As the first Otho Street plane trees were removed on Monday, Inverell Shire councillor Neil McCosker expressed his disappointment with the Town Centre Renewal Plan, which he felt did not take the community’s opinions into account.
“The general mood of the people that I have spoken to is one of dismay, unhappiness and frustration with the Inverell Shire Council,” he said.
“One elderly person, said that a so called mandate in the local government elections, does not necessarily equate with dictatorship – people can make what they wish out of this comment. Obviously, there are a lot of disenchanted people who are disappointed that they do not matter once an election is over.”
Local Steve Auld, who watched as one of the trees was cut down and fed into a wood chipper, said the contractors appeared “very keen to get the job done quickly”.
“The fact that nobody knew that this was going to happen and it was done so early and so quickly, it encourages one to think that there’s something to hide, and certainly people who are actively opposed, that the operators didn’t want to involve any opposition,” he said.
Cr McCosker said that many residents had expressed their concern over removing the plane trees from the side of the road and replacing them with pin oaks in the centre. He said locals were worried the change would significantly reduce the shade in the CBD.
“This would negatively impact on the temperature in parked vehicles and generally be an inhibiting factor for people who frequent the CBD for either shopping or medical purposes,” he said.
He recalled a story from a visitor to town.
“These people said that the reason why they frequently stop at Walcha was because of the tree lined streets and the availability of shade for parking cars under,” he said.
“This is a stark contrast to what is happening now in Inverell, with cars becoming hot boxes as a result of being parked in the blazing sun and sadly, this has the potential to reduce the number of opportunistic shoppers within Otho and Byron Streets, and of course this will impact on the business owners.”
Mr Auld was frustrated with what he felt was a lack of community consultation. He said that although the council assured the community that businesses had been consulted, many business owners said they had not been spoken to.
The Inverell Times attempted to contact mayor Paul Harmon on Monday, but he could not be reached.