A London plane tree at the centre of a long-running stoush over the future of a prominent Manuka site can be removed, paving the way for a hotel development.
A protection order for the tree was lifted after the owner of the site, Liangis Investments Pty Ltd, and the Conservator of Flora and Fauna on Friday agreed to a mediated outcome in the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal.
The new hotel will feature a 15-metre high green wall and support for flora in the region as part of the mediated agreement, the acting Conservator of Flora and Fauna, Gene McGlynn, said.
Mr McGlynn defended the Conservator's earlier decision to keep the tree on the register but said future decisions would need to pay closer attention to the impact of protected trees on future development.
"We know that, with the tree removed, the current building is not going to stay. ... I think the issue of how to deal with the present and the future is an issue we'll give some thought to," he said.
Mr McGlynn said the Conservator had followed the legislated process, but a "more detailed analysis and discussion" in the mediation had led to a different outcome.
Sotiria Liangis, whose company owns the site, launched an appeal in the tribunal after the Conservator in May decided to keep the tree on the protection register.
Mrs Liangis could not be reached for comment before deadline.
She had previously told The Canberra Times she offered to plant 30 trees at another location in order to get permission to remove the plane tree on Franklin Street.
The president of the Griffith Narrabundah Community Council, Leo Dobes, said it was a disappointing outcome which demonstrated the ACT government's willingness to change legislation to benefit developers rather than maintaining Canberra's "Garden City" character.
Dr Dobes said the association applied to be joined as a party to the tribunal matter, but was told the registrar had not finished considering the application before the successful mediation session.
The association has vocally campaigned for the tree to be retained and incorporated into any future development on the block, despite an aborist's report prepared for the site's owner finding retaining the tree would not be possible.
The tree was nominated for registration in December 2010 by a local resident. An initial assessment found the tree "provides aesthetic and environmental benefits" but was "not located in an ideal position".
Concerned about the tree's health, Mrs Liangis in January called an arborist, who identified a drill hole in the tree. The ACT government's tree protection unit did not identify any poison.