Residents unhappy about “unsightly” palm trees proposed for Exhibition St

Residents unhappy about “unsightly” palm trees proposed for Exhibition St
Brendan Rees

CBD locals have expressed concern about a palm tree variety that has been chosen for planting along Exhibition St within the theatre precinct, saying it was inappropriate and out of place for the area.

As part of the City of Melbourne’s Exhibition streetscape upgrades, nine Livistona palm trees are proposed for planting in new extended footpath areas, which takes in Her Majesty’s Theatre and The Comedy Theatre.

Additionally, eight Liquidambar styracifla trees, also known as sweet gums, would also be planted.

Livistona australis, also known as cabbage tree palms, are native to Victoria and grow up to 25 metres, with dark, glossy green leaves. They also have a fruit that grows to about 1.5cm.

According to the council, the tree performs well in Melbourne, and “have been chosen to reduce the impact on the footpath and building façades”.



But residents feel the choice of tree species doesn’t fit with the character of the street and would look “unsightly”, with concerns the fruit would also drop onto the footpath and create a mess.

Dr Stan Capp, president of residents group EastEnders told CBD News, said they had asked the council to identify alternative species that “accord more clearly with policy and are more consistent in maintaining the amenity of Exhibition St – one of the great streets of Melbourne”.

“The wind tunnel that Exhibition St has become is a key consideration, as is the need for the trees to cool our environment,” he said.

“We are now again discussing with council officers about our concerns albeit 39 months since our first and only discussion. This is because we have made it our business to be heard – despite what some might think, we are key stakeholders,” he said.

Dr Capp said consultation with key stakeholders occurred in 2019 with Her Majesty’s Theatre, The Comedy Theatre, Rydges Hotel, Marriott Hotel and The Elephant and Wheelbarrow, but this did not include residents.

It was not until a meeting in early 2021, which engaged with the EastEnders that Dr Capp said “we strongly advised against the use of palm trees but this was obviously of no consequence”.


“We are residents, and this is our home albeit shared with our broader community. We love Melbourne and want to see it flourish but not with what we regard as sub-optimal decisions being taken arbitrarily,” he said.


“We look forward to our next meeting of EastEnders where City of Melbourne officers will be attending to further a discussion that although belated is welcomed.”

Concerned resident Jenny Eltham said she was disappointed with the decision of the palm, saying “aesthetically, I do not see that they complement the existing tree planting in Exhibition St”.

“All I can say is, what were they thinking?” she said.

In a statement, the council said trees on Exhibition St were inspected and maintained every year, and dead palm fronds would be removed as part of this work.

“Dropped fruit and seeds will be collected during the council’s daily sweeping of Exhibition St footpaths,” it said.

Thami Croeser, urban planner at the RMIT University, said he was impressed with “how seriously City of Melbourne’s arborists take tree selection”.

“Both because of the diversity of things they’re planting (making our urban forest more resilient against pests and diseases) and also the way that they’re aiming to select species from warmer climates so that they will continue to thrive as our climate gets hotter,” he said.

The Exhibition streetscape project includes upgraded footpaths, new trees, a safer bike lane and bigger pedestrian spaces from Little Lonsdale St to Bourke St. Works are expected to be completed by the middle of this year. •

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