Isabel Mackenzie, 91, chains herself to a tree on the Western Highway at Buangor

A NINETY-ONE-YEAR-OLD grandma has chained herself to a tree in protest against clearing on the Western Highway duplication project.

Isabel Mackenzie chained herself to a century old tree in Buangor, east of Ararat, for four hours on Monday morning in an effort to save vegetation due to be removed to make way for the four lane divided highway between Beaufort and Ararat.

Ms Mackenzie who has lived in the area for more than 60 years said she was concerned about the impact the loss of vegetation would have on the immediate environment.

"Let's face is, trees are a living thing ... this tree will die," she said.

"I am taking this drastic action to draw attention to the heart-breaking loss of our grandchildren's natural heritage.

"All my life I've been a strictly law-abiding person, but because of the unconscionable damage (being done here), I feel impelled to act.

"Another generation won't be able to enjoy these trees."

Napoleons woman Helen Lewer, who had also opted to chain herself to the tree after noticing the removal of vegetation on her travels to the Grampians, said she was appalled by VicRoads decision to remove the trees.

"I was so upset I made it my business," she said.

"VicRoads knew the vegetation impact would be catastrophic, they should hang their heads in shame.

"This could push the whole eco-system into extinction."

Ms Lewer said the ripple effect from the removal of the vegetation had a detrimental impact on the future of the area.

"85 per cent of what is allowed to be lost in one year for Victoria has occurred between Beaufort and Buangor," she said.

"It's no good just planting trees, VicRoads have planted small trees ... but they don't have hollows for at least 200 years, so birds who lived in the trees will have to wait 200 years to breed.

"VicRoads needs to find a route away from the sacred vegetation.

"You don't need this destruction to make the roads safer."

VicRoads Project Director, Western Highway project Mick McCarthy said the public were consulted prior to the works on the highway had begun.

"It was a very extensive planning process that went over a couple of years," he said.

"We went through a public consultation process to make sure we understood the impact and the community had a chance to get involved with that.

"Since then we've been talking with land care groups and the likes to make sure we're fully across the issue.

"We don't shy away from the fact there are a lot of trees coming out, but we've tried to minimise it as far as possible."

Mr McCarthy said all environmental effects from the construction of the new highway were taken into consideration during the planning process and effectively evaluated to determine the best outcome for all involved.

"I think people were shocked with the scale of it which they may not have appreciated at the public exhibition," he said.

"We're not walking away from this, we're saying we're working to improve the impact and we will continue to do that, this doesn't change anything."

VicRoads is duplicating the Western Highway between west of Beaufort and east of Ararat to a four lane divided highway with a central median.


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