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Residents adamant about saving Whitsunday coconut trees

By Mark Beale

ELIZABETH Demartini remembers watering the first coconut palms on Coconut Grove and the Airlie Beach foreshore when she was four years old.

“So I really want them to stay,” she told Tuesday night’s first community consultation meeting about how the council manages its 975 coconut trees.

Mayor Jennifer Whitney said in her opening address she had never intended to cut the trees down, before excusing herself for another meeting and giving the floor to parks and gardens manager Scott Hardy.

Mr Hardy explained while the coconut palms were “definitely an asset” there were costs associated with de-nutting, insurance and public liability.

He said trees in areas such as the Airlie Beach foreshore would definitely stay but the question was how to manage the ones in low-use areas and road reserves.

Airlie Beach resident PJ Halter noted this appeared to be a first-world problem, asking somewhat rhetorically if Mr Hardy thought tropical nations around the world were spending taxpayer dollars on devising coconut policies.

“Can you even imagine that? How silly it is?” she said.

Suzana Fuller, who grew up in Brazil, said Rio had thousands of coconut trees on the beach.

“Not a single person has ever been killed by a coconut – and we’ve got a population of 6.5 million,” she said.

Former deputy mayor Rogin Taylor said it was recently calculated the chance of being hit by a falling coconut was 864,000 to one.

“Is this really high risk as determined by the draft policy?” he asked.

Mr Hardy spoke about the different options the council could consider, such as replacing coconut palms with other varieties or thinning them out.

Peter Jennings said his worry with this was a “regimented” look. Likewise, Suzette Pelt said the thought of a municipal garden with trees spaced metres apart filled her with horror.

“They’ve got to be loose and natural,” she said.

Meanwhile, Mr Jennings said he heard a radio broadcast suggesting if the palms were sprayed with a copper-based fungicide, they wouldn’t make any nuts.

“To me, if that is true, the whole problem’s solved,” he said.

Mr Hardy said he would certainly look into this. “I’m open to all ideas… any advice like that and we’ll do some trials,” he said.

Coconut consultation meetings are scheduled for Bowen on July 21 and Proserpine Entertainment Centre on Thursday, July 23, at 7pm.

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