By Brendan Rees
Neighbours of a giant oak tree are fighting plans for it to be chopped down, arguing it is part of Berwick’s heritage.
But the owner of the Peel Street property on which the grand tree stands said he had taken “all reasonable and responsible action to retain” it after submitting an application to Casey Council to construct a two storey dwelling.
Kevin Lee, who has lived in Peel Street for about 35 years, was angered by the proposal, saying he believed the tree was planted nearly 100 years ago on an old homestead called ‘Caringa Farm’.
“It’s here for the people of Berwick you know, it’s always been here,” he said.
“I’ve got books here and the age of the tree. There’s a photograph here about 1918 of Caringa.”
Another opponent is Ashley White who said he had concerns of the tree being torn down despite being in “excellent health” and “wonderful form”.
“This tree can continue to provide an ongoing amenity to the neighbourhood in keeping with the significant landscape overlay for the area,” he said.
Although the oak tree is not listed in the City of Casey’s Significant Tree Register, Mr White contended Berwick was “littered with trees of historical and community significance,” but only a “fraction” were recorded in the register. “The list is incomplete and in desperate need of ongoing work,” he said.
Star News contacted several local historians however no records of Caringa Farm or the English oak tree were found.
The current owner of the property, Rez Rahim, said any claims that the tree was historic were “unsubstantiated” and produced a photo to Star News from 1999 real estate brochure that showed the tree in question was “still relatively young and smaller”.
Mr Rahim, a local spine and orthopaedic surgeon, said he loved the “leafy green feel of Berwick” and had purchased the block of land in November last year with the sole purpose of building his family home.
“We have explored all options to retain the tree but unfortunately due to the expansion of the large root system, it makes it impossible to build a home on the remaining land,” he said, adding he had planned to originally renovate the home but was told the “tree is causing damage to the footings of the existing dwelling”.
As part of the planning application an established new tree would be planted slightly forward of the existing location “making it even more sympathetic to the street scape and certainly more visible”, he said.
Casey Council planning and building manager Duncan Turner said the application was being considered by council to develop the land for a building and removal of vegetation.
“As the site is included within the significant landscape overlay, the proposed development must address the relevant objectives contained within the overlay,” Mr Turner said.
“When deciding on the application, council will assess it against the relevant planning controls and overlay that apply to this site.”
Any objections will be considered prior to council making a decision, Mr Turner said.