PROTESTERS have registered their disgust at the removal of four large, ancient trees at Buangor as part of the Western Highway duplication project.
More than 15 protesters gathered with signs and banners along the edge of the highway on Monday morning as VicRoads’ scheduled clearing process continued.
The latest removal of vegetation, about 140 trees over an area of 0.3 hectares or 3000 square metres, will allow the connection of the Buangor bypass to a section of duplicated road east of Buangor.
We do empathise with the community and realise there are people who are quite upset about the removal of trees.Western Highway duplication acting project director Nicki Kyriakou
Many of the protesters represented the Western Highway Alternative Mindset Group.
WHAM spokesperson Helen Lewers said the group is advocating for an independent investigation into the VicRoads planning blunder that led to the destruction of almost 900 native trees earlier in the year.
“There needs to be an independent inquiry,” Ms Lewers said.
“I call on the Victorian government and the planning minister Richard Wynne to stop the project and have an independent investigation.
“Only then, when everything is found to be above board, can VicRoads renew.”
Western Highway duplication acting project director Nicki Kyriakou said VicRoads is preparing to release a statement regarding the findings of the planning blunder, but would not comment on specific details.
“We’ve been working with our consultant and the planning and environment department to work through the discrepancy (at Beaufort) and we’ll be coming out later this month with a statement on that,” Ms Kyriakou said.
“We do empathise with the community and realise there are people who are quite upset about the removal of trees,” she said.
“We’ve formed an environmental consultaion group which includes some concerned community group members to get them involved in the process and helping uis come up with better environmental outcomes.”
Eleven deaths have been recorded in on the highway between Ballarat and Stawell over the last five years.
Ms Kyriakou said efforts were being made to reduce the duplication’s environmental impact.
“We’ve actually reduced the impact on the environment, from what was originally identified in the ES (environmental safety) documents, from 110 hectares down to 69 hectares,” she said.
- The Ballarat Courier