Hug a gum

TREE-HUGGERS—literally, they hugged the tree—have won a stay of execution for a mature white gum in Hilton that was just hours away from being axed and chipped.

Hannah Wilkins rushed across Chadwick Street, where she’s lived for 12 years, when she was awakened by the sounds of chainsaws. Workers had already toppled a large jacaranda and several other trees.

She quickly clamped her body around the surviving gum, vowing not to move, and was quickly joined by neighbours.

“It has to be one of the tallest trees in Hilton,” Ms Wilkins told the Herald.

“It’s beautiful and used by a large cross-section of wildlife, including birds and bees. Hilton is a suburb renowned for its heritage and gardens—it didn’t seem right.”

The property has been vacant for around eight months and is being cleared for infill housing.

Mayor Brad Pettitt says the property owner has agreed to postpone a decision on the tree until the new year: “She has verbally agreed to halt the chopping of the tree until we hold discussions on what can be done to save it,” he says.

• Nadja Kubalsky and Hannah Wilkins hug a gum to save it from the chipper. Photo by Matthew Dwyer

• Nadja Kubalsky and Hannah Wilkins hug a gum to save it from the chipper. Photo by Matthew Dwyer

“There should be some planning variations we can make to accommodate the development and the tree.”

Neighbour “Rus Bus” says he and other protesters were issued move-on notices by police, despite having already shifted from the property onto the public pavement.

“I’m gutted, the first thing I knew about it was when I woke up this morning,” he says.

“It’s a gorgeous tree, we want to keep it.

“We’ve already lost the jacaranda at the back.”

Neighbour Eva Day says the tree was one of the reasons she moved into Chadwick Street and she was happy to see locals taking a stand together.

Fremantle has a significant tree register which offers protection, but if the tree is on private land it is up to the landowner to voluntarily add the tree to the register.

Nadja Kubalsky says there should be incentives for landowners to add trees, otherwise they won’t bother.

According to a recent report by the sustainable futures institute, Fremantle has just 10.4 per cent canopy coverage—the second-worst rate in the greater Perth region. The council recently formed a green committee to improve it.


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