ADDING insult to injury last week, the South Gippsland Shire Council called contractors in to remove 35 Blackwood trees from the Long Jetty Caravan Park at Port Welshpool, much to the dismay of already distressed site holders.
Facing the prospect of eviction for non-compliance with the shire’s new rules and regulations, park tenants say the removal of trees, which was a “complete overkill” has destroyed the ambience of the park.
Laurie and Sika McDonald, who have been park annuals at Port Welshpool for 35 years, say the wind blew one of the trees down about three weeks ago, but it posed no threat to caravans or campers.
“There was nothing wrong with the other trees but they just came in and cut down the lot, more than 30 of them,” said Laurie.
“The trees really added something special to that part of the park, as well as being an important wind break and to see them cut down like that, was just crazy.
“For years they’ve told us not to cut anything and they come in and do that,” said Sika.
“We had no warning about it.”
Asked about the tree removal, a shire spokesman had this to say:
“A cluster of around 35 blackwood trees was recently removed at the Long Jetty Foreshore caravan park.
“Based on advice received from an independent arborist, Council determined that it was appropriate to remove the trees to protect public health and safety and property.”
Still want to stay
Despite this latest blow, the McDonalds still want to stay… but are facing the inevitable.
“We don’t know when we’ll have to get out. We’ve got the eviction notice but it will be up to our solicitors to get in touch with the shire and tells us when to get out,” said Laurie.
“In all of the years we’ve been here, 34 to 35 years, the shire never put a foot in the park until recently. It was always run by a manager. Any improvements we wanted to make had to be authorised and we always did the right thing in that regard.
“No one told us you couldn’t do it on crown land.
“When they took over they said everything would stay the same, then they told us we’d have to become compliant but you can’t register these vans and they can’t be compliant.
“They’re old but they’ve been well looked after. They look good. No problems.”
But the couple say they have been given short shrift by the shire.
“They don’t want to mediate or talk. It’s their way or no way. There’s been no attempt to work with the people.”
The McDonalds say the decision by the shire to evict them will make them homeless.
“We had to sell our house in 2014 and were using Port Welshpool as a base, whatever it is, less than 100 days a year and spending the rest of the time house sitting and the like.
“The extra $1000 they wanted per site was a concern but in the end we would have paid it but we simply can’t be compliant.”
They say that only four to five of the 80 annuals have so far indicated they’ll stay.
“What about their duty of care to the older people in the park who haven’t wanted to rock the boat. They’re shaking in their boots about what’s coming,” said Sika.