You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘Laman Street Fig trees’ tag.
Yesterday, 17th October 2011, the General Manager of Newcastle City Council called a meeting with the Newcastle Councillors & did a very good thing. He went against the last effective resolution by the Councillors – to have the 14 Laman Street Figs removed. The General Manager did this because the community had been very actively calling for an independent assessment of the safety of the Fig trees because they did not trust their Council any longer, especially after one Councillor said that an independent assessment has the potential to ruin some “reputations” at Council. Nor did they believe that 7 Councillors should have the right to remove trees that the community believe are safe, important for wildlife & one of the few beautiful things left in Newcastle. The constant call has always been for the Councillors to listen to the people, a job they were put there to do.
On Friday 8th October 2011, dubbed ‘Newcastle’s Day of Destruction,’ the tree loppers arrived & the community came out in force to stop the trees from being chopped down. They were successful with only 3 branches removed from 1 tree before the end of the day. Some in the community suffered injuries & 7 were arrested.
Since 8th October 2011, the community has been at Civic Park (which is attached to Laman Street) before dawn every day, maintaining a vigil to ensure the trees are not worked on. Large groups were prepared to come at a moment’s notice which they proved on 3 occasions; when Linda Burney NSW Deputy Leader of the Opposition & Shadow Minister for Planning Infrastructure & Heritage, visited last Sunday & for the two Council Meetings when hundreds of people came to stand on the Town Hall steps & protest the decision to remove their trees. I was told that around 700 people came for yesterday’s Council Meeting. These are noisy affairs as passing traffic also participates by honking their car horns in support. I heard this myself with a phone call where the caller said, “listen to this.”
Here is the General Manager’s media statement of 17th October 2011 – “I wish to emphasise that my first priority is the safety & wellbeing of staff, Councillors, contractors & members of the public. At this time I do not believe it is practical to continue work to remove & replace the 14 Laman Street Hills Figs. This afternoon I met with the Lord Mayor & eight Councillors outlining my concerns regarding the safety & wellbeing of staff, Councillors, contractors & members of the public. I indicated that for these reasons I have decided to delay work to continue to remove the trees. I also outlined a proposal to move forward & ensure a safe environment for any future action in relation to the trees. I have tonight forwarded a draft agreement for an expert evaluation to Save Our Figs to consider. I intend to meet with Save Our Figs tomorrow morning to further discuss the proposal. No work to remove the trees will occur until Save Our Figs has had the opportunity to consider & comment upon the proposal. I will not make any further comment to media until after the meeting with Save Our Figs.” Needless to say there was a very happy section of the Newcastle community last night.
Today it was reported in the Newcastle Herald that at least 6 Councillors (the one’s that voted for the trees to be removed) are “livid that a decision of the elected body has been effectively overturned,” & the General Manager “now faces calls to resign from angry councilors,” while another Councillor wants “Local Government Minister Don Page to launch an investigation into the council.”
The community has been repeatedly saying that the Councillors were elected to listen & represent the people, not work against them, even while the community was gathering in great numbers to save these trees. One Councillor has called the community “disobedient.” This begs the question, what are the community to do when their submissions, letters, pleas, videos, songs, 69 nightly vigils, marches, posters, photos & a petition that is around 12,000 signatures & growing is not working? Go home & watch TV?
Community group Save Our Figs, who have always advocated peaceful protest, will work with Newcastle Council to choose an independent assessor & move this issue onward. Hopefully, the independent assessment decides that the trees are safe. After all, they keep standing up during the many serious storms that have hit Newcastle over the last few years. http://www.theherald.com.au/news/local/news/general/gm-chops-council-over-fig-fiasco/2326651.aspx?storypage=0
Save Our Figs - http://saveourfigs.wordpress.com/
This is a beautiful video showing some of the community protesters who have been labeled ‘ratbags & loonies.’ - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PaT0_JIsWQ4
Last Friday, the Sydney-based company Newcastle City Council hired to fell the Laman Street Fig trees arrived to find a crowd of people waiting in the pre-dawn light. About 200 people, young & old, gathered outside the cyclone fencing that, between you & me, wouldn’t save someone if one of the Figs did fall. Most people aren’t worried about any Figs falling because the reality is they survived the Pasha Bulker storm & since then, one Category 2 cyclone & at least 3 other major storms without dropping a single branch. Someone did report finding a single twig on the road.
A few community members scaled the cyclone fence, some climbed the trees & others chained themselves to the trees & light poles located next to the trees. Other community members gave speeches, people shouted at Council members who gathered to watch, the crowd chanted ‘They are our trees!’ & did what one does when one goes to a demonstration. 7 hours passed with demonstrators still in the trees & chained to poles. Then the police arrived.
Having watched the Newcastle Herald video, it certainly looked like the police used excessive force as was described. Some community members were injured. Another who left the tree he was in was caught while scaling the cyclone fence trying to get away. The police pulled him so hard that the steel pole itself was bent – a lot. Photo below.
7 people were arrested on what the community has dubbed, ‘Newcastle’s Day of Destruction.’
At around 3.15pm the loppers removed about 4 branches from 2 trees & then left because it was 4pm – knock off time.
The police came on Saturday morning to inform the demonstrators that there would be no tree chopping over the weekend & the crowd could leave. Since then the community has spent the time lobbying the local political parties, the Liberal MP Tim Owen who was reported as being most disinterested saying, “Not my business. Nothing to do with me,” & other agencies hoping that someone with more power than Newcastle Council will step in & make the independent assessment of these trees happen before they are removed.
The simple fact is that the Newcastle community does not believe Newcastle Council who say that these trees are unsafe. Many noted Arborists have publically stated that they do not believe these trees are unsafe.
The Darby Street Fair was held yesterday with people standing in lines waiting to sign the petition not to remove the trees & calling for an independent assessment.
Today, Monday, work to remove the trees was suspended pending a meeting between Newcastle Council & police regarding safety of the fences. Perhaps they too thought it was a bit much to bend steel with a young man’s body? The Arborist who may have been part of the independent assessment has come from Melbourne at his own cost to speak with Tim Owen MP & local leaders.
I find it heartening that the community was prepared to fight to save these very beautiful trees that are regarded as the heart of Newcastle. The demonstrators were people of all ages, business people, family people, mothers, fathers, grandparents & people who care for the environment. Even Mayor Tate & the Councillors who voted for the independent assessment took part.
The community has said they will return every day until their very reasonable demand for an independent assessment is heard. Will Newcastle Council listen to its people & to reason?
Here is the Newcastle Herald video showing the drama when the police arrived – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cyzeQJeDmJU & the latest news about the fencing around the trees – http://www.theherald.com.au/news/local/news/general/laman-street-lopping-suspended-while-council-looks-at-security/2318045.aspx
Follow Save Our Figs for the latest news – http://saveourfigs.wordpress.com/
Some great things happened over the weekend regarding Newcastle’s iconic Laman Street Fig trees –
- A tent embassy was erected at Civic Park over the weekend to protest the removal of the Laman Street Fig trees. There were around 10 tents with residents sleeping overnight in the park.
- On Sunday night, Lord Mayor John Tate served papers on Newcastle Council’s General manager saying that, “there was concern that proper procedure had not been followed leading up to the order to cut the trees down, & two councillors missed last Thursday’s meeting.” – so the trees are still standing.
- About 250 people came to Civic Park at 5.30am this morning to form a picket line to prevent the trees from being chopped down.
I find it interesting that the rest of us mortals cannot start any building or noisy work before 7am & 8am on Sundays, but Newcastle Council could have trees chopped down at 6am. They probably thought the community would not attend at such an early hour, not suspecting that such a large crowd would arrive even earlier & on a Monday. http://www.theherald.com.au/news/local/news/general/laman-street-figs-get-last-minute-reprieve/2272790.aspx
Community group Save Our Figs say that the independent assessment could be done for a cost of $20,000 of which they would pay half & that the reported cost of $70,000 was “wildly exaggerated.” Once again, the community is prepared to pay thousands of dollars to ensure an unbiased decision is made because they do not trust Newcastle Council.
Newcastle Council has even refused the offer of local businessman Roman Fidyk of the company MyFleet who offered to pay for the dynamic testing of the trees. (about $35,000). Mr Fidyk “… was amazed at the council’s lack of interest in his offer.”
I don’t understand why the Council does not take up either of these options. To do anything else, when both the community & the Lord Mayor, are advocating more examinations, leaves the impression that the Council has something to hide. Even the urgency to cut the trees today is a mirage, because the insurance company extended the deadline until the end of October 2011. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-08-29/figs-reprieve/2860094/?site=newcastle
My last post on the Laman Street Figs is here - http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/the-laman-street-figs-next-life-will-be-mulch/
Last week the community group Save Our Figs & Newcastle City Council participated in mediation with the Hon Michael McHugh AC QC. They reached an agreement that the option of an independent third party who would assess all the documents relating to the purported risk of the Laman Street Fig trees & make a binding determination as to the fate of the trees would be put to the Councillors.
This was important because it meant that both the Arborists Reports from both sides would be considered, as would all the other information regarding the safety of the trees that is disputed.
Unfortunately Newcastle City Council has done a number of things in this process, which resulted in issues of trust in the community. Just recently they had staff at the trees ready to chop them down before the vote was held at the Council Meeting. That sure gave the community confidence that their issues were being given due consideration. The community has had to work in a working party with the same staff who recommended that the trees be chopped down. Needless to say this process didn’t get far. Recently, the acting General Manager said that “council officers should not be voting on matters in which they have to give advice. He said it was an example of poor governance.” http://saveourfigs.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/council-update-16-8-2011/ Documents & reports have not been available, except under an FOI request, further adding to the perceived lack of transparency of Newcastle Council by the community.
Over 10,000 people signed a petition to keep the trees. The community made numerous YouTube videos, sent submissions to Council & organized fund-raising activities as fighting Newcastle Council was a very costly exercise for the community that went into tens of thousands of dollars. It’s hard enough to get people to attend one event, yet the Newcastle community went out to an evening vigil 69 times to protest the trees removal & attract the attention of the Council. They did all that they could.
An independent decision maker would be excellent for all concerned. If the community believed the information coming out of Newcastle City Council was correct, the community would have accepted its decisions.
So last night, the option of a third party assessor was brought to an Extraordinary Council Meeting & (…….drum roll……..) was voted against by 7 Councillors. Two Councillors were absent.
These same Councillors voted against performing dynamic testing on the trees to see if they would actually move or fall when pulled by machinery that will read the slightest movement. They also voted against the rescission motion to not remove the trees.
So the Laman Street Figs that more than one respected Arborist say are not a risk & have survived 4 recent major storms, including the Pasha Bulker Storm, without falling or dropping a limb or even a small branch are to be chopped down. In spring-time. Hard to believe.
Just for interest, even the business papers for last night’s Extraordinary Council Meeting were not available for the community on Newcastle Council’s website, which is against usual practice.
http://saveourfigs.wordpress.com/ has the whole story & it makes interesting reading.
Today’s news about last night’s Council Meeting – http://www.theherald.com.au/news/local/news/general/council-votes-for-laman-street-figs-to-face-chop/2270935.aspx
Mayor Tate’s rescission motion against the axing of the Laman Street Fig trees was put to the vote in Newcastle Council Meeting last night & was successful. Newcastle Council will now participate in mediation with the community over the Fig trees.
“Former High Court judge Michael McHugh will conduct the mediation between council & Save Our Figs. His fee is estimated at $6,000 a day, with Save Our Figs to contribute towards the cost & councillor Tate offering his August councillor allowance. Council’s insurer, Statewide Mutual, will also be invited to attend the mediation.”
The community also tabled a petition to save the Laman Street Fig trees that contained 10,323 signatures. This is the largest petition ever tabled in Newcastle Council’s history & “just short of the largest petition tabled in the New South Wales Parliament.”
Newcastle Council needs to listen to its community. The petition is only one of the many actions & activities that the Newcastle community has done in their lengthy fight against Newcastle Council to save their beloved Laman Street Fig trees. Tree experts have also been brave enough to professionally oppose Newcastle Council’s appraisal of the safety of these trees. They too should not be ignored. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2011-08-03/community-and-council-head-to-figs-mediation/2822402
Internationally recognized Arborists, Jeremy Barrell & David Cashman are interviewed about the Laman Street Fig trees in this YouTube video. They were both keynote speakers at the International Society of Arboriculture international conference ‘Trees Downunder,’ held in Sydney last week.
What they say is profoundly different to what Newcastle City Council say regarding the safety of these trees.
Their bios are as follows & show that they are both highly qualified & very capable of making a professional assessment of the safety & management of the Laman Street Figs -
“Jeremy Barrell, UK based eminent arborist is a sought-after keynote speaker who presented on risk & legal liability at the ISA international conference in Sydney 23rd-27th July “Trees Downunder” & has authored numerous papers & articles on tree management. He designed the SULE & TreeAZ methods of tree assessment, which are used around the world in construction site management.
David Cashman, also presented at the ISA International conference. His focus for the conference is on tree roots in London’s built environment & working with & around them. He has worked in local government & commercial tree management for 30 years. David has delivered training workshops in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, & the United States, & is an accredited Cardiff University Expert Witness.”
When you have the designer of SULE (Safe, Useful, Life Expectancy) method of tree assessment say the Laman Street Fig trees are safe & have decades, if not 100-more years of life left in them, you have a right to question what has been said previously about these trees.
Newcastle Councillors vote on whether the trees stay or go tonight. Mayor Tate brought the fate of these iconic & much loved trees back to Council by putting up a rescission motion. Let’s hope the Councillors take the time to watch this video. It is well worth watching. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0hr80uTo0Q&feature=youtu.be
If you want to see these beautiful trees, the following videos are also good viewing -
A True Anzac Memorial - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CM6e6OSPvFk&feature=related & The Laman Street Protest Movie. (This one also shows one of the 69 evening vigils where the community came out to peacefully protest to save these trees. 69 times!) -http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8pYZYb9r4M&feature=related
1. Last night the Newcastle Councillors voted 7-5 to chop down the Laman Street Fig trees. From the Herald, “Newcastle councillors were still debating the future of Laman Street last night when council staff moved in & began preparations to cut down the street’s iconic fig trees. Councillors eventually voted seven to five in favour of removing & replacing the trees ‘‘as soon as practical.” By the time the decision was made, council staff had moved safety barriers & were planning to start the chainsaws as early as this morning. The council’s liveable city director Frank Cordingley admitted during a heated debate that preparations were under way to remove the trees, despite the council not having voted at the time.” Save Our Figs has written about the Council Meeting & decision. The video covers the history of the fight to save these trees. It’s well worth watching. – http://saveourfigs.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/more-breaking-news-20-7-2011/#more-3718
2. Liverpool Council has negotiated with power company Endeavour Energy to remove & replace street trees in 4 locations after being accused by the community of “butchering scores of trees on Liverpool’s streets.” Liverpool Council’s General Manager said, “Changes to operations were needed to avoid hatchet jobs in the future.” http://liverpool-leader.whereilive.com.au/news/story/energy-company-bows-to-pressure-on-butchered-trees/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter
3. Northern Territory residents are concerned that trees on the Significant Tree Register are not protected form Council workers who come to prune the trees. One worker was unaware that the tree was registered as significant. http://www.ntnews.com.au/article/2011/06/11/239661_ntnews.html
4. The community failed to save 3 Fig trees in Main Avenue, Windsor, a suburb of Brisbane despite doing a tree sit. Brisbane City Council recently lifted a 15-year-old protection order so the trees could be chopped down to allow development. “The 60-year-old figs, which stand on the prestigious Eldon Hill in Windsor, are visible from as far away as Mt Gravatt & Mt Coot-tha.” The owner of the land is required to plant 3 native trees as replacements. http://www.smh.com.au/environment/protesters-climb-doomed-fig-trees-20110620-1gakh.html 2 possums were found in the trees. The community clashed with security unhappy with the attempts to catch the possums. The possums were not caught. http://www.couriermail.com.au/life/homesproperty/street-protest-to-try-and-save-fig-trees-at-eildon-hillwindsor-after-council-axes-protection-order/story-e6frequ6-1226078211300 One of the residents said, ‘‘We can’t trust our elected representatives when they tell us something is protected … until there is some sort of economic benefit that someone is going to get out of it.’’ There is a short video of the trees & the protest here -
5. The founder of travel clothing group Kathmandu Jan Cameron & travel entrepreneur Graeme Wood bought Gunns timber mill for $10 million paying $6 million less than a rival bidder. Gunns will operate for a while before being made into an eco tourism destination. http://www.theage.com.au/national/greenies-buy-woodchip-mill-20110713-1he6h.html
6. City of Sydney Council is planning to increase the street tree canopy of the CBD by 50% by planting 2,000 trees over the next 20 years. They say this will reduce the urban heat island effect by up to 2 degrees. 69 species of tree will be used. Allergy sufferers in the community are concerned that some of these will be Plane trees. “Cowper Wharf Road at Woolloomooloo would get a row of Sydney red gums, City Road at Broadway a line of brush box trees, Bridge Street a collection of Celtis, & Elizabeth Street a group of plane trees.” While I think the extra trees is wonderful, I’d be interested to know why it will take 20 years to complete. http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/wellbeing/a-city-brought-to-its-sneeze-20110709-1h7to.html
7. Congratulations to the residents of Wilga Avenue Dulwich Hill who recently won Origin Energy’s Australia-wide Sustainability Drive Competition. They were only one of 4 streets across Australia that were chosen to get $250,000 of solar panels, hot water systems & other energy saving equipment. As I understand, their energy saving progress will be monitored & over the next year so we are bound to hear more about Wilga Avenue. It’s great to see a street in Marrickville LGA represented with sustainable living, including veggie gardens on the verge.
8. Willoughby City Council was the winner of the ‘Excellence in Overall Environmental Management’ award (Local Government Awards category) at the recent World Environment Day Awards held by the United Nations Association of Australia. Willoughby Council has met their greenhouse gas reduction target of 50% from 1999 levels. They are using a cogeneration plant at the Willoughby Leisure Centre, estimated to cut power usage form the grid by 50%. They are also using solar power at council buildings & aim to be the first ‘halogen free’ council. http://www.sustainablecouncils.com.au/news/willoughby_city_council_wins_un_sustainability_award/061353/
On 21st June 2011 the Bureau of Meteorology warned of wind gusts of 110 km/h buffeting the Hunter ahead of a strong cold front. Suddenly the weather becomes interesting because once again the Laman Street Fig trees in Newcastle are fighting for their lives. Statewide Mutual, who insures Newcastle City Council sent a letter of demand – the trees must be removed by 31st August 2011 unless Council can provide new evidence that the trees won’t fall down. If Council does not chop down the trees, any incident will not be covered by insurance, putting the Council between a rock & a hard place.
It seems that Statewide Mutual doesn’t have a copy of the community contracted Arborists Report by Mark Hartley, a renown & respected Arborist in Australia. Looking at his webpage, it’s hard to understand why his opinion that these trees are safe is being ignored. http://treedoc.com.au/ Another respected Arborist, veteran tree specialist Sean Freeman has publicly stated that he supports Mark Hartley’s assessment of the Laman Street Figs after viewing the report & inspecting the trees himself. http://www.theherald.com.au/news/local/news/general/arborist-questions-fig-tree-safety-risk/1951564.aspx
Newcastle Councillor Bob Cook brought the Laman Street Figs back into the spotlight on 31st May 2011 before the letter of demand by Statewide Mutual by calling for the trees removal. He also suggested monitoring the trees with an accelerometer on a number of occasions over 6-15 months for a cost of up to $100,000. The cost alone is enough to make most people concede defeat.
An accelerometer measures the movement of the tree when pulled, mimicking the conditions of high winds. Thing is, Mother Nature has tested the trees for free on 4 occasions since the Pasha Bulka storm in June 2007. This storm was described as a ‘mini cyclone.’ It beached the oil tanker Pasha Bulka aground on Nobbies Beach & smashed Newcastle, yet the Laman Street trees standing today made it through that storm (and others since) unaffected.
Clr Cook has written to the community saying they are “in denial” & “clutching at straws.”
The verdict is in about the 14 Fig trees in Laman Street Newcastle. The Parks & Playgrounds Movement Inc representing the community took Newcastle City Council to the Land & Environment Court last month. The Court released its judgment on 11 November 2010.
The Court dismissed the community’s objections to Newcastle Council’s decision to remove the trees. The Court also said that Newcastle Council did not need a development application in order to remove the trees, because it had formed the opinion they were a danger under the Roads Act.
Importantly, the Land & Environment Court said the following:
“As the legislature has designated the roads authority (in this case being Newcastle Council) & not the Court as the repository of the only prescribed opinion, it is not appropriate for the Court to proceed on the alternative assumption that it is in error & to express its own opinion as to whether in fact the trees are a traffic hazard as defined.”
In more simple language, the question whether or not Newcastle Council is correct in saying the trees are a danger has not been answered by the Land & Environment Court.
The Herald has an article in today’s paper with a poll asking whether the community should continue its fight to save these iconic trees. When I looked at it, it was 64.4% for continuing the fight. So far 8,500 people have signed the petition to save the trees.
“Before the decision was handed down yesterday, Newcastle Labor councillors Nuatali Nelmes, Sharon Claydon, Mike Jackson & Tim Crakanthorp co-signed a notice of motion for Tuesday’s council meeting that effectively put the matter back on the council’s agenda. They are asking for no action to be taken until a report can be prepared ‘‘outlining the key findings of the judgment & its implications for council’s approach to the future of the Laman Street trees’’. If supported, the notice of motion would halt the chainsaws until the matter can be brought back to the council.”
I am shocked that with such a large public outcry & with Arborist Mark Harley’s report on the health & safety of the trees, Newcastle Councillors have not put a stop to this. More about this later.
For other posts on the Laman Street Figs trees including a link to Mark Harley’s Arborist Report see -
For further information see – http://saveourfigs.wordpress.com/
In sad news, Newcastle City Council has chosen to ignore the Independent Arborist Report done by Mark Hartley regarding the Laman Street Fig trees. Mr Hartley is a senior consultant for The Arborist Network & was employed by the community to assess the trees & comment on the previous Arborist’s Reports commissioned by Newcastle City Council.
Mr Hartley’s Report was clear. The trees were in no danger of falling & significant aspects of previous Arborist Reports had got it wrong.
Regardless, none of the Newcastle Councillors have decided to bring the issue back to the Council Meeting, nor have Newcastle Council themselves changed their mind about the fate of the trees. Disappointing.
Newcastle Council did say when they first announced the trees will be axed that they would put on a couple of community events to allow the community to say goodbye to the trees. However, they have changed their mind about this as well. Perhaps it’s because the print & television media are constantly writing about the issue & the community are commenting in large numbers. To chop the trees down as fast as you can means the issue is done & dusted, no use speaking about it again. Disappointing.
I was naïve enough to think that 400 plus submissions, a community petition of over 4,000 signatures (& growing now that people realize the trees will be chopped down) & Mr Hartley’s Arborist Report would have meant that the issue would have returned to Council. The vote to chop the trees down was only 7-5. This is not an overwhelming outcome in my mind.
It’s a dreadfully sad outcome & one that will stick in people’s minds for decades. People believe the trees are safe. They have the proof in that not a single branch dropped during the Pasha Bulker storm or the 2 extreme high-wind storms since. One of the storms was within the last month. They also have the Arborist Report commissioned & paid for by the community. These things are not to be scoffed at. That an Arborist of Mark Hartley’s standing was prepared to put himself on the line about the health of the trees has convinced the community that Newcastle City Council got it wrong.
Next week & for the following 3 weeks, 14 beautiful healthy Fig trees that are aged about ½ their lifespan will be chopped down. Newcastle will be worse-off for it. I wish the community did have the power to prevent this from happening.
To read Mr Hartley’s Arborist Report – http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/09/01/independent-arborist-report-for-newcastles-laman-street-figs/
Please read the post by Save Our Figs about the announcement that the trees will be chopped down. This website has followed the process of the removal of the Laman Street Figs from the beginning & makes for very interesting reading – http://saveourfigs.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/an-historic-day-13-9-2010/