Ancient trees at risk in ‘bizarre’ Belair National Park soccer plan

A new expert report reveals that hundreds of trees, many of them over 200 years old, are set to be cut down in the Belair National Park if a controversial proposal to build soccer fields in the Park gets the green light.


MEDIA RELEASE
2 May 2021

Ancient trees at risk in ‘bizarre’ Belair National Park soccer plan

A new expert report reveals that hundreds of trees, many of them over 200 years old, are set to be cut down in the Belair National Park if a controversial proposal to build soccer fields in the Park gets the green light.

The report, commissioned by the state’s peak environment body Conservation SA, and prepared by arborist and native vegetation expert Dean Nicolle, has analysed the trees and other native vegetation at risk under the current proposed 10-hectare soccer pitch layout.

“This proposal should get an automatic red flag,” Conservation SA Chief Executive Craig Wilkins said.

“To contemplate deliberately destroying hundreds of ancient trees in a National Park is simply bizarre.

“It’s like painting over the work of an Old Master in an art gallery as part of a renovation project.

“National Parks are kept in trust for the people of South Australia as a refuge for nature.  It’s the last place rare remnant trees that are hundreds of years old should be at risk of being cut down,” he said.

Public consultation is set to close on Tuesday for the rezoning of the South Western corner of the Belair National Park, including the old golf course that was decommissioned in 2018.  As part of the rezoning process a public call was made for proposals to re-imagine the area, and a local soccer club has proposed an extensive development, including seven soccer pitches, floodlighting, changerooms and car parking. 

The report identifies 336 remnant and semi-remnant trees in the 10-hectare proposed development zone identified in the public consultation documents.  231 of these are Eucalyptus microcarpa (grey box), a species classified as Rare in the Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges NRM region. 125 trees are classified as very high biodiversity value.

Estimated age of the trees:

  • 16 trees are >200 years old
  • 109 trees are 100 to >200 years old
  • 151 trees are >100 years old (including many mallee-like grey box trees which
  • are very difficult to provide an upper age estimate for)
  • 60 trees are <100 years old

“Belair National Park is the oldest National Park in South Australia and the tenth oldest in the world.

“We should be celebrating its extraordinary national heritage, not destroying it.

“Many of the trees that are currently in the firing line would have been ancient when the Park was proclaimed in 1891.

“There is a myth that because the area was previously used as a golf course it is now a blank slate that can be easily redeveloped for other sporting uses.

“Instead, this report shows that in between the fairways superb native vegetation and biodiversity has thrived. 

“Unlike a golf course, soccer fields need to be a certain size and shape.

“There is simply no way a multi-field soccer development, with all the accompanying buildings, lighting and extensive works to cope with the significant natural slope on this site, can be built without destroying rare remnant vegetation.

“It’s time to declare this proposal ‘offside’ and ensure these trees are preserved for generations to come,” he said.

The report can be found at www.conservationsa.org.au/belair_tree_report

RELEASE ENDS

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Contact Conservation SA on (08) 8223 5155, [email protected], or at our offices at the Joinery at 111 Franklin Street, Adelaide.

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