To preserve and improve the social, cultural, economic and environmental well being of Inner South Canberra and the Inner South Canberra Community.

We’ll all be pruned: alarm over massacre in the suburbs

from Canberra Times 28 November 2012
Patricia Connors says she has never forgiven the government for forcing her to prune her historic hedge in Griffith.
Wednesday’s news that some enormous hedges on a street in Braddon have been spared trimming, thanks to a long-ago negotiated deal with the ACT government to widen the footpath reopened a long-running debate in the city’s oldest suburbs.

Mrs Connors’ hedge still bears the wounds of its savage 2008 pruning, ordered by Territory and Municipal Services. She remains livid that she and her late husband were forced to cut the hedge to a point from which it will not recover.

”I’ve never forgiven them,” Mrs Connors said, adding that she felt the conflict over the hedge 4½ years ago had sped up her husband’s death just weeks later.

He had been sick for some time but she said ”the stress really affected him”.

Mrs Connors said she was so distressed by the sight of her hedge she refused to walk out that side of her property.

”Whenever I look at the front of my hedge, I could scream … it makes me furious, it really does. I’ve locked the gate to that side of the house, I don’t go out there.”

Mrs Connors’ neighbour Kim Chapman knows just how angry some people feel about Canberra’s historic hedges when they intrude onto footpaths.

In the dead of night a few weeks ago, a stranger attacked his 80-year-old hedge with a handsaw, inflicting ugly damage on the often-admired and lovingly maintained hedge, believed to be a cupressus.

He assumes two things that give the episode a touch of Midsomer Murders intrigue; the attack was motivated by anger at his hedge overhanging the footpath, and the attacker lived nearby in one of Canberra’s most genteel suburbs.

”To think that someone in our neighbourhood would be sneaking down with a saw in the middle of the night, maliciously inflicting damage on the hedge, was really disturbing and upsetting,” Mr Chapman said.

Unlike the Connors, Mr Chapman did not comply with the TAMS order in 2008. He says the government department had not been willing to discuss solutions such as widening the path and in time the issue ”just seemed to go away”.

”I offered to pay for [widening the footpath] but got no response. It was unsatisfactory to me that the issue was never properly resolved.”

Mr Chapman, a lawyer, hoped more significant hedges in the older areas of Canberra could be spared the fate of the Connors’ hedge.

Territory and Municipal Services Minister Shane Rattenbury said he wanted to see central Canberra’s footpaths remain usable but acknowledged the heritage value of some hedges in older suburbs.

”It’s really important that we do keep the footpath open and accessible for pedestrians, particularly in the older suburbs where there are a lot of older residents who need good access,” he said. ”At the same time, these hedges do provide amenity. There’s a heritage value to some of them and they very much inform the feel of some of the older suburbs … many in the community wouldn’t want to see them removed.”

Mr Rattenbury said the widening solution could be considered in other cases but he preferred to spend funds on maintaining footpaths and building new ones.

”I think there’s scope for TAMS to assess these things on a case-by-case basis looking at questions, like can the hedge be trimmed or will that do it irreversible damage?”

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