West Wimmera Shire Council orders tree removal permit go to mediation

West Wimmera Shire Council has ordered a tree removal permit application go to mediation.

West Wimmera Shire Council has ordered a tree removal permit application go to mediation.

A KANIVA farmer whose bid to remove trees was rejected by the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal will have to discuss his proposal with objectors.

In February last year, West Wimmera Shire Council approved farmer Stephen Rich’s planning permit application to remove 34 trees on his land.

However, the decision was overturned after objectors took the issue to VCAT

Now Mr Rich has applied again to council to remove 24 trees to improve agricultural machinery access on his property.

At a meeting on Thursday, council was divided about whether to approve the permit, but eventually voted to organise mediation between Mr Rich and objectors to the application. Cr Bruce Meyer said if the issue didn’t go to mediation, it would end up in VCAT again.

“There is an opportunity here for both parties to be satisfied,” he said.

“We failed to mediate before, and that led to a VCAT conclusion. If we fail to do it again, no trees will come out and we might be back in VCAT again.”

Cr Meyer said he wasn’t against the permit. “There is nothing worse than trees you can’t get around,” he said.

“However, if leaving a certain number will satisfy some of the objectors then we need to look at that.”

Council has received five objections to the permit.

Objectors believe the trees provide a visual aspect in town and if they were removed there would be an increased wind and decrease in native birds, mammals and insects. 

Mr Rich will provide a native vegetation offset if the permit is approved.

Cr Ron Hawkins said he was flabbergasted council wouldn’t approve the permit.

“If this is the state we are getting to in our country with farming application, then we will be in for a sorry state in the future,” he said.

“To do anything other than approve the permit will be deviating significantly from what this council has done – we have been pro agriculture development.”

Cr Meyer and Mayor Annette Jones voted for mediation and Cr Hawkins and Cr Richard Wait voted again. 

Cr Jones cast the deciding vote for mediation.

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