Prominent Illawarra horticulturalists and Minnamurra Landcare volunteers discovered a serious flaw in documents produced by Minnamurra Boardwalk and Cycleway contractor Cardno.
Experts revealed Cardno’s arborist has misidentified 22 trees of the 188 trees tagged along the Minnamurra River.
There are 66 trees, part of the subtropical rainforest environment around the Minnamurra River, due to be cut down for the cycleway.
Upon inspection, Illawarra horticulturalist Carl Glaister and ‘Wollongong’s native trees’ author Leon Fuller found trees classified as cheese trees, guioa, native celtis, acacia longifolia and casuarina cunninghamiana river she-oak were not identified correctly by the contractor.
Mr Glaister said Cardno has also understated the size of the trees featured in the report.
“Many of the trees recommended for destruction are large specimens, taller than the height recorded in the consultant’s assessment and certainly with wider spread,” he said.
“More importantly, they are just above the high tide mark and are stabilising the bank of the estuary and river.”
A Friends of Minnamurra River statement has condemned the consultant’s report as “seriously flawed and unreliable”.
“Some of the trees the consultant says are unimportant and must be cut down for the boardwalk may, in fact, be up to 100 years old,” President Will Chyra said.
“These surveys were done by professionally-qualified arborists...for them to get this sort of information wrong is a real concern.
“The trees recommended by the consultant for removal are an integral part of a rare vegetation remnant which the Commonwealth government’s Department of Environment and Energy is currently nominating for formal listing as a Threatened Ecological Community.”
Cardno’s bungle has compound fears of local residents the project is being rushed through.
Mr Chyra has urged Kiama Council to prepare an environmental impact statement before works begin.
Kiama Council and Cardno were contacted for comment on the horticulturist’s revelations about the project on Wednesday.
By Friday afternoon, council was yet to send its full response.
Council did point the Kiama Independent to the its 2018 community satisfaction survey, where 70 per cent of residents interviewed said they supported the boardwalk project.