Shellharbour councillor wants red cedar plantings

History: Shellharbour's Cr Peter Moran with the red cedar trees at Albion Park Showground. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

History: Shellharbour's Cr Peter Moran with the red cedar trees at Albion Park Showground. Picture: GREG TOTMAN

The strategic planting of red cedar trees by Shellharbour City Council will help restore the species to its former dominant position, according to Shellharbour councillor Peter Moran.

The proposal by Cr Moran to have red cedar trees planted on council-owned land has received the backing of council staff, who have proposed Stony Range, Blackbutt Reserve and Alex Hoffman Reserve at Mt Warrigal.

Cr Moran said there were "historical and environmental reasons" for his proposal.

"They were once one of the dominant features of the landscape of the area and now they are not," Cr Moran said.

"Red cedars are very significant to the history of the area - it is important we retain as much of that history as possible."

It was also important to restore the species' "position of dominance".

Council staff said the known populations of red cedar in Shellharbour City were mainly along the escarpment in National Parks and on private land.

However, there were 18 trees of various ages at the Albion Park Showground, and 10 were recently planted at Deakin Reserve, Oak Flats.

A report to be presented at Tuesday night's council meeting says previous attempts to establish groves in suburban areas had proven difficult as they tended to be attacked by the tip moth borer.

"This borer causes stunted growth at an early age, creating a shorter-canopied tree, in contrast to the tall slender trees found in their natural habitat," the report said.

The council will look to incorporate the planting of red cedar trees into its National Tree Day program.

Forest giants ruthlessly exploited

With a natural distribution from Ulladulla in the south to the northern tip of the continent, red cedar was once one of the most widely distributed and useful timbers in eastern Australia.

It provided early settlers with timber for export as well as wood for houses, furniture and wagons.

The Illawarra was particularly abundant in cedar with its ideal humid climate between the ranges and the sea.

In 1821, William Charles Wentworth became the first official cedar getter in Shellharbour and was granted rights to cut timber between Mount Terry and the Minnamurra River.

However, it is estimated colonists had been illegally cutting and transporting cedar from the giant cedar forests since 1810.

Cedar was cut by teams of three men who could fell as much as 2000 feet of timber in a normal week.

At first transporting cedar from Shellharbour overland to the port at Wollongong for shipping to Sydney was virtually impossible, which led to tracks being created to the small, protected harbour at Peterborough (Shellharbour), which was ideal for shipping.

Planks were floated from the beach on crude rafts to vessels for transportation to Sydney.

By the 1850s cedar had been ruthlessly exploited and the cedar forests of Shellharbour (and the Illawarra) had all but vanished.

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