By REBECCA BILLS
“WATCH this roundabout,” said Monbulk Business Network President John Coleman after the Monbulk Christmas Tree was ordered to be taken down.
The four-metre high controversial Christmas tree on Main Road/Jordan Road roundabout was constructed by local artist Joost Bakker.
It was taken down on Friday night after orders from VicRoads deemed the site ‘unsafe’.
VicRoads regional director Adam Maguire said the sculpture was installed without the consent of VicRoads or the council and needed to be removed for safety reasons.
“It was blocking sight lines for motorists using the intersection,” he said.
“In addition, there were unintended consequences of people crossing the road to get close to the sculpture, putting themselves at risk of being involved in an accident.
“VicRoads contacted the local trader responsible and explained the safety issues and the need for the sculpture to be removed urgently.”
Monbulk Business Network stated in a comment on their Facebook Page that VicRoads gave the group an ultimatum to have the tree down and paperwork submitted by 5pm or they would take it down and charge the group.
“I got the paperwork in record time and Joost who is a very much sought after man made the time to remove the tree,” the spokesperson said.
“I accept that VicRoads were acting correctly according to criteria.”
Mr Coleman said the situation was embarrassing because the group never expected the Christmas tree to gain as much attention as it did but worked closely with VicRoads to resolve the situation.
“We never expected the coverage to get outside of Monbulk in reality,” he said.
“In my personal opinion it has put Monbulk on the map and hopefully in a good way.
“Anything we do in the future we will make sure is done officially.”
Mr Coleman said he apologises to VicRoads and the council for the unintended inconvenience caused.
Mr Bakker said he was upset that the tree was pulled down, however understood that it needed to be done.
“I didn’t want anyone to get in trouble,” he said.
“This is the first time I have done anything locally.
“Every time I have done something, it’s been controversial – there are always people who don’t like my work and others that love the work.”
The Christmas tree attracted more than 8000 views on Facebook in the first few days of being erected and has been a constant talking point for locals – gaining national media coverage over the weekend.
Mr Bakker said the tree was a piece inspired by local growers and made from recycled chicken wire because it was a bi-product of the growers’ work.
“I find the whole idea of Christmas in Australia a bit strange anyway,” he said.
“The fact that we have fake snow covered Christmas trees is all a bit odd so I’ve always played around artistically with Christmas and used the shape of the Christmas tree in different ways.
“I genuinely love my work so I don’t really worry too much about how other people feel.”
Monbulk Business Network Facebook user Sue Clisby thanked Mr Coleman and Mr Bakker for their boldness in the project on the Facebook page.
“One day Monbulk may have some public art that is approved by VicRoads and Yarra Ranges Council,” she said.