By gum, it’s $10,000 to shift a tree

A ROAD project to serve the new Wodonga saleyards at Barnawartha North has blown out to more than $1 million

Part of the extra cost is due to the Victorian government charging $100,000 to offset the removal of 10 eucalyptus trees.

Wodonga Council is constructing turning lanes on the Murray Valley Highway for the new Northern Victoria Livestock.

It originally budgeted for $828,942, but the cost has now swelled to $1,028,391, including the offset and $99,000 of additional unspecified costs.

The tree offset is a requirement of the Department of Environment and Primary Industries with the figure negotiated between it and the council.

The council has awarded the tender for the works to Excell Gray Bruni at $527,884 but the total costs include the supply of water, power and the trees offset.

At this month’s meeting, councillor Anna Speedie said she thought the $10,000-a-tree tree offset was too much and it was time such issues were based on commonsense.

But she was glad the project was moving forward.

“It’s another step in terms of securing the future for livestock exchange in our city for our future generations,” she said.

Cr Mark Byatt asked whether the works would attract further costs and timelines would be met.

Infrastructure director Leon Schulz told him extra labour or equipment costs would not be acceptable but the progress depended on the weather.

Cr Michael Fraser asked if the $100,000 could be guaranteed to be redirected into the area.

Chief executive Patience Harrington confirmed it couldn’t, but said the council had a say on where the money would be spent.

“We will adopt more rigour than there has been in the past,” she said.

The extra ratepayers’ money will come from the $730,000 set aside for the now-stalled closure of Hovell Street.

The further $700,000 allocated to the closure was redirected to the Havelock and Lawrence streets intersection.

A spokesman said the cost was still an estimate with a final amount unable to be determined until the tenders for the exchange’s construction was awarded.

“This particular project, the council underestimated the level of tree removal required when the (earlier) estimate was put together,” he said.