The Monteray Pine (Pinus radiata) is a feral introduced weed, that causes more problems to the Australian environment than most people would imagine.
The sheer size to which they grow blocks out sunlight to most other competing (native) plants.
On top of that the resin that comes from fallen leaves and branches (and the fungus that grows in them) is toxic to most native species, the result being that Pinus radiata are incompatible with almost al native vegetation.
Besides that, the trees have a habit of falling down unpredictably and causing property damage.
And then of course there's the fire risk. Stick a match to pine needles and see what happens!
And that's only half the story.
Pine trees do have uses however. In North America, they are native and are part of the local ecology. Elsewhere and in areas away from native bushland and urbanisation, pine forests are a useful cash crop for lumber, the wood of which is used for all manner of furniture and building purposes.
But put simply, everywhere else they are a pest and a nuisance.
Recognizing this fact, most government authorities in Victoria have designated Pinus radiata as an environmental weed and advocate their removal, with most councils recommending the replacement with native species.
Included here is Manningham Council (on the outer edge of Melbourne), which in their own brochures talk about the problems caused by Pine Trees. They tell how to kill the trees and why natives should be planted instead.
This I suppose is the responsible thing to do.
However the truth of Manningham council's actions is the opposite to their printed rhetoric.
Last year, and following a request from our neighbours, we approached council to remove a row of overmature (60 year old) Pine Trees from the back fence.
Although these trees are by the council's own admission an environmental weed, council insisted on the need for a permit to remove them.
Council's CEO John Bennie and the (so-called) environmental amenity director Paul Molan, have since overruled a lower ranking bureaucrat and refused permission to chop down the trees.
This is in spite of a previous undertaking by bureaucrat Maria Rizutto (since removed from Manningham council) that all the pines could be removed and the unanimous support of all neighbors and others in the local area. In fact, no one in Park Orchards wanted the trees to remain!
However, Bennie and Molan, (who don't happen to live in the area), claim they know what's good for us and the environment and have said that they prefer pine trees to native species. They have now also claimed that the species Pinus radiata is rare and endangered!
Molan's own Blackburn property, which is not in the Manningham government area (and which has been photographed) is itself a weed infested mess, which is hardly the sort of blight you'd expect from a director of "Environmental Amenity" and makes a mockery of any pretense he has of wanting to improve the amenity of the local environment.
Because of these actions by Molan and Bennie of Manningham Council, neither ourselves or our neighbors can plant any natives. They simply don't grow.
By way of example, we recently spent over $300 on natives for the garden, and all died due to the proximity of pines.
The neighbors, Sid and Pat Griffiths (who have a bigger problem with the pines than us, because they literally live underneath them) have also been unable to grow anything under the pines except noxious weeds, Ivy and Blackberry.
These same Pine Trees and their invasive root systems have dug up the neighbor's pool, making it unable to hold water. The pine trees roots have dug up the neighbour's garage and paths causing many thousands of dollars in damage.
The Pine trees have a habit of falling on their house's roof and causing untold damage, which is no surprise as all lean dangerously and have been independently declared as dangerous by a consultant (Robert Bull).
Bull called for their immediate removal and that was two years ago.
An aggressive council bureaucrat Natasha Swan said that the damage to the Griffiths' house was due to their bad building practices in the first place and not the pines. This was in spite of the pine roots being clearly visible at the damage points.
Bennie and Molan both support Swan's spurious claims.
Meanwhile a few other rogue Pines in Park Orchards have crashed over local streets, wrecking cars and blocking streets.
Following three separate reports (as called for by council) and costing over $1,000, Molan and Bennie still refuse to allow the trees to be chopped, even though all the independent reports stated that the trees should go.
The trees have no "heritage value" and the only "significance" of the trees was according to Bennie "Their size…if they are removed, you'd notice they were gone…"significance" doesn't necessarily mean good".
The damage caused by "significant" the pine trees even goes further.
The roots have destroyed the pipe systems for several houses in the area.
The resins have drained into the local Alan Morton Reserve and effectively wiped a sizeable part of the local frog population.
Those that remain, cling on via a few pools that are shielded from the resins.
The result: One species Litoria raniformis (listed as endangered) is no longer in the area. It was here before the Pines were planted. Another species Limnodynastes tasmaniensis is in severe decline in the area, but not yet endangered at the state level.
This goes up the food chain and makes "cuddly" animals like Platypus locally threatened.
Er, well, they don't eat pine needles either.
Allowing the Pine Trees to grow and continue to destroy the local environment is also against the "Significant Landscape Overlay", affecting most Park Orchards properties that supposedly is there to protect and enhance the local environment and character.
Pines provide refuge for invasive birds to attack natives, the result being that a sizeable chunk of Park Orchards is infested with Minor Birds and Pigeons and not much else.
The Pines have effectively destroyed much of the local ecology.
So why have the bureaucrats, Molan, Bennie and their underlings decided to be such environmental vandals?
According to some, it's because these people are "pure evil". In terms of the local environment, that most certainly is true.
There could be another reason as well.
In 1999, in a best-selling book "Victoria Police Corruption - 2" I detailed how another Manningham council employee committed perjury in a sworn statement.
Maybe the council people are seeking revenge against me (and at the expense of the local environment).
Another reason could be a case of simply trying to create a problem so that at some time down the future council will need to employ more public servants to "solve" it.
Manningham CEO John Bennie has been recorded saying "Everyone who lives in Park Orchards, moved there for the Pine Trees". This ridiculous statement is akin to saying that everyone moved to Queensland for the Cane Toads!
The similarity doesn't just end there.
The Cane Toad problem was also created by evil bureaucrats.
In spite of the best advice available, and the knowledge of the environmental destruction already caused by the species gone feral in Hawaii, these south American Anurans were deliberately introduced into Queensland in the 1930's.
They were aided and abetted by people in government so that they could overcome the initial difficulties of becoming an established feral species.
After the species gained a foothold, it became one of the most evil environmental pests known and is directly responsible for the extinctions of several native species (with more to come).
Now the government is spending money to ostensibly deal with the very problem they deliberately created.
Are Pine Trees headed for the same feral future?
Yes, they are; and especially if bureaucrats, John Bennie and Paul Molan have their way.
Are they the horticultural equivalent of the Cane Toad?
Put simply, yes!
PS For reasons uncertain, the local Murdoch controlled Manningham Leader newspaper are running a barrage of "pro Pine tree" stories, which is in line with the views of council bureaucrats, even though our own surveys have shown local opinion to be dead against these feral weeds.
PPS - Another Banksia on our property has died as a result of being showered with leaves and debris from nearby pines. No replacement will be planted unless and until the pines are removed as to do so would be a waste of time.
This article by:
Raymond Hoser (Zoologist, author of nine books, and numerous papers, including "Endangered Animals of Australia", 240 pp. published in 1991), 488 Park Road, Park Orchards, Victoria, 3114.
Phone: 0412 777 211.