The cost of replacing hundreds of cypress trees along the Mortlake Avenue of Honour has blown out by $100,000 thanks to strict heritage requirements and emergency clean up costs.
Moyne Shire Council has updated its estimate for the project to $550,000, up from an initial estimate of $450,000 in 2021 when the council chose the holm oak as the species to replace the ageing Monterrey cypress trees.
An intense localised storm in January 2022 mangled the most fragile trees on the avenue, necessitating an urgent and expensive clean up effort, which wasn't widespread enough to qualify for state government funding.
The council has also been working through an "extensive" heritage permit process for the replacement project, which has incurred a range of extra steps, such as soil testing and monitoring by a heritage consultant with experience in heritage trees.
The memorial name plates have all been removed from the existing trees and stored by themselves in a secure room with extremely limited access within the council offices, as required by a strict Heritage Victoria Plaque Management Plan.
An order for 250 holm oaks was placed in 2021, with the first 100 scheduled to be ready for planting in April or May 2024 and the final 150 ready in 2025.
Mayor Karen Foster said the trees would be worth the wait. "The approved replacement tree, holm oak, are slow growing and must be at a certain size before they can be planted under the heritage permit," she said.
"We appreciate this has been a long process, but with the avenue being heritage listed, there are conditions and processes out of our control that we must follow."
Cr Foster said the council was steadily ticking off the various heritage requirements.
"A surveyor has been appointed to plot the 13 stumps that remain. That work is expected to be completed by the end of February. A heritage consultant will also be appointed to ensure compliance with the extensive permit conditions," she said.
"Once the survey is done a contractor will remove the stumps and work to clear the site of any remaining branches and debris and level off uneven surfaces."
After the site is clear the council has to have the soil tested and erect interpretive signage, again according to heritage regulations.
Cr Foster said the substantial cost of the project had been covered by the council.
"We are seeking funding support from other sources but if that is not possible it will be fully funded from the council budget," she said.
"We are on the final stretch now and are looking forward to the first stage of replanting."
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