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Across rural Victoria, some of the finest remaining vegetation exists along roadsides. Native vegetation connects parks and reserves, provides corridors and habitat for wildlife, and adds beauty and amenity to our landscapes.
Yet across the state, many of these reservoirs of nature are being destroyed by VicRoads for various stated reasons. For example, the freight industry demands shorter travel times between major centres. In western Victoria, tens of thousands of magnificent Red Gum trees have been destroyed as part of an upgrade of the Western Highway which will save drivers only 2 minute’s travel time between Beaufort and Ararat. Many of these trees were more than 500 years old.
In the Box-Ironbark country around Rushworth, where only 17% of the original vegetation type still exists, residents are mobilising to protect roadside trees of great value.
There are many examples around Victoria where VicRoads has destroyed roadside vegetation rather than consider other options. In some instances there are alternative routes. In others, improvements for safety reasons can be made by using alternative design features. Rail improvements can be undertaken to significantly reduce freight volumes being carried by road. Yet VicRoads acts as a law unto itself, ignoring community sentiment.
We feel that the time has come to set up a state-wide network of local people and groups which will work to protect the roadside treasures that line the roadways of Victoria. We will share information, highlight the costs of legal and ‘accidental’ clearing by VicRoads, and lobby for a more cautious approach to managing and building roads: one that protects roadusers and the environment.
We would welcome your involvement in these efforts. Please check the website saveroadsidetrees.com for further information. If you see roadside vegetation happening please post photos on the site.
Western Highway Alternative Mindsets (WHAM)
Cam Walker, Friends of the Earth
Rushworth Action Group for the Environment (RAGE)