The threat of legal action has brought a halt to work on removing the ‘‘bum tree’’ on Gerroa Road.
Shoalhaven City Council general manager Russ Pigg confirmed yesterday there had been a stay of execution for the tree until at least Friday due to possible legal action.
It is understood a case is being prepared to go before the Land and Environment Court to stop the tree’s removal.
“There is some sort of legal action pending, just where that goes at this stage I have no idea, but in the interim we have stopped any planned removal of the bum tree,” Mr Pigg said.
“After consulting our legal advisers we agreed to give the person proposing the legal action until the end of the week.”
Mr Pigg said he made the decision in consultation with other staff and council’s legal adviser
“Rather than rush in and knock everything down ... we want to give the possible proposer the opportunity to put their case.
‘‘If the proposed action doesn’t come forward or until we see what the case is about, works will continue to proceed but the bum tree won’t be removed at this stage,” Mr Pigg said.
Contractors, who have been on site since last week, are still working on the southern side of the intersection.
Council received Black Spot funding to widen Gerroa Road at the intersection with Beach Road and has removed several trees and undergrowth up to six metres along the edge of the roadway.
The removal of the well-known bum tree, just north of the Beach Road intersection, had originally been planned for today.
The 45-metre 400-year-old blackbutt was due to have its upper limbs removed yesterday and a crane was to be on site today to remove the base of the trunk.
The work was being carried out under section 88 of the Roads Act which states: ‘‘A roads authority may, despite any other act or law to the contrary, remove or lop any tree or other vegetation that is on or overhanging a public road if, in its opinion, it is necessary to do so for the purpose of carrying out road work or removing a traffic hazard’’.
“That’s a pretty telling piece of legislation,” Mr Pigg said.
“In the opinion of the road authority, work can be undertaken to remove a traffic hazard.
“As the authority we are still obligated to consider environmental issues and council’s environmental officer has done that.
“Council certainly looked at the issue of the habitat in context of the total national park habitat and came to the conclusion from an environmental point of view that the removal of the limited number of habitat trees wouldn’t have adverse or significant impact on the environment.’’
The problem at the intersection was the sight distance of vehicles entering Gerroa Road from Beach Road, he said.
“These trees don’t allow proper sight vision.”
Gerroa Environmental Protection Society president Warren Holder said it was great to see a stay on the bum tree’s removal.
“I don’t know how long it will last,” he said.
“But who knows where it could lead.”
Mr Holder said support for the group’s effort was continuing and members would hold another meeting at the site today from 9am to pass on the latest information.