What keeps you awake at night?








My 93 year old mother often incorporates the phrase ‘it’s a worry’ into a sentence. I’ve learnt that no matter how small her worry seems, it’s worth paying attention because I’ll hear about the issue until it’s resolved.

Some seven years ago she worried about old water pipes bursting between the walls of her double brick home. To be fair, this had happened before in the garage and the problem was dealt with, but that was when my father was alive.

The pipe issue became so big for mum that we eventually moved her to a newish home in a Retirement Village where she lives independently and has less house maintenance worries.

Now I find that I’m the one on a worry-frenzy and it’s in my own backyard, literally. We have newish neighbours who last spring gave their backyard a makeover. Instead of looking out onto a bleak, bare carport, they now have a permanent outdoor daybed in the middle of a green oasis with trellis on one wall and Ornamental Pears planted on our boundary fence.

Don’t get me wrong, it does look good but I’m freaking out about the four Ornamental Pears and their root system. From a quick Google it seems that these ‘fast growing’ trees are recommended for large spaces, not tiny back yards. In fact, in an adjacent neighbourhood our friends with very mature Ornamental Pears on their nature strip, had a root barrier built by the Council to stop the houses in their street cracking.

As I do a mental calculation of the potential cost to repair any damage to our old sewage pipes, I’m starting to catastrophise. We have very old terracotta pipes that make us vulnerable. Not only would they have to be replaced, a plumber would need to access our backyard from the rear lane. This would entail the removal and rebuild of our back shed (the access point), restore our party fence and rebuild the deck.

In my New Year frenzy, I’ve decided to take control so that I can discuss the issue with my neighbour knowing that there’s no legislation to enforce a tree owner to do anything about their trees in Victoria. Subsequently, I have:

  • made a visit to our local Council to see if I can access plans to confirm where water and sewerage pipes are,
  • called Disputes Victoria who informed me of the lack of laws governing trees in this state as well as suggested how to approach our neighbour,
  • obtained from ‘Dial Before You Dig,’ information on services that may be impacted by the roots on either side of the boundary,
  • contacted an Arborist to confirm the identity of the trees and report on their suitability, growth, and root system.

Since talking with the Arborist, I feel calmer and more rational. Gone are the thoughts to poison the Ornamental Pears in the stealth of the night. Instead, I realise that we need to be proactive and replace our old pipes as our tree roots have blocked them in the past. It’s a costly exercise, but we can plan the reinstatement and be in control.

Have you had similar issues that have resulted in undue worry and how have you dealt with them?