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This was the Council Meeting. All Councillors attended as Mayor Iskandar had returned from his Sister Cities tour.  For around half of the meeting I found it difficult to hear so parts of this post are incomplete. The meeting was not recorded in full because of problems with the sound system. For the first time since I have been attending Council meetings there was a large screen that showed the recommendations as printed on each business paper. I found this very helpful to fill in the blanks when I was not able to hear.  This new technology is a good addition. Any mistakes are mine.

Review of Community Cultural Events Program – Mayor Iskandar wanted to postpone this item for further discussions. Clr Kontellis & Clr Thanos objected. Clr Thanos said he was against the events program as it costs $450,000 a year & this money could build a new library that Council has been discussing for 12 years. This developed into Clr Thanos asking for a motion of dissent as Chair Mayor Iskandar was calling him out of order.  Clrs Thanos, Byrne, Phillips, Peters, Olive & Kontellis supported the dissent motion which was lost.  The Greens & Clr Thanos voted against deferral. Item deferred on the Mayor’s casting vote.

Management Plan & Budget 2010/14 – A number of issues pertaining to the budget were debated. 3 speakers

lovely colour

from the community spoke in support of the budget with regards to fees for outside seating for cafes/restaurants. They asked fees not be increased above the CPI.

3 residents, 2 of whom were children, spoke against the budget in regards to delaying half-road closure works for Audley Street Petersham that were approved by Council 3 ½ years ago. The speakers wanted works included in the budget, saying 24 children on the street were at risk by through traffic.

The main debate centred on where to find the money to do the Audley Street works & fund the Greenway Co-ordinator’s position. Clr Tsardoulias made an amendment to take $50,000 from the Marrickville Station works & give $40,000 to Audley Street & $10,000 to the Greenway position. Clrs Olive, Thanos, Byrnes, Peters, Phillips & Kontellis opposed the motion, not wanting any money taken from Marrickville Station upgrade works. Carried. Clr Olive said that $100,000 for Wilga Avenue upgrade needs to be returned to the budget allocation.

State Government changes to infrastructure contributions – The NSW State Labor government has capped Section 94 contributions from developers to $20,000. (wow!)

Conditions of a 12 month Licence to Tempe Basin Motor Boat Club Association – 2 people spoke, one representing the current lease holders.  He asked that the 12 month lease continues as is, outlining the work they have already completed at the site & the training opportunities they have offered to TAFE students. Another speaker spoke about what work they would do if the lease was rescinded & given to their organisation &, as a charity, how they would involve the community.  Clr Phillips moved an alternative motion to open the tender to allow all interested parties to apply. He said the process was rushed & other parties were not even included.  He & other members of the Greens spoke of a perception in the community that due process wasn’t followed.  This was debated strongly. The motion to rescind was lost & the motion to continue the lease as is for 12 months was carried with the Greens voting against.

Street lighting – Council wants low voltage lights used, particularly on main roads, to lower greenhouse gas emissions as well as reduce the escalating costs of street lighting. Energy Australia has increased costs by 31%. Council will write to NSW ministers & the opposition regarding the crippling costs & seek financial assistance. 50% of Marrickville LGA carbon emissions come from street lighting.

(To read how Victorian Councils are attempting to address this issue, see the first item – http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/06/22/tree-news-3/ )

Greenhouse gas emissions target – Clr Phllips moved a motion that Council prepare a report about greenhouses gasses for 2010 & make budget adjustments to meet targets.  He said Council set a target in 1997 to reduce emissions by 2010. This hasn’t happened & we are either 4,444 tonnes or 2,222 tonnes over, depending on the estimates of a recent report. He was against Council going the way of buying carbon offsets & instead move over to renewable energy as much as possible. Motion lost with all Councillors against except the Greens & Clr Thanos.

Here ends the Report for this week.

Not exactly about trees, but important in that the issue of greenhouse gas emissions from street lighting was debated just last night at the Marrickville Council Meeting.  The Municipal Association of Victoria has called on State & Federal Governments to help local Councils replace old street lighting with new energy-efficient technology. Called the Give Our Streets the Green Light campaign, it aims to replace an estimated 330,000 local street-lights with 80W mercury vapour lamps. This change will provide an energy saving of approximately 70%, reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 78,000 tonnes & save $7 million per year. Significant.  http://www.governmentnews.com.au/2010/06/08/article/DYGMLVICND.html

On to trees proper: The UTAS School of Geography & Environmental Studies is conducting a national survey to help build a comprehensive picture of Australian attitudes related to trees in cities so if you have an attachment to a tree or a memory relating to trees from your childhood, then tell your tree story now. http://www.media.utas.edu.au/general-news/all-news/surveying-social-attitudes-to-trees-in-cities-across-australia

It looks like the beautiful Nobbys Headland Newcastle will soon be opened to the public for the first time in more than 150 years. http://newcastle.iprime.com.au/index.php/news/prime-news/nobbys-to-open-after-more-than-century,427001?

Bridge Street, the tree-lined main street of Murray Bridge is lined with Eucalypts & Jacaranda trees.  The Eucalypts are going to be removed by Murray Bridge Council because they believe the trees are too big. Now several business owners have said they want the Jacaranda trees removed as well as “they frequently dropped leaves and flowers, forcing businesses into a constant battle to keep their sidewalks clean.”

Some of us look forward to Jacarana flowers & their purple carpet. I wonder what the financial impact will be once Bridge Street is devoid of trees?  Research has found that shops in tree-lined shady areas earn 11% more as shoppers stay longer & spend more.  If I owned a business, I would be clamoring for the trees to be retained. http://www.murrayvalleystandard.com.au/news/local/news/general/jacarandas-caught-in-crossfire/1860964.aspx

Green sites in Maitland are vanishing with close to 90% of the city’s green field sites marked for development. Less than 10% of remnant vegetation, including woodlands & native scrub, remain in the Maitland LGA.  http://www.maitlandmercury.com.au/news/local/news/general/green-sites-vanishing/1859493.aspx

As part of a tree rejuvenation project, Singleton Council is removing an unspecified number of trees in Burdekin Park to rid the park of bats that live there. They will chop the trees down between dusk & 11pm so the bats have no home when they return at dawn. The State government has granted approval under the New South Wales Threatened Species Conservation Act for the removal of the trees under specific conditions.” “It was resolved by council to plant trees of a similar species to the ones being removed.” http://www.singletonargus.com.au/news/local/news/general/burdekin-park-singleton/1856059.aspx

Now that the bats which have lived for a couple of decades in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens are about to be kicked out, Campbelltown Council quite reasonably wants to know whether the Macarthur area is at risk of being swamped by 22,000 grey-headed flying foxes. The Botanic Gardens Trust, said, “it was unlikely the flying foxes would come this far west & were more likely to settle in Gordon or the eastern suburbs.” My last post http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/06/18/hungry-bats-birds/ spoke about flying foxes leaving QLD & migrating as far as Adelaide & Tasmania. The Botanic Gardens Trust said, “If the bats moved into areas that were inappropriate, like out west, we’d follow a contingency relocation program.” Hope they do this for the bats about to lose their home at Burdekin Park as well. My guess is that people are going to be complaining loudly because bats have come to live in suburban gardens.  I hope I am wrong & the bats find perfect new homes where people won’t decide they have to move on again.  http://www.wollondillyadvertiser.com.au/news/local/news/general/foxes-could-fly-in-to-macarthur/1859620.aspx

A COMPANY accused of allowing illegal tree trimming in an environmentally protected zone on a prime Hastings Point Property says it was carrying out maintenance.  http://www.tweednews.com.au/story/2010/06/08/officers-swoop-on-hastings-point-site/

The EU is set to finally ban illegal timber in 2012 with MEPs to vote on the proposal in July with the European Council voting in autumn. Companies will be required to state where their timber was harvested. This is a terrific move with up to 40% of the world’s wood production thought to come from illegally logged tropical forests. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science_and_environment/10341925.stm

11 members of the US Congress have written to Prime Minister Rudd, urging him to fulfill an election promise to ban imports of illegally logged timber. http://www.smh.com.au/environment/stop-importing-illegal-timber-us-tells-rudd-20091214-ksd4.html

In magnificent news, the Sindh Forest Department Karachi Pakistan has decided to declare the entire mangrove forests of the Indus Delta as Protected Area. The mangrove forests are located at four geographic locations along 1,046 km of coastline. http://citynewspk.com/?p=7441

Also fantastic news, The Global Environment Facility will fund a “Great Green Wall,” a pan-African proposal to reforest the continent from west to east to battle desertification & reforest northern Africa. $119,000,000 (96 million euros) has been allocated to achieve this. The wall of forest would be more than 7,100 km (4,400 miles) long & average 15 km (9 miles) wide.  The Great Green Wall will travel through Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal & Sudan. http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20100617/wl_africa_afp/chadafricasummitforestsdroughtenvironment

Fossils found in the Isle of Wight in England have shown the way Fig Wasps pollinate fig trees has remained unchanged for at least 34,000,000 years. Fig trees need wasps to transfer their pollen to other trees, while the wasps need figs to lay their eggs inside.  Each of the more than 800 species of Fig tree needs a specific wasp, just 1.5 mm long, to pollinate it.  For me, it’s nice to know that both the Fig Wasps & Fig trees existed 34,000,000 years ago. http://planetearth.nerc.ac.uk/news/story.aspx?id=742

There is a very interesting article with Agus Purnomo & Yani Saloh, Special Assistants to the President of the Republic of Indonesia for Climate Change regarding Indonesia’s pledge to reduce deforestation.  It’s a multifaceted issue involving palm oil developers, timber companies & the livelihoods for tens of millions of Indonesians. http://news.mongabay.com/2010/0614-indonesia_purnomo_saloh.html

Breakfast amongst the Grevillea flowers

This was the monthly Council Meeting. Clrs Thanos, Iskandar & Tsardoulias were absent. Clr Tsardoulias is in hospital so I wish him well & hope he has a speedy recovery.  Apologies for the length of this post. There was a lot on the agenda & I find it hard to be both brief & fair.  The following is my take of the proceedings & any mistakes are mine.

Old Marrickville Hospital Development This debate was recorded by 2SER radio.  A representative from Climate Action Newtown (CAN) addressed the Councillors saying that 500 households in the LGA receive updates about CAN’s activities &

I found these on a tree in Enmore

they constantly hear that the community want action about climate change on a local, state & federal government level. CAN believe making the development a 6 star sustainability site & carbon neutral, making it a fabulous opportunity to show real leadership to other councils across NSW.  (contact information for Climate Action Newtown is in the blogroll located in the left-hand column).

Clr Phillips moved a notice of motion that the development of the hospital site be designed to achieve a 6 star sustainability rating & carbon neutrality saying it was important that Marrickville Council lead on environmental issues & set a good example. He cited Council House Two in Melbourne as an example saying it may cost a bit more, but will pay for itself in the long run.  While Clrs Wright & Marcri said they were concerned about upfront costs, all Councillors supported the motion.  A staff member advised Marrickville Council had at last count $4M – $5M value in unencumbered property. Clr Phillips said that the costs could be an impediment, but CO2 also has costs to society & the environment & that this kind of development should be the standard in new buildings.  Carried unanimously.

Support for the 100% Renewable: Community campaign for clean energy. A community representative associated with CAN & with the 100% Renewable Campaign (national grassroots campaign calling for Australia to switch from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources to mitigate climate change) addressed the Councillors saying this campaign was a great way to engage the community. She spoke about the campaign & asked for Council & government support saying Council’s support would send a strong signal to the community about renewable energy.

The motion by Clr Phillips was 1. Provide a link on Council’s website 2. Mention its support in the Inner West Courier 3. Co-sponsor a banner to be hung from Newtown Town Hall for 1 month 4. Give a grant of $500 for campaign materials. Clr Wright asked about costs & staff said each banner costs around $700 & if it comes out of the Contingency Fund it can only be to support incorporated organisations.  CAN is incorporated, but 100% Renewable is not.  Clr Wright supported points 1 & 2, but not points 3 & 4.  Clr Hanna supported points 1, 2 & 3, but not point 4 saying that garbage on the streets was more important & this money belonged to the ratepayers.

Clr O’Sullivan supported Clr Wright’s comments suggesting it may be more fruitful for CAN to apply to Council for a community grant. She could not support point 4.  Clrs Kontellis & Byrne supported motion in full with Clr Byrne suggesting CAN apply for a community grant anyway.  Motion carried. Clrs Phillips, Byrne, Kontellis, Peters & Olive supporting & Clrs Wright, O’Sullivan, Hanna & Macri against.

Affordable Housing. This was definitely one of the agenda items where I think it would be hard to be a Councillor.  The gallery had around 17 young people who were members of a group called Centrepiece Queer Art Collective.  One of their members addressed the Councillors & the debate was recorded by 2SER. She spoke about how the Collective are homeless & have been squatting in the old Marrickville Hospital. Council have asked them to leave so an audit can be done for fire safety issues. The Collective wanted to be allowed to use the building if it is

tree canopy

deemed safe & said they had the local fire station assess the area & do an informal inspection.  The Fire Brigade said exit signs & smoke alarms would be sufficient. She asked how come they could organise a fire check in 1 afternoon & Marrickville Council couldn’t in 15 years saying this was “bureaucracy before human needs.”

A resident in the street spoke in support for the Collective saying he bought 12 years ago & was told development was imminent, yet the building has remained empty.  He said the building could have been used for housing & Council should consider what they can do to remove fire & health hazards & support this group of responsible homeless young people. He said they created no problems for the local residents.

Clr Byrne wanted to add to the motion that Council write to the state government about providing more affordable housing. She said the old Marrickville Hospital site is in Major Projects, but there are financial aspects, fire safety audits were done 2007 & 2008 & there were key reasons why Council can’t allow the young people to live in that site. She said it would be morally corrupt to allow people to use it because of asbestos on site.  She also said Council staff have found housing for the Collective & Metro Housing Group is offering 12 months accommodation.  She said Council has just worked on the Draft LEP to provide flexibility in industrial areas to provide live/work areas for our creative residents.

It was a long debate where all Councillors acknowledged the difficulty of homelessness, the demand for housing & the availability of affordable housing. Clrs Byrne, Hanna, Macri, Phillips, Kontellis, Peters, Olive  & O’Sullivan spoke on the issue. They were concerned for the Collective, but could not agree to allow them to live in a building that was unsafe. Clr Peters asked staff to outline recent developments about affordable housing in the LGA.  The staff member said Council has applications for Boarding Houses & the Dept Housing has more houses in the area. He said the biggest growth was through St George & Metro Housing who have probably added 30-40 houses, but the reality is affordable housing has got less. The motion was for Council to explore potential use of unoccupied buildings, audit these buildings & assess the costs to make them liveable dwellings & ensure any development of Council owned property contains affordable housing.  Carried unanimously.

Protect our National Parks from privatisation. Motion by Clr Byrne for Council to write to Frank Sartor Minister for the Environment & Climate Change,  requesting he withdraw his bill to allow commercial development in National Parks & ensure any attempts to increase visitor numbers are done with the best interests of local communities & local environments.  Carried unanimously.

Third Quarter Performance Report 2009-2010 & GST Compliance Certificates. Received & noted. Carried unanimously.

Annette Kellerman Aquatic Centre Plan of Management. There was some discussion regarding the café, with Clr Olive asking what happens if the café ceases to operate, does it return to the control of Council. Staff said they would seek legal advice. Clr O’Sullivan had some concerns regarding the restrictive nature of the contact citing the clause ‘no use of butter’ as an example.  Staff said there was a 1½ page nutritional statement to serve as guidelines for minimal standards of food served by the café so we don’t end up with pie & chips. Carried unanimously.

Safety around Sydenham Station. Clr O’Sullivan said that residents have started a Clean Up Sydenham campaign as they are concerned about safety walking from the station to Unwins Bridge Road past the derelict Station Masters house & another empty house & rubbish in this area.  Motion to ask Railcorp to clean up, remove weeds & overhanging vegetation & for Council to advise of options for improving amenity & safety. Carried unanimously.

Henry Tax Review & Housing Affordability. Clr Phillips spoke briefly about the report & said given that affordable housing comes up in Council debates he would like fellow Councillors to be familiar with it & said Council should be writing to all levels of government about affordable housing. Carried unanimously.

Energy Efficient Street Lighting. Clr Peters put forward a motion to request Energy Australia to replace all street-lights with energy efficient bulbs on main roads throughout the LGA & to notify residents of Council’s action.  Clr Wright moved an amendment that instead of writing to residents about this, to notify them via Council’s website, Marrickville Matters & rates notices to save money. This was accepted by Clr Peters. Clr Olive said he wasn’t against writing directly to residents as they needed to know both sides of the story & this may push the supplier into action. Carried unanimously.

Support for Refugees & 2010 World Refugee Week. Clr Peters wanted Council to promote a rally on Saturday 26th June 2010 saying many residents of Marrickville

native grass

LGA are refugees. She said we would like the federal government to lift the freeze & close Curtin & Christmas Island detention centres immediately. Clr Wright said she noticed Council displayed a banner at Petersham Town Hall & would now be doing the same at Newtown, Sydenham, St Peters & Marrickville Town Halls at the cost of $2,500. She said she would rather use the money on people rather than on banners.  Clr Peters asked for guidance from staff as to the issue of reuse of banners by Council.

Clr Phillips said it was “atrocious” what the government has done with refugees saying it is “back to the dark days of Howard.”  He was worried that sewing lips & self-harming would start again. He said it was “the regime of cruelty with people behind razor wire just because of their mode of arrival.” Clr Kontellis supported the motion saying Council should be taking supportive action & said the government’s action on refugees was appalling. Carried unanimously.

Meeting concluded.

Street trees in Eastwood. Most of the residential streets in this & surrounding suburbs have many tall trees.

Dr Jago Dodson from Griffith University’s Urban Research Program is advocating the creation of many more community gardens in cities saying there will be increased pressure on urban areas to produce food in the future.

“In the context of some of the big challenges we’re facing – challenges about the sustainability of rural & regional agriculture, challenges about drought conditions, changing environmental conditions, questions about global warming’s impact on food supplies across the world & also questions about the sustainability of petroleum, which is one of the key inputs into industrial agricultural systems – those big changes are going to start to motivate more creatively how we produce food in society.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/03/22/2852294.htm

Most residential streets in Chatswood have many tall, shady street trees. This is the norm.

Dr Dodson has some innovative ideas that I think are really exciting.  Judging by Marrickville Council’s support for the latest verge gardening project in Wilga Avenue & the community garden in Denison Road Dulwich Hill, I would imagine Council will also support other community gardens in the LGA.  This year they have said they will provide help in-kind such as removing cement to facilitate such projects & that there are a number of suitable places for community gardens in the LGA.  Access to water is the main issue if the gardens are not on the verges out front.

I predict community gardens will be as popular as book clubs in the not too distant future & as is with Book Clubs, only limited places are available so it pays to be involved from the beginning.

The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health published research from the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam showed that living less than 1km (0.62miles) from a green space had a major impact in lowering the incidence of major physical disease & mental ill-health.

Professor Barbara Maher of the Lancaster Environment Centre said, “The study confirmed that green spaces create oases of improved health around them especially for children.” She said, “At least part of this ‘oasis’ effect probably reflects changes in air quality.”

More proof that a good-sized street tree out front does more than beautify, raise property values & reduce your power costs for heating & cooling.  Street trees also remove up to 60% of street level particulate matter such as dust, smoke, ash & the sooty bi-product from car & truck exhausts that we would generally filter through our lungs & which cause asthma & other respiratory illnesses. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8307024.stm

A recent study found tripling the number of street trees could reduce asthma among children by 25 percent.  Researchers from Columbia University in the US found rates of asthma fell by a ¼ when there were around 350 more trees in a square kilometre. http://www.nhs.uk/news/2008/05May/Pages/Asthmarisklowinleafysuburbs.asp

The research found that children are less likely to develop asthma if they live in tree-lined streets, particularly in areas with more street trees.  Here, I think they mean nice big trees with a canopy, not the hacked variety that are so prevalent in Marrickville LGA.

Part of the aims of New York City’s Million Tree Program is to reduce the incidence of respiratory illness as well as improve the overall mental & physical health of its residents.  They also believe in global warming & in 2005, New York tallied its CO2 emissions & found they were approximately 1% of US totals & less than 1/3 of the average US per capita level. 79% CO2 came from buildings. They believe their emissions are so low because there is a heavy reliance on cycling & public transport use. They still to reduce their CO2 emissions by a further 33%. http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/apr2007/2007-04-11-03.asp

Rockdale City Council planted street trees along both side of the Princes Hwy Rockdale for approximately 2 km. The awnings posed a problem, so each tree was pruned into a ball & these are maintained regularly. I like what Rockdale Council has done. It looks great & brings green every 3 metres along the shopping strip.

A short, succinct article from Real Estate Agents about the monetary worth of trees on your property, which says, “mature trees & a well-landscaped yard can improve your home’s value by 10-25%.”

Every time I mention this to others I watch the disbelief on their faces, yet this estimate is a number I come across repeatedly in research & articles about the value of trees.

Try looking in the local community papers in the Real Estate section.  If there is a street tree in front of the property, the photographer always includes a branch or leaves from the tree in the photo of the property.  They do this because the sight of trees has a subconscious effect on us.  When we see leafy green, we get a feeling of peace & safety even if we are not directly aware of this. Leafy green means good place to rear children, safety & happiness.  Not to many of us will look at a photo of a property surrounded by cement with no green & compare it favorably with a property that has trees & landscaping, even if the greener property is of lesser value.

http://www.keeferealestate.com/news/concierge.php?itemid=620

The iconic Coral trees in Clifton Gardens were chopped down mid April 2010 by Mosman Council as part of an upgrade of the picnic area. They said the trees had a high-hazard rating.  The residents were very unhappy to lose these & 4 other trees. http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/trees-cleared-at-clifton-gardens-no-picnic-for-some-residents/

Professional tree trimmers in Gilroy California killed 2 owlets when they chopped down a palm tree despite being warned twice about the nest. The Wildlife Education & Rehabilitation Center is caring for the third owlet, who survived the fall. Police are investigating. http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2008/05/21/2-baby-owls-killed-when-palm-tree-cut-down/UPI-39621211398657/

Energy Australia reduced a Frenches Forest woman to tears after their tree pruners entered her property & ‘butchered’ her trees.  She said her trees grew straight upwards & were 4 metres away from the power lines & Energy Australia’s intervention was unnecessary.  The first comment by ‘Chips’ is also interesting as he says this has happened to trees on his property numerous times. http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/tears-over-butchered-garden/

Good news… Buffalo, Illinois, a town of 500 residents has no more room for street trees. They have been focused on street tree planting since 1986 & have now run out of room.  Mike Dirksen, city arborist in nearby Springfield said, “There are so many benefits from trees.  They shouldn’t just be seen as having an ornamental purpose.” This should be engraved on a gold plaque. Bet the town looks stunning! http://friendsoftrees.org/blog/2010/04/16/illinois-town-has-no-more-room-for-trees/

CELEBRITY NEWS (drum-roll please) Last April, in Sao Paulo, Avatar Producer James Cameron & actor Sigourney Weaver planted a native Brazilian tree pau-brasil which is 99% extinct to kick-off a global Earth Day Network which intends to plant 1 million trees in 15 countries by the end of 2010.  http://www.tonic.com/article/james-cameron-plants-first-one-million-trees/

Chatswood, Ashfield, Pacific Hwy & Alexandria - all are very busy roads & they have large street trees at close spacing.

Gloriously beautiful trees which are a huge asset to Newcastle

The community tree preservation group Save Our Figs (SoF) based in Newcastle NSW has an acute issue that is about to be decided upon by Newcastle City Council.  The Council wants to remove 13 eighty year old Hill’s Figs that line Laman Street & top Civic Park.  SoF has been lobbying Newcastle Council to search for other options rather than chop down these phenomenally beautiful Fig trees & replace them with trees that Newcastle Council have not nominated as yet.

From the SoF petition - Laman Street is Newcastle’s most beautiful street. Newcastle City Council believes the 13 figs in the street are likely to fall down in the next 5 – 15 years. They have based this on the advice of a single arborist.  The council is considering no other option than felling the trees & we believe alternatives need to be examined such as closing the street to vehicles &/or pedestrians or closing the street in storms. As it is a non-residential & non-commercial street the chance of injury by a falling tree is remote & the trees are an integral part of Newcastle’s identity.

and I complained about hammering nails into trees....

We don’t have a comparable tree site in Marrickville LGA.  Newcastle has many Fig trees, but the Laman Street avenue of Fig trees, being in the centre of town, are truly memorable because they are particularly beautiful trees.  Naturally, when a Council wants to remove trees like these that have so much history behind them, the community is going to be upset.  I doubt there would be many people in Newcastle who don’t know the Laman Street Fig trees & most hold them dear to their heart.

I have been in regular contact with Caitlin Raschke who runs Save Our Figs since the campaign started. Over Easter, we visited & went to look at the Fig trees in Laman Street.  I hadn’t seen them in 23 years, which was the last time I went to this street as part of my employment at that time. I remember how stunned I was when the taxi dropped me off & I looked up at these fantastic trees.  They haven’t changed & the feeling you get when you stand in Laman Street had just as much impact this time as it did all those years ago.  The only thing that had changed was Civic Park, which to my mind, had deteriorated significantly.  Apart from the fantastic fountain, much of Civic Park seems uncared for, particularly the memorial grove for fallen soldiers & there seemed to be less trees than I remember.

I also saw Tyrell Street, which lost a few Hill’s Figs during a major storm a few years ago.  Newcastle Council removed a number of Figs along this street & replaced them with Tuckaroos.  To me, the result looks like a scar.

Is this a practice stump? It's located the beginning of the avenue of spectacular Hills Figs in Laman Street

It is heartbreaking to think that the Laman Street Hill’s Fig trees will be chopped down.  I am in total agreement with Caitlin when she says everything possible should be done to save these iconic trees.

In Europe & especially America this would happen as a norm.  All sorts of options would be canvassed & money would be spent to save & care for trees like these which give so much back to the community in terms of air quality, carbon sequestration, pollution removal, beauty, history & homes & food for wildlife, including bats.  Just last night I was reading how Fig trees can be stabilized & the risk of them falling can be dramatically reduced by using peat-filled pipes.  These days some Councils chop off the roots that grow from the branches of Fig trees & descend to the ground.  It is these roots the tree uses to stabilize itself, as it grows larger.  If you put peat-filled pipes from the root stumps along the branches, the tree will rapidly grow new roots down through the pipe & into the ground.  Isn’t nature clever?  I guess, in time, you could cut open & remove the pipe if it was made from PVC.

Laman Street is very popular for wedding photographs because the street trees are so beautiful

The Laman Street Fig trees also provide a strong sense of presence to such central & important buildings such as the Art Gallery & others located here.  Importantly, the trees provide a popular place to get married & have wedding photos taken. Later, their children can still see, touch & play where Mum & Dad were on their wedding day.  I know this is a strong emotion for many people because of the feedback I have received about the St Stephen’s Hill’s Fig in Newtown. Those who had their wedding photo taken under this tree love it in a special & strong way.  The tree or trees gets incorporated into the story of the relationship/marriage.  This is not surprising because human beings have always associated trees with strength, longevity & wisdom & this is easily transferred over to hopes surrounding a marriage.

I must say that, like only a few people outside the LGA know how beautiful our Cooks River really is, not many people know how beautiful Newcastle is.  I wanted to pack up & move to Cooks Hill immediately.  The beaches are stunning & wild, the streets are clean, the traffic is not like traffic, droves of people were out in the sunshine, the cafés were full to bursting & the trees, well I could go on about them for hours.  Newcastle is a naturally beautiful place because of the hills, the river & the beaches. But without all those large & spectacular trees in parks & on roadsides it wouldn’t be as beautiful.  Newcastle could be called the City of Fig Trees because they have so many gorgeous Fig trees scattered about.  In my opinion, these trees make this city special.

Please pay a visit to Save Our Figs. There is an online petition open to anyone who cares about these trees. http://www.gopetition.com/petitions/laman-street-figs.html 2,500 Newcastle residents have already signed both a paper petition & the online petition & that is 2% of the Newcastle community.

Like Saving Our Trees, there has been no advertising.  It has been all word of mouth, which I think makes it stronger as a community campaign.  There are no bells & whistles to draw people in, just a love for trees & a wish that trees be saved from the chain-saw.

I would read http://saveourfigs.wordpress.com/ from the beginning. But if you find this idea too time consuming, the following pages are notable.   Caitlin’s reply to a comment gives a run down on the history of the community campaign in the following link – http://saveourfigs.wordpress.com/2010/04/02/barcelona-just-as-barbaric-as-newcastle/

The Save Our Figs home page also gives a timeline of what has been happening during the campaign – http://saveourfigs.wordpress.com/

You can read the follow-up post  written on 1st September 2010 about the Independent Arborist Report by clicking here  http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/09/01/independent-arborist-report-for-newcastles-laman-street-figs/

7th October 2011 – As this seems to be the post people are coming for information, the following posts offer more recent posts about the Laman Street Figs starting with the Councillors vote to kill the trees  -

10th October 2011 - Newcastle community fights to save the Laman Strett Street Figs – http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/newcastle-community-fight-to-save-the-laman-street-fig-trees/

4th October 2011 – The final vote is to kill the trees.  http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/newcastle-councillors-vote-to-kill-the-laman-street-fig-trees/

13th September 2011-  The Figs get some fairness – http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2011/09/13/laman-street-figs-get-some-fairness/

29th August 2011 – Not mulch yet - http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2011/08/29/not-mulch-yet/

26th August 2011 – Laman Street Figs Next Life will be Mulch - http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/the-laman-street-figs-next-life-will-be-mulch/

3rd August 2011 – Mediation for the Figs -http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/mediation-for-laman-street-fig-trees/

26th August 2011 – The Newcastle Councillors voted on the fate of the Laman Street Figs last night – http://bit.ly/n1BNrK

Tree-lined shopping strip in Newcastle CBD - This is what I would like our shopping strips in Marrickville LGA to look like - proof it can be done

Cooks Hill Newcastle with Stockton in the distance - note the many large street trees

I have been following with great interest developments around the world concerning climate change & the value of trees.  Every climate change expert has been seriously & loudly advocating that we immediately stop large-scale logging in forests. They are also advising that we embark on mass reforestation world-wide, citing this as the most effective means of soaking up the dangerous levels of CO2 in the earth’s atmosphere & preventing run-away climate change.  Of course there are other interventions, such as stopping the use of coal for power, but trees are universally recognised as an essential component in the management of climate change & the prevention of species extinction, including human beings.

There is a also a increasing push for rich countries to pay for the preservation of old growth forests which are currently being logged or burnt at alarming rates.  The Amazon Rain Forest, long regarded as the ‘lungs of the world,’ is one forest the existence of which is deemed essential to preserving life on this planet because it removes billions of tons of CO2 from the atmosphere & stores it as carbon.

There is also a plethora of information coming out about the value of trees in the urban setting.  Again, the experts say that we must plant more trees in our cities & that we should be doing it now.

The climate change experts say we need to plant substantial trees with large trunks & substantial canopies, as these tree species are the most effective at sequestering & storing CO2.  Small stature trees with thin trunks & branches are not nearly as effective in CO2 sequestration as large trunk trees & should be used when there are no other options.  However, you just need to visit a intensely built suburb like Balmain or Paddington to realise that large trees can survive well in small spaces & the buildings do not fall down as a result of large trees planted near them.

My reading has shown there is a marked difference in attitude regarding trees between Australia & most of the world with the difference most noticeable with America.

Americans love their trees & it is quite common for a local community to come together to protest the removal of any tree within the urban landscape.  Tree removal & pruning is reported widely in American news.

I came across this lovely sign in a Camperdown park

Read any article about trees in the local news throughout America & you will find many comments left by readers, sometimes into the hundreds.  The community is highly engaged when it comes to trees & not just concerning street & park trees.  Americans with no particular affiliations & of all ages routinely protest the proposed pruning of trees in back roads, the removal of a lone 100 year old tree sitting next to a railway line, the removal of street trees because of pavement movement or development & even the lowering of the green canopy by new home owners who remove trees on their property.

In New York state a number of counties have invoked Ordinances which prevent developers from clear-cutting lots for housing, a practice which is done routinely in Australia.  Counties are also preventing people who have newly bought into the area from cutting down trees on their property stating that this action changes the character of the town.  They say it is unacceptable for people buy into an area because it looks good, then proceed to make the area look bad by cutting down the trees on their property & even asking that the street trees be removed as well.

In one County in New York both the community & the Governing bodies because upset when they realised the green canopy had decreased.  Now there are strict town codes preventing the removal of trees & hefty fines for those who chop first & ask questions later.  The County knows who have chopped down trees on their property not only because of reporting from neighbours, but also, because they have done a tree inventory & this is monitored on a regular basis.

Significant proof is required if residents accuse trees of causing damage.  All trees cut down on private property have to be immediately replaced.  There are also strict requirements about the species of tree that is required to be planted in the place of a tree that has been removed.  A property owner cannot cut down a large tree & replace it with a small growing tree unless they have accepted proof as to why this is necessary & they certainly cannot elect to not plant a replacement tree without good reason.

I highly doubt they allow pruning of street trees done by residents to ensure a tree doesn’t grow, a practice that is reasonably common in the streets of Marrickville LGA.

The community is educated about the benefits of trees from school upwards.  There may be significant debate & denial about anthropogenic climate change in America, but most people know that trees collect storm runoff, prevent soil erosion, remove pollutants from the air & raise property values.  Neither the community nor the Governing bodies are willing to allow what they openly term ‘tree haters’ to remove trees without good reason.  They believe that trees belong to the community & should be protected by the community.  They also strongly believe that trees are vital to the community’s well being.

We often follow America in our likes & customs.  I am hoping that a general love, knowledge & appreciation of trees become the norm in our society.  If the climate change scientists are correct, we don’t have too long because we need trees now more than we ever have in the known history of mankind & trees take decades to grow to the size needed to be effective in removing & storing CO2 from our atmosphere.   We need to start now.

One thing that has surprised me when researching street trees is how much impact trees have on property values. It has been found that trees can increase property values up to 25%. Initially this percentage seems amazing & somehow unreal, but when you think about it, properties in beautiful tree-lined streets do sell for more money. If there are beautiful trees on the property as well as a beautiful tree-lined street, then the value of the property is even higher. Those green suburbs that have thousands of tall trees with large natural canopies are well known for their high property values. Yet, much of their housing is similar to that in Marrickville LGA. Those suburbs only look better because they have more tall trees on private property & many more street trees.

Why do trees raise property values? People react to green. Trees make most people feel good on a deep & often unconscious level. Trees make people relax & send the message that here, in this place, we can be happy.

When we drive down a street where the trees are hacked & unpleasant to look at, we have one of 2 emotional responses. We either ignore our surroundings or we become agitated. Even if we ignore our surroundings, we are still unconsciously assessing an area & if asked about it later, we are likely to say that we don’t particularly like the suburb. If we become agitated, we are reacting to the ugliness. We know there is something about the locality that we don’t like, be it the ugly buildings, the feeling of being cramped, the graffiti, general dirtiness or the large areas of cement. We notice all these things because of the lack of trees or because the trees themselves are stumpy, lob-sided & ugly.

This reaction is why some suburbs are designated as ‘not good areas.’ Sure, some suburbs are well known for their criminal activities & although there are many factors that contribute to criminality in a community, trees even have a part to play in this. Research has shown that people who live in streets with many large street trees have a heightened sense of community pride. There is little or no graffiti, less littering & less dumping. People are reacting to the green & the beauty of trees & they think twice before doing an action that will mar this. They will go elsewhere to leave their tags for example.

Marrickville-LGA-2

Street trees with a low visual impact

Lovely street trees bring a sense of order to the visual environment where there is an architectural hotch-potch of buildings because the human eye notices the beauty of the trees & not the ugliness of the

Marrickville-LGA-1

Street trees with a greater visual impact - a 'greener' street

buildings. The city of Canberra knows this well because they hide most of their factories behind a mass of trees. They also plant many tall growing trees in car parks so they eye sees the beauty of the trees & not the asphalt.

For decades the roads leaving Sydney airport were unbelievably ugly consisting of miles of buildings with very few trees. Mascot Council has changed this over the last decade by planting thousands of Eucalypts & other tall growing street trees. To my mind, this has greatly improved the area. The roads surrounding the airport are now green & a haven for nectar-feeding birds. The roads also showcase Australian flora for tourists. Similarly, the M5 was beautified before the Olympics by the planting of masses of trees, native flowers & grasses.

No one wants to live in ugly localities. They do so because they cannot afford to live in prettier suburbs. Seeing acres of tiled roofs disturbs people. We like green. Even if some of us think trees should be a significant distance from our house, we still like trees & even go to places in our leisure time where there are trees because everyone needs a dose of green to feel good. Only skate-boarders & graffiti artists spend their leisure time in cemented areas.

In America insuring the trees is commonplace. Real Estate Agents calculate the tree’s Leaf Surface Area (LSA) when determining property values. A property with more LSA has a higher value than one with fewer trees & lower LSA. These values accumulate incrementally over time because each tree typically adds more leaf surface area after each growing season.

So, if you are considering chopping down a tree on your property or you want the street tree out front removed, you need to be aware that doing so will likely decrease the value of your property & that of your neighbours as well. Sweeping those annoying leaves is really an investment. As for root damage, once a tree is mature, its roots are in place & it will not be creating any further damage to your property. Trees planted 70 plus years ago will not likely be causing damage today. There are businesses that specialise in using sonar to track the path of tree roots & boundaries can be put in place to prevent roots from travelling further if you wish to ensure they won’t encroach on your property. These interventions cost money, but a large tree will pay for itself over time not just in higher property values, but also by lowering household energy costs throughout the year.

With global warming many of us need to rethink our attitude to trees. They are not nuisances that only belong in parks. As climate change advances we will be more reliant on their cooling ability & for their spectacular ability to absorb CO2 & store carbon. Communities will find themselves planting urban forests rather than chopping trees down.

An amazing thing has just happened in Sydney!  Today’s MX newspaper reports on their front page that the City of Sydney Council is currently considering using Aerial Bundled Cabling, which will allow them to plant 10% more trees in the CBD.

Aerial Bundled Cabling is a process where the power lines are bundled into one insulated cable.  This type of cabling is used when Councils want to pass power lines through the foliage of a tree without chopping away its branches.

Marrickville Ave Marrickville - shocking

Marrickville Ave Marrickville - shocking

Energy Australia states they need minimum of 1.5 metres between any part of the tree & the powerlines.  Because they prune at the nearest growth point or collar, this mostly results in branches being lopped back more than the minimum required 1.5 metre clearance, often several feet away.  Plus they often add an extra bit of trimming to account for expected growth until the next pruning, about 7 years.  Often, the result is very ugly trees looking lob-sided or V-shaped.  You can view examples of trees which have been severely cut back in “The Shame Page’ in the left-hand column of this site.

The City of Sydney Council say their plan to use Aerial Bundled Cabling & plant 10% more trees could cut summer temperature by up to 2 degrees & reduce greenhouse emissions because they would not be using chainsaws & clippers to cut back the city’s trees to allow the free passage of power cables.  They plan to use Aerial Bundled Cabling across 268 spans & have identified 1700 spans that could also be converted to Aerial Bundled Cabling.  The cost for this will be $250,000, which is not much for such as great improvement.

I am ecstatic about this news & believe it should be the norm.  Many trees in this LGA stop at the height of the overhead powerlines.  They look ugly & stunted.  Taller trees, if they have been allowed to grow, often end up looking decimated.  Marrickville Council has removed many tall trees and is planting short-stature ornamental fruit trees that capture less CO2 and do not produce any food for birds.  My hope is that the City of Sydney Council go ahead with their plan.  Sydney City trees, people, tourism, birds, animals & infrastructure will certainly benefit from this action & it is the only responsible thing to do in this age of climate change.  We need good healthy, tall trees & we need to increase the tree canopy.  Maybe our Council will follow their lead.

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