Tree removal due to chestnut blight risk

(Media Release - 8 August 2011)

Following extensive investigations and scientific input from an expert in chestnut blight, Alpine Shire Council has reluctantly agreed not to oppose a Department of Primary Industries (DPI) order to remove oak trees from Coronation Avenue in Bright.

The DPI has issued a notice of destruction for the trees that fall within 100 metres of infected chestnut trees discovered on a nearby property and destroyed earlier in the year.

This is the only location affected within Bright since the first Australian case of the exotic disease was discovered at Eurobin in September last year.

More than 4000 chestnut trees were removed from nine sites across the Ovens Valley after the DPI adopted a zero-tolerance strategy to eradicate the disease.

The DPI has advised council that that oak trees within 100m of a contaminated chestnut tree can carry the blight, which can lay dormant for many years and can often be difficult to detect.

Chief Executive Officer Ian Nicholls said that all other options had been fully investigated before the decision was arrived at.

“The Council have given the issue serious consideration and while we are all saddened by the loss of the trees, we can understand the reasons behind the removal that has been ordered by the DPI,” he said.

“Regrettably, on the expert advice available, council has been left with no other option but to ensure that the chestnut growers and all other oak trees in the Ovens Valley are protected, so this means the removal of these trees.”

Given the proximity of the oak trees to infected chestnut trees, failure to remove them will threaten the health of all oak trees in the country and place the local chestnut industry at risk.

“The Alpine Shire is renowned for its wonderful trees and council understands that there will be some disquiet in the community,” Mr Nicholls said.

“However, it would be irresponsible for us not to listen to the expert opinion we have received and while no-one wants to see these trees removed we cannot take any chances of infecting any other trees or ruining the chestnut industry which contributes over $8million a year to the economy”

Of the twelve public trees to be removed over half are not considered significant specimen trees.

Compensation will now be sought to ensure a speedy replacement with advanced trees.

Mr Nicholls stressed that the chestnut blight outbreak emphasised the importance of our quarantine laws.

“This issue reaffirms the importance of keeping pest diseases out of the country and we are very concerned when the government then allows fruit from overseas into the local market, such as the recent decision with apple imports and the potential of fire blight on local industry,” he said.

The DPI will perform doorknocks on properties along Coronation Avenue this week before removal works start later this month.

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