Rowville woman wants $25,000 compensation for tree damage

March 8, 2017 12:00am
Naomi Lomuto wants $25,000 from Knox Council for this “monster” tree outside her house. Picture: Stuart Milligan
Naomi Lomuto wants $25,000 from Knox Council for this “monster” tree outside her house. Picture: Stuart Milligan

A ROWVILLE woman who claims a “monster” tree on her nature strip has damaged her home is fighting Knox Council for $25,000 in compensation.

Naomi Lomuto said the tree’s roots had damaged her driveway and drainpipes, and claimed reports from a builder and plumber backed up her claims.

She made an application in September for about $25,000 in compensation, but she said so far the council’s insurance firm had refused her claim.

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And she said the council still won’t remove the tree, claiming it was healthy.

This was despite the council installing a tree root barrier around it on December 9 in response to Ms Lomuto’s concerns.

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“So it’s kind of contradictory, they’re saying we’re not liable for it but we’ll put in a barrier,” Ms Lomuto said.

“Ultimately I want my driveway fixed and I still want the tree removed because it’s still going to be an ongoing problem.”

She said she was considering taking her compensation fight to court.

Ms Lomuto first complained to the council about the tree in September 2013 when she noticed its roots were lifting up the footpath and creating a tripping hazard, but the council inspected it and deemed no action was needed.

Naomi Lomuto says this tree is damaging her driveway and drainpipes. Picture: Stuart Milligan

But in June 2015 the council replaced a section of footpath that was damaged by the roots, and removed “quite substantial” tree roots found growing near Ms Lomuto’s property.

At that time, Ms Lomuto said a council officer told her he didn’t think the roots had caused any damage to her property.

Then in September last year, builder Walter Vertriest visited her home for a non-related matter and noticed cracks and lifting in her driveway.

Later that month he investigated further, along with a plumber, and they prepared a report that said it was the council’s tree roots that had caused the damage to the driveway and pushed her drainage pipes out of alignment.

In an email, seen by Leader, Mr Vertriest said it was “determined that tree roots from the tree located in the nature strip had caused the damage to the existing driveway”.

Also in the email, Mr Vertriest said the stormwater drainage needed to be replaced because the tree roots had altered the gradient.

Ms Lomuto has asked the Victorian Ombudsman to investigate the council over the issue and is still awaiting a response.

“I think (the council) are putting trees before residents … they need to start taking these claims seriously because it’s something that is going to be affecting all ratepayers,” she said.

The Ombudsman’s office would not comment when contacted by Leader.

Knox Council has been contacted for comment.