A 350-year-old gum tree is stirring up a debate about safety and heritage.
The yellow box gum, or Eucalyptus melliodora, is located at the back of the C3 Church in Watson.
The gum is is a habitat for native bees, birds and possums. Many believe it is the oldest tree in Watson.
Concern about the safety of the tree began in January when a strong storm caused a large branch to destroy a neighboring fence, scraping the side of the church building.
C3 Church has since placed warning signs and cordoned off the area near the tree.
"Luckily no one lived on the property at that time because it would have seriously injured or even killed someone if it fell on them," C3 Church senior pastor Melanie Marshall said.
"The tree is a beautiful remnant landmark tree but the lives of new locals are too precious to risk destroying or losing. With so much recent residential development in our area, the social context has completely changed.
"There are literally hundreds more people living near the tree now - many of them children and youth."
Ms Marshall said if the church received permission to remove the tree they would do so in an environmentally conscious manner.
"We would ensure it was removed in an environmentally safe way by a professional tree-removal company," she said.
"We would also love to rehouse the bees and to plant at least one beautiful new tree to replace this tree."
After the accident, arborists told the church the tree was dangerous.
C3 Church applied to remove the tree, however, the Tree Preservation Unit declared the tree was healthy and should not be removed. The church sent a letter to the ACT's Minister for City Services Chris Steel, who agreed with the TPU's assessment.
In a letter sent to neighbours on September 15, C3 Church business manager John Jenkins said the church would abide by the TPU's ruling, despite disagreeing with it.
"We believe the tree is unsafe and we believe that we should inform you of our concerns," the letter said.
A nearby resident who did not want to be named described the situation as a quandary.
They said the tree attracted beautiful native birds to the neighbourhood but the resident feared another branch falling could damage their property.
A spokesperson for Transport Canberra and City Services said the tree was protected under the Tree Protection Act 2005 and did not meet the criteria for removal.
"Tree protection legislation exists to protect individual trees of exceptional value and to ensure the urban forest cover of the city is protected," the spokesperson said.
"The tree in question was inspected in May 2020 following a request for its removal and was assessed as being in good health.
"A branch was lost during a storm, which caused significant damage across Canberra and does not indicate that the tree poses a general risk.
"The tree is a remnant tree, meaning it is a locally native species that reached maturity prior to urban development.
"Eucalyptus melliodora is an important species that provides many benefits to local wildlife as well as the broader community."