HISTORIC Willow trees at The Gong, at Buninyong Botanic Gardens are set to be removed as part of a City of Ballarat rehabilitation program aimed at strengthening a dam wall.
The proposed works, which are open for public consultation until January 31, plan to reinforce the dam wall at the western edge of The Gong which runs underneath Cornish Street at the lake's western edge.
But the plans will see the removal of trees, many of which have stood since the 1800s, raising the ire of residents who say bird and native wildlife will be displaced.
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The project has been developed following an engineering assessment of the wall after seepage was observed downstream of The Gong. The rehabilitation would see the willow trees removed and replaced by a rock embankment with small shrubs.
Buninyong's Merle Hathaway said while she can understand the need to remove the willow trees, she said it was important that trees were planted to replace those that are disappearing.
"Some of these trees have been there since the 1850s," she said.
"If they were going to replace the trees, I wouldn't be against this, but all they are doing is replacing it with a rock wall, I think it's overkill.
"The whole system needs to be looked at, but I can't see how this can be anything but a disaster.
"Birds have a hiding place in there, and it's not just the birds, there's a lot of native wildlife, wonderful frogs.
"We have an obsession with tidying up things, nature is not tidy."
In the City of Ballarat's proposal, it says it has monitored seepage at the base of the dam wall within the Buninyong Botanic Gardens for several years.
"We engaged engineering consultants to assess the condition of the wall.The assessment found that the dam wall was not constructed to modern engineering standards. It also identified that the dam wall needed to be raised to prevent over-topping of the wall in large storms.
"If the wall is not reinforced, there is a long-term risk that the wall could fail. This has the potential to affect properties downstream of the dam."
The council said it would be unsafe to replant trees.
"All trees on the dam wall embankments will be removed as part of the works. This includes the strawberry trees and the crack willow trees as they have a negative impact on the dam wall mainly due to their roots," it said.
"Trees cannot be planted on the dam wall because national standards for dam construction do not allow it. We have developed a landscape plan and trees removed would be replaced with small shrubs as per the landscape plan."
If you wish to have your say, you can do so at https://mysay.ballarat.vic.gov.au/proposed-works-at-the-gong-buninyong-botanic-gardens