Cut tree danger schools told
STORY LIZ McCORMICK
Merimbula and Pambula Public Schools are among NSW public schools that have been directed by the NSW Education Department to engage arborists
as soon as possible to review the condition of trees on school properties. Priority is to be given to gum trees and tall trees.
The direction is in response to the tragic death of a young pupil at Pitt Town Public School when she was struck by a branch from a large gum tree, last Friday.
Pambula school principal Mark Thomson described the accident as a terrible tragedy.
“Our hearts go out to the families and staff who have been affected by this terrible event.”
Mr Thomson said the school was fortunate to have many beautiful trees on the school grounds, including a very old Bunya Pine.
“However we are well aware of the need to responsibly manage the condition of the trees to minimise the tragedy that we have seen recently.
“Our Bunya tree, for example, is fenced off to protect students, staff and parents from the cones that drop periodically.
“We have an arborist visit every second year (or as required if we believe a tree is dangerous) to inspect our trees and make recommendations. Unfortunately some of our trees have had to be taken out, whilst others have had large branches trimmed to make them safe,” Mr Thomson said.
“Despite this precaution, we cannot guarantee that a branch will not drop as happened last week. That seems to be the nature of trees, particularly native eucalypt. The only way to ensure this would not occur would be to take down all trees within the school grounds and I think that would be a shame.”
Mr Thomson said that in recent years, teachers, students and members of the Pambula community had planted out many new gardens in and around the school and were very selective in the species of plants chosen.
Those selected were more of the native ornamental shrub type which serve the purpose of looking great but posing minimal threat even when fully grown, Mr Thomson said.
The Education Department said that all NSW schools are to engage an arborist to review trees that are overhanging school buildings and playgrounds, or any other areas used by students and staff.
“Based on the arborist reports, the Department will work with local councils so that necessary work required for safety reasons may be undertaken.
“It is anticipated that the reviews will be completed by the end of the second term of school,” a department spokesperson said.
The cost of any work required for safety reasons will be met by the Department without affecting school operating budgets.