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“We don’t trust your words anymore. You’re destroying our future!” These words were spoken by Felix Finkbeiner, a 12-year-old boy from Paehl, in Bavaria, Germany who established Plant for the Planet, a global climate protection network for school-age children when he was 9-years-old.  You can read about Plant for the Planet here – http://www.plant-for-the-planet.org/about-us/plant-for-the-planet-foundation

On 2nd February 2011 Felix Finkbeiner addressed the UN for the Inauguration of the International Year of Forests.  I have highlighted parts of his speech as I think it is good for adults to know what children think about the future we are leaving them.

  • …. for us children forests are not only the livelihoods of billions, but for us children forests are our future.

  • …. 30,000 children dying of starvation every single day in an incredible rich world.

  • …. one small part, the rich part of the world exhausting the most of the CO2 & the poor part of the world, the one’s that already suffer, will suffer even more in the future.

  • We children understand that the adults know everything about these crises. But we children don’t understand why there is so little action.

  • For most adults future seems to mean 20, 30 or even 40 years. But for us children 2100 is still in our lifetime.

  • For adults it’s an academic question if the sea level will rise for 1, 2 or 3 metres or 7 meters until the end of this century. But for many of us children it is a question of survival.

  • Many adults seem to hide behind the climate skeptics, the ones that say there is no climate crisis.

  • If we follow the scientists that tell us there is a crisis & if we act & in 20 years we find out that they were wrong, then we didn’t do any mistake. But if we follow the skeptics & don’t do anything & in 20 years we will find out that they were wrong it is too late for us to save our future.

  • …. we cannot trust that the adults alone will save our future. We have to take our future in our own hands.

  • We have to protect the already existing forest. … to keep the rainforests from disappearing.

  • …. we have to plant trees.  We children think that we can manage to plant a trillion trees in 10 years.

  • …. a trillion trees is only 150 trees per person. We can manage.

  • Stop talking. Start planting.

  • We children are the majority on this world.

  • One mosquito cannot do anything against a rhino, but a thousand mosquitoes can make a rhino to change its direction.

You can download the whole speech here – http://plant-for-the-planet.org/sites/plant-for-the-planet.org/files/press/speech_felix_ny_20110202.pdf

Strathfield Council has created bush habitat along the Cooks River at Strathfield. The pathway is just visible on the bottom left of the photo

Services Committee Meeting: The Coptic Church in Sydenham. Council’s report is recommending it be demolished.  3 members of the community addressed the Councillors, petitioning to not recommend demolition.

The Marrickville Heritage Society was represented by Lorraine Beach. She spoke about the history of the church saying it was established in 1884 functioning as a Methodist Church for 100 years. The congregation in 1901 built the current church & it became home to the first Coptic Church in the late 60s.  She said the church was an asset that belonged to the whole community & is also an important link to both our history & a suburb that was obliterated by the 3rd runway. She asked Councillors to either reject demolition outright, write to Minister Albanese asking him to provide funding, do a wider community consultation & go ahead with an expression of interest campaign.  You can read her speech by clicking on the following link –  Lorraine-Beach-Address-to-Council-11-05-10 As always with my pdf docs, the last page comes first, so start at page 2 if you are reading it.

partial view of Sydenham's Coptic Church building

The second resident said the land was in the care of Council who have spent so much money towards its destruction, but no money to save it as it has been left to rot for the past 10 years.  He cited City of Sydney Council keeping its churches & asked the community be given time to save the church. He was very passionate in his concern that this church be kept for the community.

The 3rd to speak was an Anglican Bishop who said he had approached Council for a long-term lease & has been waiting for 2 years to speak to Council to indicate interest.  He thought $2.3 million was an over-estimate to restore the church & asked Council to take tenders & let the community restore it.  His advice from consulting with a construction business was that it could be restored for less than what it would cost to buy a house in the area.

window of Coptic Church Sydenham

Chair Clr Macri said he felt uncomfortable making a decision with so many Councillors being absent.  He then listed that Council had deemed the building a health risk which would cost a lot to repair, it was still sacred land & Council intended to acknowledge this with a memorial, community consultation has been performed, the state government can’t help financially & the current LEP says the building cannot be used as a church.

Clr Olive said he believed it should be retained for community use & he wasn’t elected to demolish a heritage building.  He moved a further motion to replace the tile roof with corrugated iron, replace the glass & delete the need for a lift. Staff advice cautioned about possible contravention of discrimination laws that impose accessibility obligations.  Clr Olive said it does not need to be a community building, it could be used as studio space for artists & musicians.  The upstairs studios would not have access to those with access issues & we could comply with accessibility by ensuring downstairs was accessible.  He also suggested the building be removed from Council’s Community Services to Major Projects or Technical Services.

Clr Macri said he thought the decision should be deferred & Council could look at the Bishop’s proposal.

broken windows of Sydenham's Coptic Church

Clr Phillips said he did not support demolishing the building, as there were strong arguments to keep it & it was a significant building & structurally sound.  He said he was happy to maintain it until the person with money came along & said he would like to see expressions of interest & explore options about the lift.  He thought Council had set the bar too high & no one can meet it.

Clr Byrne said she didn’t want to see the building demolished, but said Council does need to keep its obligations regarding disability & accessibility.  Clr Wright supported revisiting the issue in 2 months & supported the church groups who have consistently shown interest to resubmit.  She suggested a scaled-down version of renovations, but couldn’t support not complying with accessibility requirements.

Clr O’Sullivan supported the 2-month deferral saying the church has been one of the political stories of this Council. She said she had studied the papers back to 2006 & it is a record of stalled decisions & Councillors needed to “bite the bullet.”  She said the key issue was legislative context & Council’s responsibilities as owner or lessor.  Concerned that some may think, if they get a lease, Council will be absolved of all responsibilities & there was a distinct lack of clarity about the real issues. She said we need a realistic proposal, but was concerned when Council would have the sort of money needed for renovation. She said she valued the church & agreed with the Marrickville Heritage Society.

A man from the Gallery asked if the church roof could be fixed as it has been leaking for 8 years.

Clr Marci suggested 2-month deferral, looking at a scaled-down proposal & to hear everyone’s point of view.  Clr Olive’s motion was lost.

Clr Olive put up a second motion to write to the Federal Government, remove the responsibility for the church into Major Projects & get a further report on feasibility for use as studio, performance space or general community facility.

someone still cares for this church by painting the crosses & the sign on the entrance gate

Clr O’Sullivan was against this motion because it excluded use by a church.  Clr Phillips asked staff if there were restrictions when Council was granted control over the church saying he assumed they still applied. He suggested writing to the government to ask these restrictions be removed allowing the church to be lessors.  The Director said the current LEP restricts use as a place of worship & the new Draft LEP carries this on.  Clr Macri asked that consideration be given to allow use as a place of worship in the Draft LEP.

Clr Wright said she couldn’t support the motion if churches are not included & was uncomfortable deciding to put the building into Major Projects. Clr Byrne said she wanted the building retained & used as a functioning part of Sydney’s community. She moved an amendment that uses include a place of worship. She also said the more a decision is delayed, the more we are demolishing this building by neglect.  Seconded by Clr Wright.

The GM advised voting on assignment of responsibilities was beyond the councillor’s power.  He said the Councillors role is to charge staff with the work & staff decide which unit is assigned responsibility.

Clr Macri said Council needed the help of the community to restore the building & that Clr Byrne’s amendment allows religious groups to be users.  Clr Olive said he wanted the building to go into Major Projects because we have gone over this many times without outcome.

The amended motion was passed.  As I understand the outcome, Council will do a report looking at the extent of renovation needed to fulfil statutory requirements & put out an expression of interest to the community.  The meeting had another couple of agenda items, but I left.

I read in the May newsletter of the Marrickville Heritage Society that local resident Michael Pearce passed away on 28th April 2010 after a long illness.   I am quite sad about this.  Michael was one of the residents who addressed Marrickville Councillors on 11th August 2009 in the campaign to save the 2 magnificent Hills Fig trees in Mackey Park Marrickville South.

Mackey Park Fig Trees

Michael was very supportive of the campaign to save these trees & kindly agreed to allow me to publish his speech to Council in SoT.  This was very important to me as I desperately wanted these trees to be retained & SoT was only 2 months old at that stage.  His support meant a lot to me & I was & still am enormously grateful.

He did help save the Mackey Park Figs & I hope he felt good whenever he saw them when he visited or passed Mackey Park.  He knew the history of the park well as he had been going there since he was a young man.  It was a pleasure to know Michael. He was full of verve & integrity.  My thoughts go to his family.

Quite a few people have searched this site for Michael’s speech. This prompted me to add a more visible search box now located at the top of the left-hand column.  You can read Michael’s speech by clicking on the following link- http://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2009/08/17/17th-august-09-another-residents-speech-to-council/

The Marrickville Council Tree Strategy Issues Paper was up for voting last night & what a doozey of a meeting it turned out to be.  It’s clear there are very strong & opposing views about public trees & the community cannot afford to be uninvolved when our turn comes to contribute.

Some good news before I report on this.  Council unanimously & with much enthusiasm voted in favour of the creation of a new community garden in Denison Street Dulwich Hill.  3 residents spoke in favour of setting up a community garden citing the many benefits it will provide to the community. Council then went on to say that any resident can apply to have a community garden set up in any council owned disused space or reserve in the municipality.  There is mention of this on council’s web-site.

Now back to the Trees Strategy Issues Paper (TSIP).  3 residents addressed the meeting.  While each speech addressed different issues, all of us were against the recommendation to remove 1,000 trees per year for the next 5 years.  Although the TSIP says Council intends to plant replacement trees, their own report states a significant percentage of new tree plantings fail.  Since 1972 Marrickville LGA has planted approximately 42,500 street trees.  Today we have 20,000 street trees.  The numbers speak for themselves.

Other points raised that I recall were:

  • Essential that the councillors themselves be knowledgeable about the value & benefits of public trees & tree management before voting to remove 59% of trees within Marrickville LGA.
  • The need for education, communication & consultation with the community about trees.
  • Climate change, the heat island effect, the benefits of trees, the value of mature trees, strategies to look after trees to retain them, history & continuity that mature trees bring, the streetscape & character of Marrickville LGA, supporting increasing the tree canopy, better choice & placement of street trees & the need to care for this significant asset.
  • The recommendation not to establish a Significant Tree Register was also very disappointing, as was the lack of a Tree Inventory.  It is essential the Council knew what its only appreciating asset was & an inventory would serve to keep a record of our history even if trees were removed.
  • The good points were acknowledged as was the work staff had done to prepare the TSIP.

With 3 minutes & a maximum of 6, all 3 of us felt pressed to cover everything needed in this time-frame.  You should try it at least once in your life.  Speaking at Council is much harder than I expected it to be.  You can read my speech here – Speech-MC-9_2_10

Clr Thanos seemed to take affront at the residents’ speeches saying that he was proud of Marrickville, proud of the tree planting that has happened, speaking at length about how we had misunderstood the TSIP.   Well, all 3 of us read it, the Greens understood the same message, as did Labor’s Clr O’Sullivan.  He also said we were using the issue of trees to pursue our own agenda.  For me this was true.  I am trying to save public trees inappropriately earmarked for removal, yet somehow he made my motivation sound like I was scum & he did this from the safety of ‘privilege.’

Clr Thanos needs to understand it is poor form to criticise residents after they have addressed Council suggesting they have no pride in their community & somehow want to take it down.

I will speak for myself, but I know the other speakers were taken aback with his comments.  I also know they care deeply about this issue & have spent a great deal of their leisure time over the years working to help improve this locality.

Melaleucas targeted by TSIP

Deciding to follow what is happening at Council, find documents on Council’s packed web-site, download documents that are often large, read & analyse them, devote time to preparing a speech, spending the evening at Council, the nerves associated with this & putting opinions out in the public arena, are not small things.  Public speaking is classified as the number 1 biggest fear people have, so I ask, why would we do all these things if we didn’t have pride in our LGA & if we weren’t trying to help bring improvements for the community?

Clr Thanos debated & debated.  Clr O’Sullivan added some valid points in an amendment.  She spoke of how she finds herself clinging to shade when she walks in her area because of the heat island effect.  She also spoke about how climate change has become a significant issue & that there have been advancements in tree care & approaches to public trees since this report was last submitted in 2007.  She cited other Councils & suggested that experts be brought in to educate about current trends.

Eucalypts targeted as well

Clr Hanna reasonably suggested that residents be consulted about what tree species to plant outside their houses & said if they had a choice in the matter they would more likely care for the tree.

The Greens spoke about their tree policy, done with consultation with some members of the community, but this was lost in the ensuing melee, which was again disappointing.  Clr Peters reminded us that it has been 17 years since Council has reviewed its Tree Policy saying this current TSIP was not productive.  Clr Olive & other members of the Greens tried many times to discuss certain points of the TSIP, but this was stopped by Clr Thanos with Clr Tsardoulias in the Chair ordering the Greens to stop for points of order.

The Greens suggested their amendment & Clr O’Sullivan’s amendment were really saying the same thing.  Eventually, this was passed.  1,000 trees get to live for another 6 months while a working party of councillors work on this TSIP.

It was unpleasant to be in the Gallery due to obstructionism from Clr Thanos & Clr Tsardoulias.  I gather this is accepted as the culture of this kind of workplace.  Just last week a Strathfield Council made the news due to a Councillor arguing with residents in the Gallery.  Eventually, this argument was continued out in the street. To read the Inner West Courier article – http://inner-west-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/strathfield-council-in-chaos/

Michael Pearce addressed Marrickville Council regarding the proposed Mackey Park upgrade at the Technical Services Meeting on 11 August 09.  His speech can be accessed by clicking on the link.  Michael Pearce’s speech 11_08_09

Two other speeches by  local residents can be accessed a couple of posts below. Thank you to those who kindly allowed me to publish their speeches.  J

I was fortunate to have the members of the community who spoke against aspects of the proposed Mackey Park upgrade at the Technical Services Meeting agree to allow me to publish their speeches here.  Two of these speeches are attached in this post as pdf files which you can open by clicking on the link.

Another speech is on its way & I am hoping ‘The Speech That Never Was’ will be sent to me.  The last speaker raised the issue of gender bias as all the community speakers were men & kindly offered to share his 3 minute slot with a woman who wanted to address Council.  The Councillors argued for 20 minutes whether to allow this person to present her speech & finally it was voted against.

They are good speeches (which is why I wanted to share them) & they cover ground which I haven’t dealt with on this site.  I think they are well worth reading.  (I just checked the links & the pages have been formatted from last page to first, so scroll to the end of the document & start reading from there. Sorry about this. J)

Michael Easton’s speech – Technical Services Meeting 11/08/09

Justin McQuire’s speech – Technical Services Meeting 11/08/09

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