Douglas Shire residents woke this morning to a vastly different view on the corner of Wharf and Macrossan Streets after tree lopping contractors removed mature mango trees from the Courthouse Hotel site at 7.00am.
Charles Warren, General Manager Group Projects QLD, Hilrok Hotel Group spoke to DNN’s Natalie Johnson on site this morning advising concerns surrounding Avian Flu and occupational health and safety had led to an application to the Douglas Shire Council requesting approval for the trees to be removed.
Following the discussion on site, Mr. Warren forwarded a written response advising,
“the mango trees have become an increasing public health issue over recent years affecting guests and staff over public and private properties
Noel Weare from the Douglas Shire Historical Society, whose family has a long association with the Courthouse Hotel as former publicans, estimates some of the mango trees possibly date back to the 1940s.
“I never had any problems with birds in the mango trees. The biggest problem was having to give people free drinks when mangoes dropped into their beer!”
Whilst Mr. Weare acknowledged the trees could be messy, and giving out free beer was not ideal, he felt “the trees were more important.”
A copy of the development application was not available on the Douglas Shire Council website this morning and has been requested by DNN, which at the time of writing, had not been received.
It is understood the removal of the trees under the current Planning Scheme would be ‘Code Assessable’, meaning public notification was not required. However, up until 31 March 2020, code assessable development applications were available for public viewing on the Douglas Shire Council website from the time they were lodged through to approval with accompanying documents.
Code Assessable development applications are handled by Council Officers, with consultation or approval not required to be sought from Councillors. However, given the nature of the trees in question, their age, and significance to the aesthetic of Port Douglas, DNN has contacted all Douglas Shire Councillors today for comment regarding their removal and will follow up with any responses received as they come through.
Under the current Douglas Shire Planning Scheme, the removal of trees on private land is protected under the ‘Vegetation Management Code’, with most areas of the Shire also subject to additional management provisions in Locality and Planning Area Codes.
Part 7: Local Plans, notes applications should ensure development in Macrossan and Warner Streets “provides for the retention and enhancement of existing mature trees and character vegetation that contribute to the lush tropical character of the town,” backed by Schedule 6.7 – Existing Vegetation, which notes vegetation, “significantly enhances the character and visual appeal of an area as well as providing an established habitat for local wildlife.”
DouglasNews.Network will continue to investigate the removal of the trees over the coming days.