March 2019 Newsletter

Eulogy for Les Smith OAM

Les Smith, eminent Whitehorse environmentalist and patriarch of the Blackburn and District Tree Preservation Society died on 16 December 2018.

Les was involved in the conservation movement for over 60 years, initially in England in the late 1940’s and continuing when he moved to Australia in the 1950’s.

He joined the Tree Society in the early 1960s and served with distinction on the executive committee in many roles over the years including committee member, president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, membership secretary and newsletter editor.

Les was actively involved in the campaign to save the Little Desert from being subdivided for farming in the late1960s. This campaign was instrumental in launching a wave of environmental campaigns throughout Victoria and also led to the formation of what is now Environment Victoria, an organization to which Les has contributed greatly since its inception.

He was Nunawading Citizen of the Year in the 1975.

Until recent times Les remained active as a volunteer, member or executive committee member of a number of organizations allied to the preservation and enhancement of our natural environment.

Apart from the tree society Les was actively involved with:

  • Environment Victoria
  • Bungalook Nursery (Whitehorse Indigenous Plant Project)
  • Antonio Park, Yarran Dheran and Wandinong bushland park advisory committees in Whitehorse
  • Urimbirra Co-operative that owns 1,000 ha of close to virgin bush adjacent to what is now the little Desert National Park. The property is covered by a Conservation Covenant administered by the Trust for Nature and only removable by Act of Parliament
  • Friends of the Little Desert and
  • The Mullum-Mullum Festival (Les was the 2011 festival Patron).

Les, affectionately dubbed the ‘Godfather’ of environmental advocacy in the City of Whitehorse and beyond, was honored with a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) for his community service in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June 2017. He was officially presented with his award by the Governor of Victoria, The Honourable Linda Dessau in October 2017 at a ceremony at Government House.

His legacy will live on in the natural world he fought so hard, and with such good grace, to preserve and enhance. Moreover Les inspired many people to embrace his environmental philosophy and deeds.

Our condolences and prayers go out to Helen and the Smith family on this sad occasion.

Vale Les Smith OAM.

A Celebration of Les Smith’s Involvement in the Tree Society and the Society’s 60th Birthday

Later in 2019 the tree society committee will be organizing a special activity to commemorate the achievements of Les Smith in the tree society along with a celebration of the society’s 60th anniversary. Watch this Space for further details.

An Important Message from the Committee of the Blackburn & District Tree Preservation Society Inc.

Dear Members and Friends of the Tree Society

In this, our 60th year, the committee has been reduced to four members with the passing of Les Smith OAM in December last year.

Les was the society’s newsletter editor and membership secretary in recent years and his loss will be keenly felt by all who cherish the natural landscape in Whitehorse and beyond.

Furthermore, executive committee member Mary Crouch has recently moved out of Whitehorse and, as a consequence, will be taking a much less active role in the tree society into the future.

Thankfully Mary has agreed to remain on the committee until the end of the 2018-19 financial year. Mary’s contribution to the tree society committee has been crucial over the past 12 years and she has filled the roles of minute secretary and latterly treasurer with great aplomb.

The remaining committee members, Ann Clayton, Anne Payne and David Berry have vowed to continue to provide a voice for the trees and landscape in Whitehorse and beyond.

BUT we need help!

The tree society cannot function with three members on the executive so we are putting out a call for members and friends to seriously consider becoming a committee member of the society.

We specifically require a new treasurer to replace Mary, a membership secretary and a newsletter editor (the society newsletter is published and distributed three times each year).

The society convenes six committee meetings, each of two hours duration, per year in February, March, May, July, September and November with the AGM held before the November meeting.

Please consider joining the committee and playing a role in advocating for our natural environment.

I can be contacted via email ( or mobile 0413 457 184 to discuss further.

We will need to increase our committee membership to at least five members before the AGM in November this year.

Thanks, in anticipation.

David Berry, Ann Clayton, Mary Crouch and Anne Payne


Blackburn & District Tree Preservation Society Inc.

Vale David Moss

The tree society committee was saddened to hear the news that long-time supporter, David Moss, had passed away on the 4th February, aged 92 years.

David was an original member of the Blackburn and District Tree Preservation Society and retained his interest in the Society throughout his life.

David was also a member of the Whitehorse Film Society and in its early days he was involved with the filming and took part in the film:

Did Auguste Schwerkolt dig the Blackburn Lake One Sunday Morning?’

He also starred in it.

Alas the film was lost some years again, much to David’s regret.

David represented the tree society when a community group was formed in 1965, to rally support to Save Blackburn Lake. He later became a committee member of Blackburn Lake Sanctuary committee of management in 1972 and remained on the committee as an active member holding various positions until 1989.

David has been a part of the community in Blackburn for a long time and been on many committees in working to improve our environment and help make Blackburn such a beaut place to live. For many years he led walking groups in many walks around Melbourne.

David made hundreds of friends with his generous nature and he will be sadly missed.

Whitehorse Tree Controls via Significant Landscape Overlay No. 9 (SLO9)

The Victorian Minister for Planning, the Hon Richard Wynne MP has applied a 6-month extension for council’s temporary citywide tree controls after concerted lobbying by council, community groups, tree society members and others.

Well done all!

This extension, until 30 June 2019, will allow Whitehorse council to prepare and present a strong case for making the tree controls (via Significant Landscape Overlay No. 9) permanent.

The tree society committee requests that all members and friends keep up the lobbying with their ward councillors to let them know how important the SLO9 is for Whitehorse.

Council needs to be more active in managing the Public Open Space Reserve Fund

Council forecasts an amount in excess of $40M in the Public Open Space Reserve Fund for the 2018-19 Budget year (with $64M forecast for 2021-22).

A significant surge in fund deposits is anticipated in the future due to the increased developer contributions resulting from the escalating number of medium and high-density infill developments within Whitehorse (including the massive high-rise building expansion in the Box Hill Metropolitan Activity Centre).

This amount of money in the Public Open Space Reserve fund is large and growing exponentially yet council allocates a mere fraction, in the order of $1-1.5M per year, each year for strategic land purchases for open space and parks.

The society advocates that council is sluggish in allocating funds to purchase much-needed strategic parcels of land to create open spaces and parklands for the residents of Whitehorse.

The most neglected areas for open space in Whitehorse are in the Box Hill area.

Some suggestions:

  • Convert the council-owned Box Hill Bowling Club site into a small park or large plaza to benefit Box Hill’s high-rise dwellers
  • Purchase the historic Box Hill Brickworks site, clean it up and develop the land as a municipal park and recreation centre by amalgamating the park with Surrey Dive, Surrey Park and Aqualink Box Hill
  • Reduce ground-level open air car parks and instead turn the land over to parks and open spaces. A relevant case study is Cato Park in Prahran. The City of Stonnington has committed $60M for the conversion of a 9,000 square metre car park into an open-air plaza and urban garden complete with two levels of underground parking. The $60M cost will be made up from a $37M loan, $10.5M in savings and $15M from council’s open space reserve fund.

Box Hill is crying out for this sort of people-friendly initiative.

A proportion of the Fund money can also be used to improve existing parks, for example:

  • Provide additional funding for the purchase, planting and maintenance of more trees and lower storey vegetation in the city’s parks and open spaces
  • Work with Melbourne Water to create more wetland habitat areas in city parks with waterways
  • Develop and implement strategies to minimize park use conflicts in the city’s parks e.g.:
    • Build enclosed leash-free dog parks in parks to separate free-roaming dogs and other park users
    • Utilize alternative porous car park and entry road hard surfacing for outdoor sporting facilities e.g. Morton Park in Blackburn
    • Construct separate walking and cycling paths through linear parks that currently contain major bike trails e.g. the Koonung Creek and Gardiners Creek Trails.

Call for a greater budgetary allocation for the Whitehorse Street Tree Program

At the recent Whitehorse Council Budget Briefing session in mid-February, the issue of council’s street tree program was raised by society president, David Berry.

The society is alarmed that many of our local streets are relatively devoid of street trees, in fact some streets have barely half the desired number of at least one reasonably sized tree on each nature-strip.

In addition, many of the street trees planted by council are barely trees at all e.g. Acacia stricta which is a short-lived shrubby wattle.

The society is calling for an increase in funding for council’s street tree program which has stagnated over the past 12 or more years as illustrated in the accompanying table:

Whitehorse Budgeted Funds for Street Tree Planting Program (source Whitehorse Budgets 2003-2019)

Year Amount Comments
2003-04 $235,000
2004-05 $200,000 Decrease $35,000
2005-06 No Figures found
2006-07 $300,000 Increase $100,000
2007-08 $300,000 No Change
2008-09 $310,000 Increase $10,000
2009-10 $320,000 increase $10,000
2010-11 $300,000 Decrease  $20,000
2011-12 $340,000 Increase $40,000
2012-13 $350,000 Increase $10,000
2013-14 $300,000 Decrease $50,000
2014-15 $300,000 No Change
2015-16 $300,000 No Change
2016-17 No Figures found
2017-18 $300,000 No Change
2018-19 $300,000 No Change

The total street tree planting expenditure for the 14 years was ~ $4.2M. (or $300,000 per year).

By way of comparison Whitehorse City Council spent the following amounts of money on the following major projects from 2003 to 2019 (excluding years 2005-06 and 2016-17):

Over $2M on the Morack Golf Club

Over $3M on car parks

Around $4.5M on the Box Hill Gardens and over $50M on Box Hill Aqualink.

The environmental value of trees generally, and street trees in particular, has been extensively studied. The Low Carbon Living CRC Guide to Urban Cooling Strategies (July 2017) contains information about the cooling effects of urban vegetation, street trees, natural turfs, ground cover and parks. Refer to the document at:

Major Issues & Activities

  • Morton Park Car Park Upgrade

In November 2018 the tree society made a submission to council regarding the proposed Morton Park car park upgrade. Council’s final plan was circulated in late February and, whilst an improvement on the original draft plan, still fell short of society and community expectations.

The tree society responded to council on the 3rd March and re-stated that there will be negative impacts on the mature canopy trees (many of which are indigenous) that border the proposed hard surfacing of the road and car park areas in Morton Park.

It appears from the final concept plan that at least 10 and up to 20 existing trees will have their tree protection zones (TPZs) substantially affected by the hard surfacing.

A number of questions were raised in the society’s response:

  • Has an arborist been involved in providing council with arboricultural advice on this proposal?
  • Has council calculated the TPZ incursion for each of the trees bordering the proposed works?
  • Has council developed a tree protection plan for these trees?

The society believes that the proposed works, as illustrated in the final concept plan, will contravene the relevant Australian Standard AS 4970 – 2009 ‘Protection of trees on development sites’.

Whitehorse Council planners conscientiously apply AS4970-2009 to residential development proposals to ensure that tree protection zones are indeed protected.

The tree society advocates that council apply the same rigour to any proposed development works on council property that will impact existing trees.

To do otherwise will engender a community view that a double-standard applies with council on issues associated with trees – not a good look at all!

The tree society did provide a solution to this issue in the submission forwarded to council in mid-November 2018:

  • The asphalt (or similar non-porous) sealing of existing gravel surfaces in and around established trees cannot be supported. From the Draft Concept Plan it appears that the asphalting 

will seriously compromise the Tree Protection Zones (TPZs) for 7-10 of the retained trees (i.e. TPZ impingement of greater than 10%). This incursion will negatively impact the trees’ health, vigour and longevity

  • Council must explore porous surfacing alternatives to asphalting and re-surface with these innovative paving solutions following ‘de-compaction’ of the existing gravel surfaces and car park areas …’ 

The tree society committee is seeking an urgent meeting with council on this issue.

  • Application for Community Group Membership of the North East Link Project Community Liaison Group by the Blackburn & District Tree Preservation Society Inc.

On the 19th February 2019 the tree society committee formally applied for membership of the North East Link Community Liaison Group (NEL CLG).

As yet we haven’t been informed as to the outcome of our application.

The tree society considers this project to be one of the most important and divisive issues facing the Whitehorse urban environment and will do little to alleviate motor traffic issues in Whitehorse – in fact it has the potential to make them much worse.

The tree society will act as a strong advocate for the natural landscape and public amenity of Whitehorse if allowed to participate in the NEL CLG.

We will perform exactly the same task if our application is unsuccessful.

The society is highly critical of the construction and expansion of Melbourne’s archaic freeway system at the expense of any meaningful attempts to improve the city’s public transport system in Whitehorse specifically and metropolitan Melbourne more broadly. This improvement is necessary in the short term given that the proposed radial train network won’t come on stream until 2050 and Melbourne Metro completion date is beyond 2025.

Examples of short-term ‘doable’ initiatives include the expansion of the existing metropolitan radial bus network in terms of frequency, flexibility and efficiency and investigation of the ‘trackless’ tram between major commercial/residential/retail precincts e.g. Box Hill to Doncaster Shoppingtown.

The society has a general interest in the natural landscape from Greensborough to Bulleen and more specifically for the construction works on the Eastern Freeway and associated north-south roads (including Elgar, Station Street, Middleborough, Surrey-Blackburn and Springvale Roads). The society is vitally interested in the mitigation of construction impacts on the natural landscape of these areas and the enhancement of parklands and open spaces adjoining the Eastern Freeway and associated major north-south feeder roads.

  • Box Hill Metropolitan Activity Centre

The first meeting of the Whitehorse council-inspired Stakeholder Reference Group (SRG) to review the Vision of the Box Hill Metropolitan Activity Centre (BH MAC) was held on 5 March 2019.

The tree society applied but was not included on the SRG even though we made detailed submissions and a 45-minute presentation to the Planning Panels Victoria hearing on Amendment C175 to the Box Hill MAC in July 2017.

However, Geoff White from the Combined Residents of Whitehorse Action Group (CROWAG) is on the SRG and, as the society is a group member of CROWAG, the society has some representation on the SRG.

The outstanding issues, as listed below, that the tree society have with the development of the Box Hill MAC were raised at the Planning Panels Victoria hearing in 2017.

Overall council needs to show leadership and actively lobby/work with the state government and relevant government agencies as well as the private sector to achieve a people-friendly outcome otherwise the Box Hill MAC will become an urban slum.

Council also needs to develop a Master Plan and a costed action plan over 10-15 years to create a Box Hill MAC that is human-centred, aesthetically pleasing and attractive for people to live, visit, recreate, work and enjoy.

As Danish architect Jan Gehl, the world-renowned urban design expert, has stated ‘Plan urban spaces for pedestrians and cyclists and the rest will follow automatically.’

Because the large number of high-rise buildings is a fait accompli council needs to urgently address the quality-of-life issues that face the residents, workers, commuters and visitors to Box Hill MAC into the future.

These include:

– Active transport spaces including pavements must be wide, landscaped with trees and shrubs, contain street furniture, interface with cafes, retail outlets and other gathering places, be open to natural light and vistas with easy, stress-free connectivity with parks, open spaces, the retail/commercial/residential precincts, public transport interchanges, schools, the hospital, TAFE and the rest of Box Hill

– Barriers to low stress active transport movements must be eliminated even if to the detriment of motor traffic movement thru the MAC

– Council must utilise funding from council’s burgeoning open space reserve fund (currently valued at over $50M) to facilitate the purchase of open space in Box Hill, an area lacking in quality, accessible open space now let alone when urgently needed as the BH population soars. The best example is the Brickworks site near Surrey Park. The fund can also be used to improve existing open space e.g. convert the old Box Hill bowling club site into a plaza, improve links between parks and opens spaces, purchase strategic blocks to create plazas and/or facilitate linkages etc.

– Parks and open spaces can be created in unusual places e.g. roof over the rail line east of Station Street and create a park/plaza/easy link across the rail line; put a roof top garden over the Box Hill railway station west of the bus station; convert Carrington and Rutland Roads into pedestrian malls; underground ALL car parking in the MAC and convert the existing ground level car parks into open spaces

– Provide safe, broad linkages across barriers e.g. overpasses and pedestrian tunnels to connect both sides of Whitehorse Road, Elgar Road, Station Street, the railway line etc.

Current Planning Issues

Over the last few months there has been a large number of planning applications opposed by the society due to tree and vegetation loss/damage or applications that contain aspirational planting plans that have little chance of being realised.

The current planning issues are listed below are at various stages of resolution including a number that will be going to VCAT this year including 10 Eustace Street, 203 Canterbury Road and 42-48 Glenburnie Road. Members requiring more information on individual cases can email the society committee on

The planning issues include:

25 Holland Road Blackburn South                             42-48 Glenburnie Road Mitcham,

199 Canterbury Road Blackburn                                203 Canterbury Road Blackburn

245-247 Canterbury Road Blackburn                        1-3 Naughton Grove Blackburn

124-126 Blackburn Road Blackburn                          10 Eustace Street Blackburn Blackburn

11 Gissing Street Blackburn South                            2 Sergeant Street Blackburn

14 Dickens Street Blackburn                                      4 Loddon Street Box Hill

124-126 Blackburn Road Blackburn

Plantings in Whitehorse Parklands

  • Healesville Freeway Reserve in Forest Hill

In December 2018, contractors planted over 18,000 indigenous plants in a number of newly-mulched large beds from Davy Reserve to the east near the community gardens and council nursery. One of the beds was planted out by community volunteers at the same time and the contractor will be watering the plants through the summer/autumn period. These plants are the major component of an offset planting program, brokered by the tree society, to replace tree and shrub canopy resulting from the loss of so much vegetation with the Blackburn and Heatherdale level crossing removals.

  • Junction Road/Nunawading Parklands in Nunawading

Preliminary work on the spraying, ripping and mulching of two large beds in the parklands has been completed. Contractors have planted upwards of 3,000 indigenous trees, shrubs and grasses in the beds and have been watering them over the summer months. These plants also form part of the offset planting program, brokered by the

tree society, to replace the loss of trees and vegetation with the local level crossing removals. 

  • Masons Road Reserve

The pond plantings are looking good even though we’ve had so little rain so far in 2019. In addition, the Melbourne Water plantings on the banks of the retarding basin are starting to impact positively on the local landscape. More activities will be held in the reserve this year.

The Blackburn & District Environment Protection Fund

The Fund, sponsored by the tree society, supports conservation activities and environmental education programs in Whitehorse.

Donations are regularly made in support of the environmental education programs for primary school children at Blackburn Lake Sanctuary and Yarran Dheran.

In addition, a number of local groups will be approached this year and offered small environment grants for on-ground environmental works.

Contact David Berry for further details.

Donations can be made by:

  • Completing and sending a cheque to the fund at the following address:

BDEPF, PO Box 210, Blackburn, VIC 3130

The fund’s web-site address is

The Combined Residents of Whitehorse Action Group Inc. (CROWAG)

Email –


In mid-February this important community lobby group (of which the tree society is a member) met with senior Whitehorse Council planning staff to discuss and clarify the many of the planning issues currently facing the community.

In addition, since December 2018, CROWAG has been busy advocating on many issues including:

  • The extension of the temporary city-wide tree controls (via Significant Landscape Overlay No. 9 or SLO9) until a strong case can be made for the controls becoming permanent AND being strengthened to ‘catch-up’ with the tighter controls enjoyed in other SLO areas in Whitehorse (e.g. SLO1 and SLO2)
  • Illegal tree removal. In December 2018 CROWAG sent a letter to the Victorian Minister for Planning protesting the paltry fines mandated by the state government for the illegal removal of trees on private property in Victoria. in contrast, NSW has had meaningful tree protections applied since 1979. The NSW Environmental Planning and Assessment Act 1979 provides that the maximum penalty for illegal tree removal or destruction in breach of the Act is a fine of $1.1 million and a further fine of $110,000 for each day that the offence persists. In addition to imposing a fine, the NSW Act permits the court to order a person convicted of illegal tree removal/destruction to plant and maintain new trees to maturity, and to provide a financial security for the performance of any obligation of this kind.
  • CROWAG member Ross Gillespie (Glenburnie Road Residents Association) has development a draft position paper on the development and institution of council-sanctioned Green Notices for Building Sites. These notices would be placed on the front boundaries of development sites to provide useful information for the public on trees and vegetation to be retained and removed and details of a replacement planting plan to replace any lost green canopy as per the Whitehorse Planning Scheme. This initiative is fully supported by the tree society.
  • CROWAG has also written to the Victorian Planning Minister detailing the loopholes and shortfalls in the recently introduced VicSmart planning policy that fast-tracks the permit process for the removal of single trees on private property, seemingly without the required checks and balances.

How to Lose Water, Waste Money and Wreck the Environment

Policy doesn’t hold water
Victoria props up a logging industry even though it costs us in water supply.

Tree Society History – Fighting for the Trees

Only a few copies of the history book remain. Fighting for the Trees – the story of the Blackburn & District Tree Preservation Society is available at $25 per copy for tree society members and $30 for non-members. Please contact David Berry on 0413 457 184 or email for orders. An extra charge of $10 for postage is required.

Tree Society Meeting Times

The tree society committee meets every 2nd Wednesday of the month from 2-4 p.m. in February, March, May, July, September and November. General meetings are scheduled for June and October. The AGM is held (as always) in November.

The location is Bungalook Nursery in Fulton Road Blackburn South.

Tree society members and the general public are most welcome to attend tree society meetings.

Tree Society Website and Contact Details

Website:            for information on tree society activities.

Email:                         Contact the tree society on

Postal address:         PO Box 5, Nunawading, 3131


President             David Berry                      9890 7915 or 0413 457 184

Secretary             Anne Payne                      9878 1152

Treasurer             Mary Crouch                   9894 3025

Member               Ann Clayton                     9878 6585

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