The damaged and dying Monterey cypress trees along Mortlake's avenue of honour are still years from being replaced, Moyne Shire Council has said.
In February 2021 the council resolved to replace the trees, and placed an order in August for 250 holm oak trees, the species approved by Heritage Victoria to replace the cypresses.
But council director of environment and infrastructure Edith Farrell has told The Standard the planting specifications required by Heritage Victoria meant it would be another two years before council could even think about planting the new trees.
"The Heritage Victoria approved management plan for the avenue requires the trees to be at certain specifications in terms of size before planting," she said.
"The first 100 trees will be available in two years' time and the remaining 150 trees a year after that in order to meet these specifications."
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Ms Farrell said the rules were extremely detailed, even prescribing the depths of the holes into which the trees were to be planted.
At least 20 of the Monterey cypresses were significantly damaged in last week's storms. Ms Farrell said many were still being individually assessed by an arborist.
"A number of trees in the avenue have been severely impacted and damage ranges from fallen branches through to large proportions of the trees collapsing or splitting. This was a significant storm event and it will take time for an arborist to assess each tree fully," she said.
"Council is working closely with Heritage Victoria to confirm the type of works that will need to be undertaken to ensure public safety, with an on-site meeting to take place in the coming days."
Ms Farrell said the planned planting schedule might be reassessed in light of the significant damage to the cypresses.
"(A) permit application for the first stage of removal and replanting of around 50 trees on the northern side of the Hamilton Highway from the intersection with the Mortlake - Ararat road to near Woodhams Lane has been lodged and once the replanting program is re-assessed the permit will be advertised in the coming weeks as per Heritage Victoria guidelines."
Each stage of the removal and replanting process would require a separate permit and approval process, however there was a possibility the storm damage would help expedite the process.
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