UNDER THREAT - FROM - MELBOURNE METROPOLITAN RAIL AUTHORITY AND THE VICTORIAN GOVERNMENT

Hundreds of trees to get the chop

Hundreds of St Kilda Road trees to get the chop as part of Metro tunnel project

Farrah Tomazin

Melbourne gets first glimpse at new Metro tunnel

According to the environmental effects statement, about 900 trees could be removed along the tunnel route – including up to 223 trees in the precinct surrounding the Shrine of Remembrance, where a new underground station will be built.

This would result in “a high residual impact” on St Kilda Road, which is lined with plane trees and elms – many planted in the late 19th century – and is one of “Victoria’s most significant landscapes”.

St Kilda Road residents are concerned at the loss of trees from the area, including some trees from the 1800s. Photo: Penny Stephens

“Construction of the proposed Domain Station would require full clearance of a defined area, including extensive tree removal for the establishment of the construction work site and station box, and removal of the existing tram stop and other infrastructure,” the documents say.

Residents say it is not clear how many trees will be returned, whether they will be replaced by the same species, or how long this could take given the Metro rail project – a nine-kilometre twin tunnel between South Yarra and South Kensington – won’t be complete until 2026.

Hundreds of St Kilda Road trees to get the chop as part of Metro tunnel project

“This boulevard that we have in Melbourne is often regarded as one of the finest of its kind,” said Fraser Read-Smith, who lives on Albert Road and is part of a residents’ group, G12, which represents people in 12 apartment blocks around the area.

“It’s a beautiful strip of Melbourne, so we have to ensure that, while the Metro project must go ahead, the St Kilda Road boulevard is reinstated as soon as possible. So far, we’re not being told what the outcome is going to be. We know the trees are going, so it’s a question of how, when, and what they’re going to be replaced with.”

The trees on St Kilda Road near the Shrine of Remembrance could be cut down. Photo: Paul Rovere

News of the environmental impact comes only days after the government awarded the first major contract for the project: a $324 million package for construction company John Holland to begin preparatory work next year on three massive shafts for the CBD North station at Franklin and A’Beckett streets, and CBD South beneath the city square.

The EES, which is open for public comment until July 6, also reveals that the construction would result in:

Tree-lined St Kilda Road.  Photo: Craig Abraham

  • Obstructed views around the Shrine and residential apartments on St Kilda Road and Albert Road.
  • Moderate to high visual impacts for recreational users of J.J. Holland Park, University Square, Queen Victoria Gardens and Fawkner Park.
  • Dust particles, less foot traffic and reduced customer access for city businesses.
  • Residents potentially needing to relocate temporarily if “unavoidable” after-hours construction causes too much noise and vibration.

Opposition spokeswoman Margaret Fitzherbert accused Premier Daniel Andrews of “rushing to get a political headline with no regard for the impact on the local community.”

“Instead of planning the configuration of the station and road first, Daniel Andrews is going to cut down hundreds of trees and worry about the details later,” she said. “Bulldozing every single tree in the Domain construction zone is cheap and nasty and will leave scars for decades.”

But Public Transport Minister Jacinta Allan said: “We are doing everything we can to minimise the impact of this massive project on trees, property and people – but we’re not waiting. The former Liberal government wasted four years ignoring the Metro Tunnel and we refuse to make the same mistake. We’re building it, and work starts in weeks.”

A spokesman for the Melbourne Metro Rail Authority said more than 900 replacement trees would be planted by the end of the project. Asked about the need for residents to relocate, the spokesman replied: “Temporary relocation during works will be provided on a case-by-case basis, if work that creates significant noise