Council and local objectors questioned whether sufficient efforts had been made to avoid the removal of the trees in accordance with the Native Vegetation Framework. They submitted that other measures, such as reduction in speed limits, would decrease risk without the need to remove native trees.
The stretch of road concerned is 6 km long, and a speed reduction from 100 kph to 80 kph would add just 54 seconds to the trip. VicRoads argued, however, that the nature of the highway was such that it would be unrealistic to expect drivers to honour an 80 kph general speed limit. VicRoads had originally applied to remove 136 live and 17 dead native trees as part of the arrive alive! road safety strategy. This number was considerably reduced by the time Council made its decision to refuse a permit for the removal of 63 live trees and six dead trees. VicRoads appealed the refusal to grant a permit to VCAT. The Tribunal considered whether the risk of harm to motorists justified the removal of vegetation and whether the requirements of the Native Vegetation Framework had been satisfied. The Tribunal expressed surprise that the State Policies section of the Planning Scheme contained no policies relating to road safety.
The Tribunal also noted the lack of scientific evidence regarding whether priority should be given to reduced speeds versus implementing appropriate clear width zones. Arguments based on the heritage value of the vegetation were given little weight, because Council had not included the area in a Heritage Overlay. The appeal was granted in part with 50 trees permitted to be removed and 19 trees retained. These 19 trees were saved because they were on part of the road to be bypassed by a planned future realignment.