AMANDA Joy was startled to her feet by a cacophony of chainsaws early last Saturday morning.
The Hamilton Hill resident sprang to her balcony to see that a cherry picker, four mulching trucks and four utes had rolled up to the mostly vacant block on Healy Road near her home.
Grabbing her mobile phone and some clothes, Ms Joy rushed across the road, putting her small frame between the huge ancient tuart tree and the tools of tree loppers who had come to fell the suburban icon, which is more than 150 years old.
“I quickly came and stood under the tree and frantically rang every activist I could think of,” she said.
Soon after, Forest Rescue member Sean “Rolly” Gransch arrived, then dozens of other activists and community members, setting up a vigil in and around the tree that they say will remain until the tree is safe from felling and is confirmed for addition on to relevant heritage registers.
The tree is on an oil pipeline easement owned by petroleum giant BP, which arranged for its removal after becoming aware that plans for a residential development on the adjacent block of land would have severed half of the tree's root system, causing it to become dangerously unstable.
At a meeting between BP and the City of Cockburn last Friday, a resolution was made to leave the tree intact pending further monitoring and a report from an arboriculturist.
A spokesman for BP said the company apologised for failing to communicate properly with Healy Road neighbours. The company and the City wanted to “work constructively” towards preserving the tree.
In a statement a City spokeswoman said another meeting between Mayor Logan Howlett, acting CEO Michael Littleton, developer Benny Roncio, the project builder and an arboriculturist would be held this week to discuss options.
There have been renewed calls from community members and Greens MP Lynn MacLaren for the development of State Tree Protection laws.
They want local authorities to take old and significant trees into account when assessing any development applications.
And they want the Healy Road Tuart to be placed on the City of Cockburn’s significant tree register, municipal heritage list and town planning scheme heritage list. “I sit up here, I write all my poetry looking at this tree,” Ms Joy said.
“It’s full of redtail cockatoos, its full of Gordons and it’s full of Carnaby’s every day.
“Lots of birds you don’t see anywhere else sit in this tree because it’s the last one.”
Ms MacLaren said the situation indicated that more needed to be done to protect urban trees.
“We are looking at Private Members Legislation to try to identify trees like this to preserve them and protect them.”