A large gum tree fell on a Calwell man's home in heavy winds on Monday, just over a year after an application to have the tree removed was knocked back following a brief government assessment.
Bikram Subedi said it was lucky his two children were at school when the tree came down.
The tree fell and damaged the roof of the house, landing directly on an area underneath a pergola where his children, aged 10 and 4, often play.
"My family is scared to come to the house because of that tree," Mr Subedi said.
He has now applied to remove a second gum tree, which is planted in the corner of his steep block above the level of the house, but has little faith in the ACT government's assessment process.
"They just look superficially over, you know. Just the outlook. 'Oh, it looks OK. It's green, that's fine; it's healthy. It's dead, it's not healthy.' That's what they do," Mr Subedi, who has studied environmental management and formerly worked in the forestry industry, said.
The assessor's report, seen by the Sunday Canberra Times, found the tree did not meet removal criteria, which allow for trees to be removed when they are in decline, considered an unacceptable risk to safety or threaten substantial damage to a building.
Mr Subedi said the assessment of the first tree, which was signed off in May 2019, took between five and 10 minutes and did not include soil measurements.
"Even the layman can see that that tree is not healthy and branches are going to fall or [the] tree's going to fall. Even a layman can tell that," he said.
"And the assessor, they just came here and had a look at it and [said] 'They look all healthy and fine, you don't need to worry about it'. We didn't worry about it, and this happened."
Mr Subedi said his family were reluctant to return to the home while the second tree loomed over the house. He said his back neighbour had also written a letter in support of the tree's removal, part of an application for an urgent assessment.
"[My children] keep telling me that that tree might also fall into that house, so that is psychologically affecting, no?" he said.
Mr Subedi said he wanted to see the ACT government review its decision-making process for tree removal applications, including a more rigorous assessment of a tree's condition.
"In future, the other houses in the ACT or in other parts of Canberra, they might not get damaged and they might not have to go outside to live out from their house, you know," he said.
An ACT government spokesman said tree protection unit assessors carried out visual tree inspections and considered the surrounding environment and infrastructure when assessing applications to remove trees on leased land.
The spokesman said responsibility for maintenance of trees on private land rested with the owner.
"It is recommended that mature trees are inspected every [three to five] years, however this can vary depending on the species, the location of the tree or whether any works have been carried out adjacent to the tree (that could have impacts on root systems)," he said.
"If a resident is concerned about a tree or trees on their property, or have noticed a change in the tree's health [or] condition, they should contact a private arborist to carry out an assessment and provide recommendations."
The spokesman said Mr Subedi's trees did not meet removal criteria when they were assessed and "a storm event can present a risk to any species of tree".
"Responsibility for the maintenance of all trees located on leased land rests with the lessee. There is no evidence to suggest that eucalypts require higher levels of maintenance or inherently represent a greater risk than other urban trees," the spokesman said.
The Tree Protection Act is currently subject to an ACT government review.
In 2019-20, 1793 applications were lodged to remove trees from leased land in the ACT, along with 365 development applications requiring tree-related advice.
Of those, 1017 were approved, 413 were declined and 363 did not require a formal decision.
The Emergency Services Agency responded to 160 requests for help after damaging winds hit Canberra's southern suburbs on Monday.
Of the calls, 120 were for fallen trees, an agency spokeswoman said.