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I was sent photos of a tree that had been vandalised in Victoria & later, a sign attached to the tree by Latrobe City Council. The sign reads –
“This tree has been severely vandalized. Trees are significant & valuable assets & belong to the whole community. Every incident of tree vandalism is a direct cost to ratepayers.” It then invites people who may have information to contact the Council.
I love this sign, especially the acknowledgement that public trees belong to the whole community, not just to the person whose house the tree is outside of or the street it is growing in. I think an enormous percentage of the community incorrectly think that the street tree outside is theirs to do what they like with.
I visited the website of Latrobe City Council & found that they also write up incidents of tree vandalism. Here is one from October 2012. The use of ‘bold’ is my emphasis.
“Trees replaced in Church Street, Morwell.
Latrobe City Council’s manager infrastructure operations, Jody O’Kane, said that the trees were damaged late last week.
“The young trees were broken off in a deliberate attack. Officers from the depot replaced the vandalised trees with new trees & the streetscape looks as it should again.
“We appreciate residents reporting incidents of vandalism of Council assets.
Pride in the community is important & the vast majority of citizens respect their environment & feel aggrieved when damage is deliberately inflicted.
We do respond to reports of vandalism in as short a time frame as possible & will continue to maintain the street trees in our community,” Mr O’Kane concluded.”
Latrobe City Council’s approach is one that educates the community that tree vandalism is not acceptable & also is about changing the culture to one that respects trees. If any Council ignores the vandalism incident & rewards by removing the tree, then others in the community know that this is how they can have a street tree removed too.
I’m posting about this because it is the worst example of tree vandalism I have personally seen & because of the great actions by Canterbury Council in response.
I was told of the vandalism in Wonga Street Canterbury, so just out of interest we went to have a look. I was unprepared for what I saw. Nine street trees, all mature Brushbox had been poisoned. Large drill holes were evident in all trees. It was like the person/people who did this thought – …..hmmm, looks too obvious – so they poisoned other trees on both sides of Wonga Street perhaps to disperse any finger pointing from both the Council & the community.
Who knows why they poisoned these trees. I don’t like to stress money when talking of trees as they provide many more benefits than money, but when talking about tree vandalism, I think it is worth focusing on property value & profit.
What we do know is that the vandal/s significantly decreased the value of many properties here, though I doubt they realize this. A lot of people don’t understand that the street tree out front has a big impact on their own property.
A friend who is a Real Estate Agent in the Inner West wrote the following to me recently –
When a buyer looks at a house they also look at the street. Time & time again I hear “I don’t like this street, it’s got no trees.” Streetscape makes a huge difference to property values.
Wonga Street is a busy road so the trees collected particulate matter & helped purify the air for the houses along here. The Brushbox trees being mature looked great once. You can tell from looking at the other untouched trees further along the street. In my opinion Brushbox trees have the ability to turn an ordinary street into something that is grand & that translates into money.
What Canterbury Council has done deserves praise. They have attached a sign to all the trees that says in large red letters – “This tree has been vandalized,” or “This tree has been poisoned” & ask people to contact the Council if they have any information.
They did not use nails to attach the signs, instead using a metal tie that makes it very difficult to remove the sign while at the same time protecting the tree. That the trees are dead or dying & they still took care not to use nails impressed me. It sends a clear message to people about respect & care for trees.
Next, they have not removed the dead or dying trees. I was told by a resident that these signs have been in place for around 3-years. Another said 12-months or more, but they were new to the area, so I can’t be sure.
If I were to poison a street tree it would be because I wanted it gone. A few months to one year before it was removed would not concern me. However, if the tree had signage on it & was to remain insitu for an indeterminate number of years, that would act as a massive deterrent.
Canterbury Council also planted some replacement trees. It appears that they will not remove the poisoned Brushbox until the new Brushbox trees have established to a decent size. I love that they planted the same species of tree.
Leaving the ugly vandalized tree insitu & with signage while the new tree grows takes the power back to the Council & removes any reward the vandal may have thought they would be gaining. I think their approach is excellent. But then again, I am hardline when it comes to community owned trees paid for by the tax-payers dollar. I do not believe anyone has the right to vandalise public trees & that includes radical pruning to keep the street tree a bonsai.
I imagine those who live in the leafy end of Wonga Street hate to pass these dead & dying trees, but at the same time appreciate that the Council has taken action to ensure that this doesn’t travel the length of the street. They are the ones who benefited by the shade of the Brushbox over this record-breaking hot summer. They will also benefit by higher property values if they decide to sell. I know. A Real Estate Agent told me so.
The following was posted on Marrickville Council’s Facebook page –
“Nominate a Street Tree. Tell us about that vacant tree pit or tree-less grass verge in front of your house, & Council will come & plant a tree. We are preparing for the 2013 annual street tree planting program & are looking for suitable sites to plant street trees.
Send your request to email@example.com & provide the following information:
- ground surface (ie. Grass verge, concrete)
- power lines above?
The suitability of the site will be assessed by Council’s tree management team & an appropriate tree species determined. Nominations close on Tuesday 30 April.”
Thank you Marrickville Council. This is a wonderful initiative. I don’t think it would hurt to let Council know of other locations where tree pits are empty/covered with bitumen or of streets that need street trees either. They can only say no.
Please spread the word as there is a good chance many won’t hear about this. The deadline is only 2-weeks away & tree-planting only happens once a year.
ABC Radio National’s program ‘360documentaries’ is asking for stories about the community’s relationship with trees – past & present. Some of these stories will be included in an upcoming radio documentary called, ‘Trees I’ve loved, Trees I’ve lost.’
“Do you have a secret tree? An imaginary, ghost, or a dream tree? Have you hugged a tree? Are you a protector of trees? Have you lost a tree? Is a there a tree which is often on your mind? Are trees painfully absent in your life, or powerfully present?”
With much negative news about forest & urban tree loss through vandalism, mining, logging & development, I think that it is wonderful to have a documentary focus on the good that trees bring into our lives. Surely some of us have a tree story to add to the program.
This link has more information about the program & shares thoughts & stories on trees. The comments section is full of wonderful stories & in itself makes for a great read. http://bit.ly/WKtQtJ
The deadline for submissions is Friday 17th May 2013. The ABC asks that you keep your story to a maximum of 200 words – shorter is better. Here is the link for submissions – http://bit.ly/XRi2Bv
Still on the subject, the New York Times recently published a wonderful story written by Bill Hayes called, ‘A Year in Trees.’ It’s a story of grief & the trees outside his window & I think it is well worth reading.
“I didn’t cover the windows with shades or curtains. I would wake with the sun & lie in bed & watch the tree limbs for a minute. Some mornings, the branches looked as if they were floating on wind drafts, as light as leaves. With a stormy sky, they turned black & spindly, like shot nerve endings.” http://nyti.ms/10DMD6U
I was recently told about the impending loss of the old ‘Boy Scouts’ Camp’ land in Bundeena. The land was gifted to the Boy Scouts Association of NSW in the 1960s & is now for sale – all 5.6 hectares (14 acres) of it.
What makes this land special is that it is pristine bushland, containing an unbroken canopy of Sydney sandstone gully forest. It also has a freshwater wetland & as such, provides a very important habitat for many protected species & migratory birds.
“Spring Gully is a known habitat for many protected species including swamp wallaby, echidna, powerful owl, water dragon, goanna, diamond python, grey-headed flying-fox, tortoise & frogs. It is also a habitat for migratory birds such as the Channel Billed Cuckoo, Japanese Snipe & Koel.” ~ Help Protect Spring Gully website.
There are also many sites of significant aboriginal heritage on the Boy Scouts’ Camp land. These important historic & cultural sites should not be destroyed for development.
The land of the Boy Scouts’ Camp adjoins the Royal National Park. On the map the land looks like a triangle that takes a substantial chunk out of the Royal National Park. It is easy to see the park’s borders being returned to what they should be, rather than a housing development that sits inside the Royal National Park. “It is the only part of the Spring Gully creek & wetlands that is not part of the Royal National Park.” ~ Help Protect Spring Gully website.
Bundeena is a village & the Spring Gully Protection Group believes that any further development will have a negative environmental impact on both the village & the Royal National Park.
The Spring Gully Protection Group is asking the State Government to purchase the land from the Boy Scouts Association of NSW to ensure that this pristine bushland becomes part of the Royal National Park & something that benefits all Australians forever. I think this is very reasonable.
National Parks belong to all of us. The Royal National Park is on Sydney’s doorstep & there would be few of us who have not been there or to Bundeena. You can help protect Spring Gully by signing the Spring Gully Protection Group’s online petition here – http://www.springgully.org
Scientists at Heriot-Watt University & the University of Edinburgh are about to publish their research into brain fatigue in The British Journal of Sports Medicine.
In the study, each participant was attached to a newly developed portable EEG machine that monitored their brain waves while they were out walking. They were told to walk at their own pace & were send into three different urban environments – “an older, historic district with light traffic, then through a half mile of green space, then through a more urban district with heavy traffic.”
Participants showed rising attention & frustration levels in the two man-made settings & meditative brain activity in the natural, green space.
The study showed that people’s brains react well to green space & views of trees reducing stress & helping with attention fatigue. Those of us who use parks & other green spaces regularly will know this. Unfortunately, many don’t know of the benefits of green space or how daily use can have a major positive impact on their lives or they know, but do not have the time to use it.
“The fact that home-grown scientists have been able to prove what has always been suspected could have far reaching repercussions for planning law, in respect of allowing homes to be built on green-belt land.”
Trees & green space is something I believe should be mandatory with new developments here. The trend has been to maximize the development by building right up to the footpath boundary & include only token green, but no useable green space within the development. As more high-rise housing without green space is built, the issue of stress & brain fatigue will become a prominent feature within sections of our society & is likely to have far reaching effects in the workplace, the health system & within families. http://bit.ly/11eppqz
I was shocked to read that power company Essential Energy wants to chop down some very significant trees in Gilgandra NSW to install a new power line route from Gilgandra to Dubbo.
The trees affected are rare Fuzzy Box trees aged between 150-200 years, of which there are “less than 50 hectares of Fuzzy Box protected in the world.”
Also on the removal list is an Aboriginal scar tree & ‘Wheat Carter’s Tree,’ which is culturally significant to the town.
“Residents have bemoaned the lack of appropriate community consultation & believe the problem could be resolved by moving the proposed pole around the tree.”
Gilgandra Shire Council had “decided to wash their hands of it.”
To their credit Essential Energy is consulting with the Gilgandra Aboriginal Lands Council as well as the Office of Environment & Heritage regarding two of the trees “identified as having potential cultural significance.”
I have a strong belief that Aboriginal scar trees, rare trees & historic trees belong to the whole of Australia, not just one town, city or state. Significant trees link us all with our past & with the environment. Many thousands of people travel around Australia to see historic trees or special environmental landscapes every year.
When the two ghost gums painted by famed artist Albert Namatjira were burnt down by vandals in January 2013, many across Australia, & indeed the world, grieved at their senseless loss. Most Australians would not have visited the Murray River to see the River Red Gums, but ask them whether they care about them, most will say yes. It is the same with the Daintree Forest in Far North Queensland.
We care about Tasmania’s Huon pines, the Tarkine, the Wollemi pines north-west of Sydney hidden away to keep them safe & the ancient Jarrah trees of Western Australia to name just a few.
We may not have heard of the ‘Wheat Carter’s Tree,’ but most likely visitors to Gilgandra would go & visit that tree & the Tourist Information Office would recommend they do because it is a landmark tree & part of the town’s history. Trees are part of Australia’s cultural heritage & are important to many.
Sure, people who don’t care about trees wouldn’t blink an eyelid if any of these historical or rare trees were chopped down or even made extinct, but there are many of us who feel connected to trees & want to keep the special ones. There must be something else that can be done. I applaud those residents who are trying to save Gilgandra’s special trees & hope that they are successful in saving these trees. To read more see – http://bit.ly/103QBpq
1. 62-year-old American, Harvey Updyke Jr famed for poisoning two 130-year-old much-loved Southern Live Oak trees called the Toomer’s Oaks in Auburn University Alabama in January 2011 after his team lost a game has been sentenced to 3 year’s gaol. Currently in custody, he will remain in custody about 6-more months. After release he will have a 7pm curfew & be on supervised probation for 5-years with the conditions that he is not allowed to enter the university campus, attend any sporting event or enter a Lowes Store where he threatened an employee. He was also fined $1,000. The trees will be chopped down in April with the wood being made into souvenirs & a memorial to be displayed at the local museum. http://bit.ly/XAI37G
2. Anne Frank wrote in her diaries about the Horse Chestnut tree that she could see from the Amsterdam attic window where she & her family hid for 2-years during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II. “From my favourite spot on the floor I look up at the blue sky & the bare chestnut tree, on whose branches little raindrops shine, appearing like silver, & at the sea gulls & other birds as they glide on the wind…I firmly believe that nature brings solace in all troubles.” The tree was estimated to be between 150 &170-years-old & sadly blew down in 2010. Eleven cuttings of this tree will be planted across the US this year as “as symbols of tolerance & hope.” http://bit.ly/13plieP
3. Massive fossil trees have been found in northern Thailand. “The longest petrified log measures 72.2 meters (237 feet), which suggest the original tree towered to more than 100 meters (330 feet) in a wet tropical forest some 800,000 years ago.” No living tree in Thailand is anywhere near the size of the fossils. One of the fossils has grabbed the title of the worlds longest unbroken fossilized tree trunk. Seven fossils out of nine have been excavated. http://bit.ly/11icbLC
4. Tree number seven billion has been planted as part of the British Columbia reforestation program in Canada, which began in 1930. “It took 51 years for the province to plant its first billion trees. The second-billionth tree was planted merely eight years later in 1989. The province planted the sixth-billionth tree four years ago at Knox Mountains in Kelowna.” What a fantastic feat. http://bit.ly/14on1k5
5. Arlington National Cemetery, a military cemetery in Virginia US is to be expanded because they will run out of burial space within 12-years. 800 trees will be chopped down to make way for the expansion & many are against this environmental destruction. “Critics of the plan say that the loss of older, mature woodlands will have an outsized impact on the natural habitat, given that much of the rest of Arlington County is urbanized. Such older woodlands would take generations to replace, essentially making them ‘irreplaceable’ said critics, including members of several citizen groups like the Arlington Urban Forestry Commission.” Cemetery officials say most of the trees are 50-100 years old, with the oldest at about 145 years old. Each tree removal will allow 30 graves. http://bit.ly/WK6ZfN
6. Trinity Oaks wine brand has a tree-planting program called ‘One Bottle, One Tree.’ They teamed up with non-profit organization ‘Trees for the Future,’ in July 2008 & have planted 7-million trees throughout Africa, Asia & Latin America. Angove Wines from Australia are included in their program, but you would need to purchase a bottle in the US for it to be made into a tree. It’s great to see an Australian wine involved. http://bit.ly/XZT99V
7. Nursery owners in Pakistan have vowed to set fire to 1-million tree seedlings on the World Forest Day to protest against what they consider flawed forestation policies of the government. “The extreme step was being taken as a last resort to shakeup national conscience & to make people think what is wrong with Pakistan’s forestation policies. There is no forestation in Pakistan despite the fact that millions of seedlings & millions of acres of suitable land was available.” http://bit.ly/Y9uLTv
8. 63,000 trees were planted over 5-days along streets & roundabouts in Sana’a in Yemen to improve the city’s appearance. Almost 10,000 street trees were planted last year. In a bid to be more sustainable, water used for personal washing will be collected from mosques & used to water the trees. http://bit.ly/ZNX2xP
9. The first time chop sticks were used was by Da Yu, the founder of the Xia dynasty in 2100 BC. “It was an invention born of urgency. In his rush to reach a flood zone, Da Yu did not want to wait for his meat in his wok to cool, instead seizing a pair of twigs & wolfing down his meal.” - thus chop sticks were born. The chairman of Jilin Forestry Industry Group has said “We must change our consumption habits & encourage people to carry their own tableware.” He advocates the change because China is chopping down 20-million mature trees a year to supply disposable chop sticks & their own forests will not cover this need. China is the world’s largest importer of wood. http://bit.ly/WQ2kJ6
10. New Zealander Brian Kent, has been fined $45,800 for the illegal felling of native trees so he could have an unobstructed harbour view of the Bay of Plenty on the North Island from his spa pool. He also has to pay $265.78 court costs, $226 solicitor’s fees & $5000 reparation bringing the total to $51,331.78. The trees were in a special ecological area, the Daisy Hardwick Reserve. Eleven trees valued at almost $63,000 were chopped down. The contractor received a $1500 fine, plus 200 hours community service. http://bit.ly/10blIzd
I was very happy to read of the City of Sydney Council’s new initiative to add more street trees into their LGA by allowing residents to not only choose the trees, but plant them as well.
Called the Neighbourwoods Program, residents can apply for a grant of up to $10,000 “to offset the time & work involved in planting shade trees.” As I understand it, grants will be available for groups of neighbours to plant trees in their street.
The residents can choose what species of tree they wish to plant & the trees don’t have to be natives. This may upset those who lobby for the planting of native trees only, but will please others who have a particular wish for exotics. I imagine the council sees this as breaking down people’s resistance to street trees if they are able to choose to plant what they like.
The Arborist for City of Sydney Council, Karen Sweeney calls this approach – equal opportunity for trees. ”People should have a love affair with their trees. Trees are like puppies; they’ll be with you for a long time.”
I meet a lot of people who talk to me about street trees. The overwhelming response is a dislike or even hatred towards deciduous street trees. We have thousands of these across Marrickville LGA, so that may amount to a lot of tree hatred. I am aware that deciduous street trees are planted to allow sunshine to get through during the winter months, but for me, street upon street of bare thin witchy branches makes for a bleak landscape.
For others, deciduous street trees make for hours of sweeping & cleaning leaves off parked cars, with many doing this daily. When one or more residents desire a street clean of leaf litter while others don’t worry about the fallen leaves at all, this can result in simmering anger. I have been told many times of the “lazy” neighbour who doesn’t sweep up the leaves outside their place.
Almost everyone I have spoken to who said that the tree is bad because it drops too much litter has also said that they wished the Council would remove it. Others don’t like natives & would prefer an ornamental tree or a tree from their homeland. Perhaps this is why we have so many street trees that have been pruned to remain short? A tree that is kept as a shrub is much easier to manage.
I think that the City of Sydney Council’s idea to allow residents to choose their own tree species will be a hit. The fact that some may not choose to plant native species does not worry me because Sydney Council is planning to almost double their urban forest by 2050. I am sure that the Council will ensure that there are sufficient native food-producing species for urban wildlife & so any move from residents to plant non-native trees will balance out.
In addition to this new tree-planting program Sydney Council plans to plant trees in median strips, car parks & public spaces, as well include special trees in a Significant Tree Register. They also plan to educate the community on the benefits of trees.
The City of Sydney Council also surveyed the amount of hard surfaces they have & plan to plant trees in these areas to lower the urban heat island effect. I love that Sydney Council’s focus is on shade trees. A street tree that only creates a minimal amount of shade around itself & does not shade a good part of the road will not have much of an impact in lowering the urban heat island effect. Maybe we will see more broad-leafed trees.
The Neighbourwood program is an exciting initiative. We all benefit from lovely tree-lined streets, even if we do not live in the area. To read more about this see – http://bit.ly/Y60X9J
This is what they do with street trees in Santa Cruz, California USA when roots cause cracks to the footpath. Instead of removing the tree they cut the concrete into a decorative semicircle & install sandstone pavers. Not only does this look great, it also saves the tree from removal.
Locally I have seen many trees have their roots cut or shaved down to ground level. This places the tree at risk of disease entering in through the wound, but also reduces the stability of the tree & can result in tree failure if the weather conditions are right. Pretty much everything I have read says root pruning should only be done as a last resort because of these risks.
In this example in Santa Cruz, the root has not been cut. The sandstone paving stones serve to alert pedestrians that walking conditions are changing. As such pedestrians would naturally move over to the left & walk past the tree. I think it is a very attractive & creative way to manage a common problem without damaging or removing a street tree. It also doesn’t look like a an expensive management option & would be worth it considering the monetary value of a street tree asset.