Residents dig in to save Gandolfo Gardens

January 24, 2020
A community picket at Gandolfo Gardens on January 16. Photo: Contributed

The residents’ battle to save the trees in the historic Gandolfo Gardens is far from over, despite the Herald Sun’s claim that it “has ended”.

Local residents were evicted from the gardens on January 16, as part of the state government’s plans to remove level crossings at several stations. Only with a heavy police presence did the authorities manage to erect fences around the park.

Gandolfo Gardens was created by local residents in 1911 because of the lack of green space in Coburg. The campaign to save the trees has received independent advice from engineers, who insist that there are alternative construction methods that would not affect the trees.

But one of the Labor state government’s signature projects is the eradication of level crossings. The Level Crossing Removal Project (LXRP) has 113 trees in its sights, including some that are 100 years old,. About 40 of these are mature habitat trees, that are apparently in the way of the heavy equipment needed to install the elevated rail.

Residents agree with the engineers and have been turning up to the park in the early hours every day since being evicted. As the protesters have kept returning, LXRP managers and supervisors have become more aggressive.

Residents have been on high alert after hearing that all but one tree in Munro Street Linear Park, north of the Gandolfo Gardens, were razed on January 22. Residents only discovered the operation to destroy the trees as they were leaving for work. They had not been notified that the trees were going to be removed.

The LXRP site manager tried to stop a Channel 9 crew filming the destruction. The authorities were in such a hurry to get the job done quickly that they had hired five or six different arborist companies to do the job in a single day and in high wind – a condition that makes the work very dangerous. Only one company – McLeod Trees – had signage on their vehicle.

It will be a battle to save the Gandolfo Garden trees but residents are committed to trying. While the trees are still standing, there is still a chance to save them.

[Sue Bolton is a Socialist Alliance councillor on Moreland Council. Visit the protest at the corner of Moreland Road and Station Street, Coburg. Sign on to the mailing list and like Upfield Corridor Coalition on Facebook.]

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