Fenceline tree battle erupts

By Benalla Ensign

A Violet Town farmer is locked in a dispute with Strathbogie Shire Council over his right to trim and remove trees on his fenceline.

Kevin Sloan is being taken to court after allegedly removing trees without a permit, but argues that Victorian State law allows him to trim trees that encroach within four metres of his fenceline.

‘‘About seven years ago I started fencing and I didn’t know the rules then, so the shire came out and we had a meeting,’’ Mr Sloan said.

‘‘They told me what I could do, and for the last seven years I’ve been doing exactly what I was told by Strathbogie Shire Council.’’

However, 14 months ago Mr Sloan received a letter from the council saying he was breaking local laws.

Following that communication he looked into his rights and said that his investigation found that state law allowed him to remove trees and limbs that were within four metres of his fenceline.

He was also told that Victorian law trumps local government rules and regulations and as such he believes he did nothing wrong.

Mr Sloan enlisted the help of OH&S Consultant Tony Farfor, who said he was shocked by what was going on.

‘‘There is a building regulation in the planning provisions and it states that Kevin can cut back four metres from his fence,’’ Mr Farfor said.

‘‘However, the council has turned up at his property and said under the Strathbogie provision he can’t do anything to those trees.

‘‘We explained to them that the trees are a danger to Kevin and his contractors, they said it did not matter, and told us we can’t touch the trees.

‘‘Not long after that a tree fell and injured Kevin, he was off work for nearly four weeks recovering.

‘‘We again went to the council and pointed out that Kevin was injured and reminded them that they have a duty of care.

‘‘Their reply was simply that they are not responsible, they told us it’s VicRoads who are.

‘‘At that point Kevin began to receive letters from the council’s lawyers.

‘‘We went to meet them for an interview in the hope of finding a solution, but it was more like an interrogation and they tried to get Kevin to sign a form saying he knew he should not have cut any trees, but he did anyway.

‘‘He refused, now he has to go to court to explain himself.’’

Strathbogie Shire Council confirmed there was an ongoing case with Mr Sloan and released the following statement:

Strathbogie Shire Council can confirm Mr Sloan has been charged on summons by council for offences relating to allegedly removing 11 trees on the road reserve at Panters Rd.

As the matter is currently before the Magistrates’ Court, it is not appropriate for council to make any further comments about the facts of the case.