A TREE discrepancy report into the next stage of the Western Highway duplication says there would be an environmental benefit in a proposed alignment along the existing highway to Ararat. A report by Practical Ecology, prepared for Buangor resident MairiAnne Mackenzie, says Ms Mackenzie’s proposed route between Buangor and Ararat would have “significantly less environmental impacts when compared with the loss of construction of (the approved) option one”. However, VicRoads remains confident in its environmental analysis of the current approved route to the south, which was recommended by a planning panel in 2013. The Practical Ecology report says only 21 large (LOTs), or very large old trees (VLOTs) would be lost on a 5.5km section of Ms Mackenzie’s proposed northern alignment, as opposed to 87 LOTs or VLOTs on the approved route. “This report shows the northern option is far better environmentally,” Ms Mackenzie said. “The northern option keeps road impacts much more in the existing footprint.” However, Western Highway project director Mick McCarthy said Ms Mackenzie’s proposed route does not meet VicRoads’ standards and backed the planning panel’s decision. “We believe the number of trees is understated because it is based on Ms Mackenzie’s road design which does not comply with our standards,” he said. “It is also important to note that large old trees were not a primary focus for the independent planning panel. “Also in submitting to the panel, the then Department of Sustainability and Environment made it clear that it would not support a road that followed the existing highway through the foothills of Mt Langi Ghiran State Park because of the potential environmental damage.” Mr McCarthy said VicRoads would review the Practical Ecology report. VicRoads estimates that 186 trees will be removed over the 5.5km section – comprising of 113 LOTs and VLOTs and 73 scattered trees. “The total 263 has reduced by 41 percent from 441 (over the 12.5km section) due to engineering and design measures and will decrease as we continue to refine the design,” Mr McCarthy said. The Practical Ecology report said a northern option would benefit the endangered golden sun moth and striped legless lizard.