Rough deal for cockatoos as golf club to take swing at trees


Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos have been listed as endangered since 1999. Photo: Terri Sharp

A Perth golf club that illegally chopped down 22 trees frequented by endangered black cockatoos has been given the green light to remove dozens more.

Mount Lawley Golf Club was approved by the City of Stirling on May 30 to chop down 42 mature trees from its grounds.

The club rents the land from the council and must seek approval to remove trees. While it says it will replace the tress with endemic species, the saplings will take years to reach maturity.

Stirling mayor Mark Irwin told council that razing the trees will enhance the golf grounds for members and that many of the tree species were dying or in poor health.

But Councillor Lisa Thornton said that the importance of the trees as roosting sites for three species of endangered black cockatoo was being ignored.

“This is an important ecological corridor, it is rife with cockatoos,” Ms Thornton said.

She has called for the clearing request to be referred to relevant federal and state governments as the replacement of mature trees with saplings will impact the cockatoos.

Mayor Irwin said it was an “inflammatory argument” to protest the removal of the trees, while ignoring the work the club does to maintain the A-Class reserve.

As part of the golf club’s environmental sustainability strategy, it had planted hundreds of native trees and pledges to increase canopy cover by more than 29 per cent by 2042.

At the May meeting, City of Stirling councillor David Lagan questioned why the 22 trees were removed in 2022 without approval or subsequent penalty.

“We’ve been told by our own officers, 22 trees were removed illegally. Why are we asking to remove 42 more trees?” Cr Lagan said.

In a 2022 article, Cr Lagan said council was spending almost $2m on tree canopy solutions and there was an argument that it should “walk the talk” when it comes to this issue.

“If we can’t support the retention of trees in one section of our policy, and yet we spend huge amounts of money in another, it’s not a good look,” he told The West Australian.

At the May meeting, 11 City of Stirling’s councillors, including Mayor Irwin, voted to approve Mount Lawley Golf Club’s request to remove the 42 mature trees from its course.

While the Mayor admitted that the golf club was one of the cockatoos habitats, he said that the birds: “certainly aren’t at risk to a club that hopes to increase their canopy this significantly over the next 20 years.”

Mount Lawley golf club did not respond to questions on the issue.

Carnaby and Baudin’s cockatoos are critically endangered and numbers of all three species have dwindled in recent years from habitat destruction, invasive species and climate change.

The city’s website states that it aims to increase canopy cover in the city from 12.4 per cent to 18 per cent, but despite the targets, data shows coverage fell to 12.2 per cent in 2020-21.

Under the City of Stirling guidelines, removal, pruning or damage to a street tree is vandalism and can attract a fine.

“We are still losing large amounts of canopy each year, often as a result of development on private land,” the council’s website states.

As part of local planning laws, private residents who spend more than $100,000 on works must retain “significant trees” or plant new “advanced trees”, the website states.

The City of Stirling refused to answer any questions on the issue.

But during the meeting, Mayor Irwin said no one sends letters to congratulate us (council) on the 2350 trees planted in 2019-2020.

“Now, we’re hearing that’s not good enough because they’re not big enough.

“I mean give me a break, they’ve got to grow,” the Mayor said.