The River Red Gum is a landmark and contributes more than any other feature to the character of the area, linking us not only with the history of Flemington but with the pre-industrial landscape. It provides a habitat and resting place for countless indigenous birds and a point of reflection and consolation to commuters. As leader of Newmarket Stationeers Group, I was one of the four community representatives whom Metro Trains and Ministry of Public Transport met on Wednesday, January 22nd. The purpose of the meeting was to tell us that after exploring options, Metro Trains had decided to remove ten trees, including the heritage listed River Red Gum from the station embankment prior to work to renew the platform retaining walls. The Ministry of Public Transport engineers explained that they plan to leave the old platform walls in place and construct new walls behind the old walls. While excavating the foundations, the roots of the trees would be sufficiently damaged to render the trees unsafe, hence their removal. An offer of compensating with replacement plants and a suggestion that we could create a sculpture from the tree’s timber are worth nothing compared with the tree’s loss to our locality; the tree itself is a living sculpture of inestimable value.
Metro Trains intention was to commence work on tree removal at 9.00 pm on Friday, January 24th, the eve of the Australia Day Weekend; breathtakingly soon after they notified MVCC on Tuesday, January 21st. On Thursday January 23rd, at 7.00 am a sizeable group (I estimate around 40) concerned local residents met below the River Red Gum to demonstrate support for retaining the tree. Some Stationeers were there, including long-term volunteer, Roger, who is recovering from throat surgery.
"Moonee Valley City Council and Metro Trains are continuing to work together to try and find a way forward in relation to the trees at the Newmarket Railway Station.