Elms attract praise and concern

Bob Erskine is worried about the impact of polleno elm and plane trees in the Tumut region.
Bob Erskine is worried about the impact of polleno elm and plane trees in the Tumut region.

The Tumut region’s introduced deciduous trees have their fans, but Talbingo resident and former civil engineer Bob Erskine isn’t one of them.

Mr Erskine is concerned with the possible impact of pollen from the elm and London plane trees now they are starting to flower.

“In Melbourne, they are causing a lot of problems with allergic reactions from people,” Mr Erskine said. “If health problems arise because of them here, it will affect the whole community.”

The elm trees were introduced in the Shire in the mid-to-late 1800s, and Snowy Valleys Council has adopted a management program for them, given their iconic presence around Tumut.

The trees originate in mainland Europe.

Mr Erskine concedes council does not have the option to simply remove the trees.

“It would be a huge cost to get rid of them,” he said. “They can’t just let them die; the damn things are too dangerous. What they have to do is prepare for their demise.”

He’s far from pleased about the elms lining the Tumut River and other waterways in the area.

“The river is reliant on native species for its ecological and environmental integrity,” he said.

“The leaves of the deciduous trees rot quickly in the water, and soak oxygen from the water, leading to the death of organisms in the water.”

Many of the elms are nearing the end of their life cycle.

“There is good reason many of them look the way they do,” Snowy Valley Council spokesman Brad Bede. “There is their age, and the stress from being in an urban environment.”

Mr Erskine believes Dutch elm disease, spread by the elm bark beetle, might get to them first.

“It is said to be here in NSW,” he said.

Mr Erskine worked as a civil engineer with the NSW Government, and it was from this that his interest in such environmental issues grew.

“In the 1970s, after a project we would undergo restorative and rehabilitation work, and I enjoyed that part of the job, and developed an interest back then,” Mr Erskine said.

Mr Bede said that council had a adopted a management policy for the elms in which their replacements would be made up of similar trees.

Call for trees to be part of World Heritage site

A BRITISH elm curator has called on Snowy Valleys Council to investigate making its elms a World Heritage site.

In an email to council, United Kingdom national elm collection volunteer curator Peter Bourne said he had been in touch with then mayor, Trina Thomson about the elms two years ago but had lost contact.

In his email to council, Mr Bourne said: “I see now that the Shire Council has produced a fantastic assessment on their elms and I am spellbound by their size. I wonder if the Shire has ever thought about producing a website of pictures as by today’s standards Australia is now becoming the best haven for many species of British elms as there is no impending threat from Elm Disease there.

“I am also looking for opinions from the council concerning an application to make the area a World Heritage site as the elms there are truly some of the finest left in the world despite their initial problems with health judging by the report.”

Mr Bourne also said he would be “interested in assisting with the identification of some of the big trees as I believe there are examples of much rarer British elms listed as Ulmus minor as international acceptance of some taxa (names) of trees is not recognized owing to International Law.”