In wake of the 300-year-old River Red Gum in Bulleen being identified as Tree of the Year by the National Trust of Australia, Sustainable Australia MP Clifford Hayes has condemned the Victorian Government’s plan to destroy the iconic tree — along with 26,000 others —to clear the way for the North East Link. “While the State Government masquerades as a force for the environment, it continues to support this policy of rapid population growth,” Mr Hayes said. “This push is placing further pressure on not just our environment, but destroys open space for families and children to play. “It is not acceptable to wipe out tens and thousands of trees and affect dozens of local businesses while ignoring the underlying issue of Melbourne’s growth.” Earlier in May, Mr Hayes spoke against the project in Parliament, citing the Government’s contradictions. “My first observation is that in the run-up to the 2014 election Premier Andrews told readers of the Heidelberg Leader that he was not interested in building the north-east link,” he said. “I appeal to the government to take more notice of the affected residents and what these massive freeway projects are actually doing to our city. “We need to preserve our living environment and heritage. “Our Tree of the Year, the River Red Gum, needs to be saved.”