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A longstanding Port Macquarie resident can't believe 29 trees are set for the chop in the proposed Port Macquarie breakwall upgrade.
Suzette Moy has lived in Port Macquarie for 74 years.
"I absolutely can't believe they want to take that many of our beautiful trees out," she said.
Mrs Moy would like the state government to prioritise other Port Macquarie projects, particularly road-related work, rather than the breakwall project.
The $5 million state government upgrade includes rebuilding 600 metres of the breakwall, maintenance to the breakwall head with no change in its footprint and installing a five metre-wide path.
Some 43 mature pine trees and 6000 native shrubs and groundcovers will be planted to offset the tree removal.
Hundreds of submissions respond to upgrade plan
Transport for NSW has released the community's response to the planned upgrade with 525 submissions received.
The breakwall upgrade submissions report cites the project's benefits as increased life of the breakwall, improved maritime accessibility and vessel safety, improved community access, and improved pedestrian safety and accessibility.
The proposed removal of Norfolk Island pines attracted the highest number of submissions.
Six Norfolk Island pines, 12 Cook Island pines and 11 casuarinas are proposed for the chop.
The report said arborist advice is that the works will impact the health of the trees and their long-term survival.
Port Macquarie MP Leslie Williams said she had walked along the breakwall with the arborist.
"I have now a very good understanding about why we will have to remove the trees, but importantly thanks to the community's feedback and their expression of the importance of those trees, we will be planting more [trees] than we had anticipated previously," she said.
The landscape plan includes planting 39 Cook pines of three to four metres in height and four Norfolk Island pines measuring three to four metres tall.
Port Macquarie resident Tony Mallia said he didn't think 29 trees should be removed. He also opposes the loss of the painted rocks.
"I would like to see it [the breakwall] stay the way it is," Mr Mallia said.
The report said Transport for NSW is looking to create a record of the rock artwork, through photos and videos to create a historical record, and is seeking to create a register of all the memorial plaques.
Community submissions also raised concerns about the potential impact of the proposed work on the breakwall surf break.
They detailed how integral the breakwall structure is in continuing to produce the surf wave and the importance of the wave to the surfing and board riding community and the wider community in terms of the economy, tourism, youth and health, the report said.
Mrs Williams said there will be no change to the footprint, profile or extent of the breakwall head as a result of the project and detailed investigations found there will be "no discernible change" to the local area's waves, tides or currents.
Bodyboarding legend and resident Damian King is seeking multi-beam and linear survey information from Transport for NSW.
"That breakwall has stood proud and strong through the one-in-100 year flood," Mr King said.
Not in community's best interests, mayor says
Mayor Peta Pinson described the community consultation about the proposed upgrade as "hollow".
She wants the state government to reconsider moving ahead with the project in its current form.
"It's not in the best interests of the community, it's not in the best interests of our region and its not in the best interests of tourism," Cr Pinson said.
Deputy mayor Adam Roberts said the state government needed to take a step back, listen to the community and adjust the project scope.
Cr Roberts said he was fully supportive of an expanded pathway for the breakwall but he had genuine concerns over the absolute need to remove so many trees, the need to replace the iconic painted rocks and what impacts to the world-recognised surfing break may occur.
Submissions show community interest
Meanwhile, a council spokesperson said the submissions report highlights the significant level of community interest in the Port Macquarie breakwall upgrade project.
"While staff have not yet reviewed the submissions report in detail, we note that a significant number of the key issues raised during the consultation process have been included in the report and options regarding a slightly modified path to project delivery have been provided," the spokesperson said.
The spokesperson said the council will continue to liaise with Transport for NSW, particularly around the possible implementation of fishing platforms, and looks forward to receiving further project updates.
Changes made after feedback
Transport for NSW changed some aspects of the breakwall upgrade proposal as a result of the community feedback.
That includes more replacement planting, solar bollard lights rather than overhead lights, investigating safety signs, informal safety stairs in the breakwall, and deferring the start of works until after the Ironman event to be held in early May 2023.
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