Inappropriate tree planting, overhanging branches and damage to footpaths have been highlighted as significant Warrnambool issues by a former long-time councillor.
Businessman Peter Hulin has questioned why the council planted and has refused to remove plane trees planted under electricity wires throughout the city. The trees can grow to 50 metres tall with a girth of 10m.
Mr Hulin said the ongoing cost was "enormous" and the trees should be removed and more appropriate trees planted.
The council has previously said Warrnambool's trees are worth millions of dollars and there was an outcry from residents when Moreton Bay Fig trees were to be removed from the east side of the Raglan Parade/Banyan Street intersection.
Mr Hulin said when he was a councillor chief executive officer Peter Schneider was tasked with conducting an operational review - to reset council workings.
Towards the end of last year Mr Hulin met with mayor Richard Ziegeler and director of city infrastructure David Leahy near the intersection of Timor and Henna streets to discuss among a range of issues, overhanging branches.
When Mr Hulin claimed nothing was done after that meeting a subsequent gathering was held with Cr Ziegeler and Mr Schneider on December 8. He said at the meeting he raised 52 individual issues with the pair that he thought could be looked at and addressed.
The former councillor said one of the issues was plane trees, the damage they caused to paving, guttering and buildings, ongoing maintenance and health issues caused.
He said the trees caused breathing difficulties in some people when the seed pods blew off.
"Melbourne councils have decided not to replace plane trees anymore. They have been taken off their planting list," he said.
"Those trees are being progressively removed and that's what I suggest should happen here. I'm not talking about de-nuding the streets but a progressive program of removal."
Mr Hulin said Morton Bay fig trees were previously removed in Koroit Street, west of Fairy Street, because of their size, maintenance and damage to infrastructure and size.
"I'm not talking about blindly taking things out but a program," he said.
"I'm in favour of the Norfolk Island pines remaining but they need to be maintained. We have to look at a better ways of doing things."
Mr Hulin said on Wednesday this week he received a letter from the mayor saying the issues raised were of an operational nature and therefore not within the control of councillors.
"That begs the question, what are the councillors there for if not to represent the concerns of ratepayers?"
A council spokesman said maintenance of street trees was done in accordance with council policy and guidelines.
"For urgent issues we encourage residents to get in touch directly with council," he said.
"With regard to the wholesale removal of plane trees in central Warrnambool, that is an action that would require community consultation.
"To date, there has not been a widespread call for the removal of the plane trees across central Warrnambool."
A quick stroll down Koroit and Fairy streets in central Warrnambool this week highlighted the tree issues.
The plane trees have to be continually trimmed off, up to four times a year according to the former councillor.
There are also issues with the tree leaves filling guttering, causing overflowing during downpours, causing damage to buildings in high wind and blocking expensive signage.
In addition footpaths and paving is being wrecked by tree roots, and then there are concerns about the health issues.
Mr Hulin said plane trees, while beautiful, were not suitable in many areas.
He said the council had recognised the issue and removed the trees from Liebig Street, but there were many other streets where they were just as unsuitable.
The former councillor said Norfolk Island pines also caused resident significant issues in central Warrnambool, with branches overhanging properties, blocking access to properties and fronds causing litter.
"There's no surprise that people are starting to poison the trees (Norfolk Island pines)," he said.
"They are causing significant issues and the people are clearly taking issues into their own hands."
In November last year The Standard reported two of Warrnambool's iconic Norfolk Island pine trees had been deliberately poisoned with the council describing the third attack in 18 months as brazen and selfish.
Council arborists discovered the two of the century-old trees in Nicholson Street, on the south side, with drill holes and fresh wood shavings.
That followed an attack directly opposite on another tree on the street's north side in mid-2020 and again in January this year, when new holes were found near the base.
Mr Hulin said it was time for the council to take action to address what was obviously a contentious issue.
"Maintenance of trees and footpaths are among the council's most basic roles and we unfortunately seem to be failing in this area," he said.
"There needs to be a complete overhaul of how the council is doing business. We clearly want to avert people resorting to poisoning trees.
"What we want is a clear maintenance plan. The council seems to be quite good at cutting grass, but what about these other equally important roles and responsibilities.
"There is nothing more important than planting the right trees in the right places."
Mr Hulin said the plane trees were continually chopped because they were unsuitable.
"It's sad to watch. Spend the money to remove them and plant something appropriate that doesn't need to be maintained anywhere near as much."
Mr Hulin said if residents had overhanging trees they were ordered to do work by the council or risk being issued with fines.
"It's got to work both ways," he said.
Long-time senior journalist
Long-time senior journalist
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.