More than 30,000 trees will be planted for the Andrews Labor Government’s North East Link – Victoria’s largest ever road project.
Approximately 16,000 trees are expected to be removed based on the current reference design, which is subject to an Environment Effects Statement (EES) due out soon. Around 75 per cent of these are in areas already reserved for road upgrades, alongside the M80 Ring Road in Greensborough and the Eastern Freeway.
For each tree removed two will be replanted, and Banyule Flats, Warringal Parklands and the Yarra River will be protected by a six-kilometre tunnel from the barracks to Bulleen Road near the Eastern Freeway.
Based on the current reference design, 52 hectares of native vegetation and a further 10,000 trees in the project boundary could also be impacted, but the final number won’t be known until the detailed designs are complete.
Once builders are appointed they will be held to tough requirements to avoid as many trees as possible. For every tree or patch of vegetation to be removed, the builders will need to demonstrate why it has to go.
The replanting program will prioritise replacing trees and will aim to create green buffers between communities and the North East Link and upgraded Eastern Freeway, particularly near noise walls.
Planting will also shade new and upgraded paths, enhance open spaces and improve the look and feel of the area. The project is using laser scanning and ground surveys to digitally map trees and their canopy coverage across the project to identify where trees could be planted to maximise community and environmental benefits.
The current reference design requires the removal of a significant River Red Gum, located on busy Bridge Street, Bulleen within the Caltex Service Station site. Builders will be asked to find a way that protects the historic tree, estimated to be 300 years old, however, this will be challenging.
The project team has been looking at ways to preserve the tree, that sits in a challenging location near entry and exit points for twin tunnels that pass under the Yarra River, protecting environmental and residential areas.
The tree replacement program for North East Link is starting now, well before major construction starts, with specialists starting to collect seeds from the historically important River Red Gum in Bulleen from this week.
The project is looking at how local communities can be involved in growing trees and replanting, and is considering sustainable ways to use timber from removed trees for community projects and biodiversity benefits.
An Environment Effects Statement for the project will soon be released for public submissions. Community sessions start on Saturday 27 April – the full list can be seen at northeastlink.vic.gov.au.
Quotes attributable to Minister for Transport Infrastructure Jacinta Allan
“North East Link will have the largest tree replanting program ever undertaken on a Victorian road project.”
“We’re ensuring more trees are planted than removed as we deliver this long-awaited project.”
Quote from North East Link CEO Duncan Elliott
“Well before major construction starts we’ll have growing programs in place to make sure we are ready to plant better quality trees and more of them by the time the North East Link is finished.”