with the resident present.
“Council has been advised that a contractor mistakenly sprayed in this area despite being advised not to.
“The contractor has taken full responsibility for this and will be replacing the plants once they have ascertained what isn’t going to survive.”
Mr Richardson said the Tasman Place overhanging shrubs were removed and replaced due to shading the pathway and causing it to become slippery with moss.
“Council has not been made aware of any issues with weed spraying in this location.”
Mr de Jonge said Casey should adhere to its self-described goal to “protect” its “green and natural spaces”.
He said contractors should be appropriately skilled and have a value system consistent with the council’s goal.
“The lack of environmental care by supervisors and contractors is all too obvious.”