Outcry over hedge removal: Mayor Keith Parkes acknowledges communication breakdown

Hedge removed: The unseemly sight following the removal of a century-old hedge at Milang.
Hedge removed: The unseemly sight following the removal of a century-old hedge at Milang.

Veterans and community members have been left devastated after a portion of a 99 year-old Cypress hedge surrounding the Milang Soldiers Memorial Gardens was torn up by Alexandrina Council last week on Wednesday, June 24.

Video posted to Facebook by Milang resident and veteran Greg Hopgood shows council workers in the final stages of removing the significant hedge.

About 50 metres of the hedge which lines the gardens on the corner of Ameroo Ave and Coxe Street was uprooted.

In the footage, Mr Hopgood can be heard deriding council workers for their actions.

"Do you understand, did you feel anything when you were ripping that up?" Mr Hopgood asks.

Criticism has since been levelled at the council for a lack of community consultation.

An Alexandrina Council spokesperson said the hedge was removed to assist with visibility at the neighbouring intersection and because it "had impeded the footpath by over a metre".

The spokesperson said any pruning efforts to remedy these issues would have destroyed the hedge.

"It [the hedge] was at such a thickness it could not be pruned back sufficiently to alleviate sight issues, without destroying the hedge," the spokesperson said.

President of the Strathalbyn RSL Sub Branch Cate Goodall, said veterans and the wider Milang community were disappointed the hedge had been removed without consultation.

"It has appeared to have occurred without any community consultation," Ms Goodall said.

"If there was community consultation, it did not include the RSL or anyone who had been previously involved in the development of those lovely gardens."

Ms Goodall said to see an entire section of the hedge removed on one side of the entrance gate was "shattering".

"There were better ways to have done this and I don't believe the excuse of public safety, that you can't see around the corner," Ms Goodall said.

"It's a disappointing argument for something that should of had some degree of historical consideration before it was removed."

The council has since acknowledged a breakdown in communication and Mayor Keith Parkes said he was working to remedy the situation after meeting with veterans and community members at Milang.

"There was definitely a lack of communication and it's very disappointing there was no community consultation on such a significant matter," Mr Parkes said.

"I fully respect the dissatisfaction of the community, particularly among the returned servicemen in the area.

"Council has now engaged a landscape architect to come up with some options to remediate the site to hopefully make it look better than ever."

Mr Parkes said the council would continue to consult with local RSL members to combine their ideas together with the architect's.

"We want to come up with something everyone is happy with, that we can put out for wider community consultation and then go ahead and get it done," Mr Parkes said.

"This is a priority and will happen quickly. I like them, I'm an ex-serviceman and I'm really disappointed.

"The lads doing the job were just doing what they were told to do and I don't blame them, there was definitely a communication problem."

A review of council's processes regarding community consultation is now underway.

Ms Goodall said the RSL and its members would always remain open and available for consultation.