Randwick council campaigns to save Centennial Park trees on light rail route

Trees in Alison Road in Randwick will face the chop in favour of the light rail line. Photo: Michele Mossop The Randwick City Council has organised a protest against the removal of trees to make way for light rail. Photo: Michele Mossop

The Randwick City Council is mounting a last-minute campaign to save more than 100 trees on the edge of Centennial Park that will be cut down to make way for the eastern suburbs light rail line.

The construction of the $2.1 billion light rail line from the city centre to the eastern suburbs began in the CBD in October. In early January, the state government will turn its attention to preparing the ground for tramlines in Randwick.

The council says that will result in the loss of more than 100 trees in Alison Road, up to half of which are mature including those planted in the late 19th century.

“[The] council is supportive of the light rail, but we want to see it built in a way that . . . preserves our existing environment as much as possible,” mayor Noel D’Souza said. “It is impossible to put a price on trees”.

The council has placed about 80 large signs around trees that may face the chop as part of an “information campaign” at a cost of up to $10,000.

The council was blindsided​ late last year when Transport for NSW announced a change to the light rail line route, planned to open in 2019.

Instead of running a tramline along the edge of Randwick racecourse, the route was shifted to the other side of the road and the edge of Centennial Park.

The council believes the work cost will run to $9 million.

It says it has presented the state government with a cheaper option.

It would run the tracks down the middle of the street, avoiding the trees and saving about $2 million.

The council won a last-minute concession in September after the state government agreed to move a planned interchange that would have subsumed High Cross Park and required the loss of about 25 trees.

However, the state government says it is too late to negotiate new changes.

“Construction of light rail has now begun after a significant amount of consultation,” a spokesman for Transport Minister Andrew Constance said. “We’ve worked with the public to minimise impacts as much as possible”.

The state government says the new route comes with several benefits, including better access for Centennial Parklands and Randwick TAFE.

Local MP Ron Hoenig said the trees were an important part of the suburb’s heritage.

“The government needs to think harder on whether the destruction of these trees is worth the cost,” he said.

About 800 trees throughout the city will be chopped down to make way for the project. Several trees in George Street will be removed.

The City of Sydney says they will be replaced with “mature trees of a more appropriate species”.

The state government says all the trees will be replaced several times over.

However, critics argue it is not possible to replace heritage trees and replacements are less likely to reach full maturity in built-up urban areas.

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