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Council won’t reveal for months results of tests on elm that fell and killed university professor

Professor Allison Milner who was killed by a falling tree at Princes Park.

Professor Allison Milner who was killed by a falling tree at Princes Park.

She was remembered by friends and colleagues as accomplished, caring and “incredibly bright”.

On Tuesday, the council said it had removed the tree for further inspection. It will also be examined by an independent arborist.

“The results of these inspections are subject to the coronial investigation,” City of Melbourne chief executive Justin Hanney said.

However, more trees along Royal Parade could be removed in future weeks as the council begins inspections on 438 elm trees along the busy running and bike path.

About 58 trees were inspected after the fatal incident on Monday.

“If any trees show signs of potential safety risk as part of the additional inspections, they will be expertly examined by independent arborists and if required, removed immediately,” Mr Hanney said.

Melbourne senior arborist Tim Michau, from Tag Consulting Arbor, said he believed the elms should now be inspected every three months.

“If it was up to me, considering the works getting done around the place, I would have it inspected every three months,” he said.

“If we concentrated on doing proper investigations on the tree like they do when they are doing developments, meaning building trenches and that sort of thing, then … that would be a good thing. They would only have to select a few trees and look at their roots. I don’t know if that will happen.

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“They need to spend some money and properly assess these trees.”

He said it was difficult to determine why the tree fell just by looking at photos, but climate change, drought and nearby construction works all likely contributed to its fall.

“It could have been restrictions with the roots, poor conditioning, it comes under a lot of factors,” he said.

“We also have to consider the funding put in place to maintain these trees whilst they are growing and in locations they are growing – in some areas you need to consider changing the pathways and things around these trees so they have more space. They have to have their own space, when you put paths in and they are up against roads, it’s very hard.”

Robert Mineo, senior arborist at Monash Council and Council Arboriculture Victoria chairman, said on Monday English elms could live for up to 300 years if left in nature. But being in an urban environment such as beside one of Parkville’s major arterials could restrict the trees’ life expectancy to about 100 years.

Drought combined with ongoing construction works and development projects has meant the Royal Parade trees have been exposed to tough growing conditions, and Mr Mineo said that for these reasons, the City of Melbourne should have been keeping a close watch on these trees.

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