Euston Road in 2011 during the NO CSG March.  As you can see the street trees are well above the top of the power poles.

Euston Road in 2011 during the NO CSG March. As you can see the street trees are well above the top of the power poles.

I read this wonderful article titled, ‘Our trees are wiser than our leaders,’ written by Elizabeth Farrelly in the Sydney Morning Herald.  See –

Ms Farrelly writes about the Tawny frogmouths who are losing their home, a Swamp mahogany on Euston Road Alexandria because all the trees along here are to be chopped down for the WestConnex Motorway.  Her article is more than about the birds.  I highly recommend reading it.

“WestConnex is not just a war on birds, or on trees, public space, climate or the inner city, although it is all of those things. It’s a war on the kind of world view that values connectivity over objects: a war on complexity, in particular those complex systems we call community and nature. This is why it seems so blindingly old fashioned; a crude 1950s response to our complex 21st-century transport needs.  It is also ultra-masculinist. “Men see objects,” wrote John Fowles in The Magus. “Women see the relationship between objects … War is a psychosis caused by an inability to see relationships.”

“It’s happening everywhere. For Sydney the smell of woodchips has become the smell of death.

 In Frenchs Forest, hundreds of towering eucalypts have been felled for the six-lane highway to the new Northern Beaches Hospital.

In Randwick and Moore Park, 10 hectares of tree canopy are to be destroyed for temporary light-rail traffic diversions – including the Habitat Tree and the Tree of Knowledge, already gone.

In Wolli Creek, endangered forest was recently clear-felled for a temporary construction carpark.

Across Summer Hill and Haberfield – already reeling from WestConnex demolitions – entire avenues of gracious street trees have been reduced to deformed and leafless stumps after the government relaxed regulations governing Ausgrid’s “pruning” under power lines.

And that’s without the Regional Forest Agreements that allow unscrutinised cutting in NSW forests and the Baird government’s cynical Biodiversity Conservation Bill, expected to dramatically increase land-clearing and decrease protections across the state.”

Sydney is changing.  Sadly, our trees are being hit hard & this will have a domino effect down through the wildlife, to the happiness & health of the community.

All that is left is three orange safety cones.

All that is left is three orange safety cones.

From my memory three Lombardy poplar trees were planted at the front of the Revolution apartments on Illawarra Road Marrickville around 2 – 2.5 years ago, shortly after the development was completed.  The trees were growing well.  This species is fast growing, so they were noticeable on the streetscape.

Sometime in the last week all three trees were removed & replaced by orange safety cones.  I have read reports that men with a truck removed the trees, so the trees were not removed by an opportunistic vandal.

Who knows why the trees were removed or even who removed them?  There is no Notification of Removal on Inner West Councils website.   Makes me sigh.

Gorgeous and much loved avenue of Poplar trees along the Cooks River Foreshore.  The gas pipes travel this route.

Gorgeous and much loved avenue of Poplar trees along the Cooks River Foreshore. The gas pipes travel this route.

I have been aware of this issue for a while since first reading about it on Facebook. Apparently, no local council knew or could provide reasons as to why the trees had been tagged or who was responsible.

It has now come to light, thanks to the persistent work of Peter Munro, Secretary of Cooks River Valley Association.

According to an article in the Sydney Morning Herald –

As many as 1000 trees along the Cooks River are being assessed for potential removal by energy companies, which operate an underground network of pipelines running beneath kilometres of parklands in south-western Sydney.  Hundreds of mature trees – including Moreton Bay figs, eucalypts, and casuarinas – which line kilometres of pipeline easement from Port Botany to Newington in Sydney’s inner west have been tagged by arborists to determine whether they pose a threat to the pipelines.”   See –

The underground pipelines are operated by Viva Energy Australia & Sydney Metropolitan Pipeline.

“A spokesman for Energy Minister Anthony Roberts confirmed his department was aware of the tagging, and said: “The pipeline route [was] being assessed for any possible threats to the pipelines.  If any trees are identified as possibly requiring removal, the licensee will have to go through all normal approval processes.”

Around 2-years ago, I spoke informally with a manager of the gas company which was repairing pipes near the storm water drain beside Mackey Park.   I asked why trees were not allowed to be planted along the riverbank as had been told to me by Marrickville Council a few years back.  His response was to laugh & say that the pipes are buried so deep that they would be unaffected by the roots of any tree.

Therefore, I would question the need to remove any tree along the Cooks River by Viva Energy Australia & Sydney Metropolitan Pipeline.

The trees along the Cooks River are vital for the health of the river & the community.  There has been much research of late about trees & their positive impact on the mental, physical & spiritual health of human beings.  Trees are recognized as important assets & a public health issue.

The Cooks River & the riverbanks are classified as a ‘biodiversity corridor.’ They support a wide range of wildlife, which is growing due to the good work being done by local councils & Sydney Water to increase the biodiversity & restore the riverbanks.

There would need to be a very good reason why any tree would need to be removed from this location, let alone 1,000 trees.  The impact of removing hundreds of trees would be massive & not only destructive to the environment & the wildlife that rely on the trees, but also throwing away the time, hard work & ratepayers money that has gone into re-vegetating the riverbanks.

I believe the manager who told me that the trees were no threat to the the deeply buried pipelines.  So, I am not persuaded that anyone considering tree removal along the Cooks River has made their case.

Inner West Council have given notification that they have removed a Small-Leaved Peppermint (Eucalyptus nicholii ) outside 73 Station Street Petersham.

Council gave the following reasons for removal –

  • “Tree was in poor condition with structural root instability.
  • Active termites & advanced internal decay at base.
  • The tree posed an unacceptable level of risk to the public & property.”

They say they will replace this tree with a Spotted Gum (Corymbia maculata) in the 2017 Street Tree Planting Program.

Augured street tree pruning in Ryde.  Photo by @stickymeringue with thanks.

Street tree pruning in Ryde by Ausgrid. Photo by @stickymeringue used with thanks.

 posted this photo on Twitter & kindly gave me permission to share here.  The gum tree is wrong for the location, but as she says, “Takes skill and artistic flair to achieve this look too.”    Trees are amazing.

Sydney Park 2016

Sydney Park 2016.   NOTE:  This photo does not show the location of the proposed development.  

Can you imagine a 6-storey, 400+ apartment building in Sydney Park?

No?  Well, the Alexandria Residents’ Action Group blog says that a “proposed new development will replace what is currently a low rise warehouse/office building that is tucked behind a row of trees next to the lakes.”

Sydney Park is easily the best park in this area.  Even though it is located within the City of Sydney boundary, for many residents of the former Marrickville municipality, this is regarded as one of our favourite parks.

It’s bad enough that the WestConnex Authority have plans that will impact on Sydney Park.

The Alexandria Residents’ Action Group  are asking the community to lodge an objection against this DA by the end of this week.  The blog has a link to a template to help make this easy for you.

For more information see –

2014 street tree pruning by Augrid in Marrickville

2014 street tree pruning by Augrid in Marrickville

This sign was installed  by Marrickville Council.

This sign was installed by Marrickville Council.

I think it is laughable that a large organisation who has purchased another organisation, completely changes the way they do business and then after enraging the community, decides to do community consultation.  This is what is happening with Ausgrid, which is owned by the NSW government.

Prior to Ausgrid, we had Energy Australia managing our electricity supply.  The business name has changed, but not the service the company provides.

It’s like having a deli on the main street for 60-years.  Then the business is sold & it continues to operate as a deli, except under new management.  For 60-years this deli  was famous for selling a wide range of quality cheese.  However, the new owners chose not to have a wide range of cheese, only stocking cheddar for sale.  It’s still a deli, but what it offers has changed.

Now that might not be the best analogy, but this is what I feel has happened with the transfer of management of Energy Australia to Ausgrid in terms of street tree pruning.

  • Energy Australia pruned the street trees on a 7-8 year cycle.
  • Ausgrid prunes the street trees on an 18-month cycle.

Does this mean that Energy Australia provided an inferior & dangerous service to the community for all those years?  I don’t think so at all.

While Energy Australia was not immune to butchering street trees, they did not do it as a matter of course.  Since Ausgrid has taken over management, the state of street trees all over their area of control in Sydney is deplorable.   It’s not unusual to see the street trees in sections of streets looking as though they have been through a war.

And the community has been complaining loudly.

After their initial round of pruning, it appears that Ausgrid do a few street trees in a street, then come back at a later date to do the others.  I presume this is to somewhat mitigate the look of destruction it leaves behind.

Ausgrid calls what it does “tree trimming.”  I would debate this.  “Trimming” sounds gentle & nothing like the savage butchering well below the service cable for Pay TV & even further below the electricity cables.

IMPORTANT:  I would like to state clearly that I am not focusing on or criticising the workers who do the tree pruning.  They do what the company tells them to do to.

Ausgrid clearly has different opinions on what is safe clearance from electricity cables than did the previous energy supplier Energy Australia.  Yet, we did not have electrical fires breaking out all over the place, as is the explanation for the brutal tree pruning on Ausgrid’s website.   We are keeping you safe is their message & that is hard to argue against unless you ask why Energy Australia managed to prune the street trees differently & still keep us safe.

Ausgrid needs to expand on their perception of “safe.”  Increasingly researchers all over the world are publishing about the urban heat island effect, deaths from heatwaves, mental health deterioration & increased respiratory illness & fatal heart attacks in areas that have a poor urban forest.

The street where I live had street trees that reached the top of the power poles for the two decades that we have lived here & it was the same for all the streets around us.  There were no fires. There was no loss of power supply.  Service was stable & all this through a number of major storms, including the incredibly damaging hail storm in April 1999 & the major storms of June 2007 & February 2010.

Ausgrid took over from Energy Australia in March 2011 & my street is a shadow of its former self.

We lost shade, we lost beauty (because our street trees were beautiful) & we lost bird life.  We are now a street with power poles poking metres above savaged street trees & every time Ausgrid visits, more branches are lost.

The urban forest is a mix of street trees, park trees & private trees.  Our area, the old Marrickville municipality, has –

  • the least green space in Australia – so we are not getting much benefit from trees in parks unless we go to the parks on a regular basis & stay there for a while.
  • Land lots are small & often not suitable for a decent sized tree. Therefore, the dependence on street trees – green leafy streets – is substantial in the Inner West.
  • In 2015 Marrickville municipality was rated “poor” in terms of its urban forest with a canopy cover of just 16.3%.
  • Marrickville was also also found to be the unhappiest community in Australia according to Deakin University’s Australian Unity Wellbeing Index.

Can poor happiness levels relate to the lack of canopy, to poor street trees & to the lack of green space?  Yes, I believe it can & that it does.

This is backed up by research published by The Forestry Commission of Great Britain called, ‘Trees, People & the Built Environment.’   The results of the study show that our trees are not just something to make an area look nice but they may actually be making people happier.  See –

So, with all this in mind, think about the impact Ausgrid’s new street tree pruning practices are having on our urban forest & how this flows on to the community’s health, our increased risk of a range of illnesses & disease starting from childhood & even death.   It is a serious public health issue & I have not even mentioned climate change yet.

Climate change is breaking all the records for increased & unseasonal temperatures.  Every year it is harder to be out on the streets in the middle of the day.  If we don’t have sufficient street trees with a decent canopy, then we are going to suffer.  We are already suffering.  Some of us will die from the heat.  It is as simple as that.

Research by the University of Oxford published in July 2016 found that –

  • “Scientists have specified how many deaths can be attributed to human-made climate change during an extreme heatwave. Researchers calculate that in Paris, the hottest city in Europe during the heatwave in summer 2003, 506 out of 735 summer deaths recorded in the French capital were due to a heatwave made worse by human-made climate change. The impact was less severe in London, with an additional 64 deaths out of a total of 315 heat-related deaths.”

The paper says the mortality rate attributed to human-made climate change in both these cities is notably high, but they are just two of a large number of cities that were affected by the heatwave that year. It suggests that the resulting total number of deaths across Europe due to climate change is likely to be substantially higher.  See –

Researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found that “between 540 & 760 deaths could be attributed to the ongoing spell of hot weather” over a 9-day period in July 2013. See –

139 deaths due to heat occurred in Victoria Australia in January 2014.  Victoria suffered another heatwave in 2009 resulting in 374 deaths. See –

Research published in 2016 by Lancaster University found that –

  • “Toxic nanoparticles from air pollution have been discovered in human brains in “abundant” quantities.”
  • Air pollution is a global health crisis that kills more people than malaria and HIV/Aids combined and it has long been linked to lung and heart disease and strokes. But research is uncovering new impacts on health, including degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, mental illness & reduced intelligence.” See –

This is truly alarming & should be also alarm the NSW government.  They constantly tell us that they are terribly worried about the cost of caring for people who have Alzheimer’s disease.

Particulate matter from air pollution has been shown to significantly increase incidence of this disease.  So what picks up harmful particulate matter?  Trees of course!  So once again, street trees are a public health issue.

If the government wants to get control of the increasing health care costs of the community, they should provide local councils with the funds to greatly increase the urban forest.  This spending will, as the trees grow & start to become more useful, start to impact on all kinds of health issues ranging from obesity, respiratory & cardiac illness, depression & Alzheimer’s disease.  It’s a no brainer. 

  • Stop ripping out the trees for development or parking lots for WestConnex,
  • Stop the energy companies from destroying the viability & usefulness of the street trees &
  • Provide sufficient funds to allow suburbs with poor canopies to start to look like other more wealthlier suburbs across Sydney. Often the housing is similar – it is the streetscapes that are radically different.  We already know that poorer suburbs tend to have less tree cover.

I’ve often wondered whether it has been a deliberate initiative to keep some suburbs more affordable by having less tree cover & unattractive streetscapes.  Unfortunately, this is being blurred by the soaring housing costs in Sydney where even a shabby house in an unattractive street is being purchased for $1 million plus.  Even so, I think some might use housing prices as their argument why I am incorrect in my observations.

I say to the NSW government – instead of whinging on the nightly news about how the government will pay for health care in an ageing population, take action to give people the quality of life while they are living, from the cradle onwards.   Give them a decent urban forest with a great tree canopy cover, so that the air that they breathe is not harming them by creating a range of physical & mental health issues.   Keep many of the community out of hospital by making our city green.

Ausgrid’s website ( says –

To help improve our services we undertook an engagement program that –

  • aimed to understand our community’s interests,
  • develop a shared understanding of the need for managing trees growing under powerlines and near other infrastructure on our electricity network and
  • help to improve the way Ausgrid performs this work in the future.”

Now Ausgrid is showing that they are listening to the myriad complaints from both the community & local councils by holding community consultation via a working group.  And as is usual with community consultation, if we do not participate, then it is business as usual. Any further complaints are met with – well we held community consultation & didn’t get much in the way of negative feedback, so what can we do.  We are keeping you safe…blah, blah, blah.

The working group –  “… includes nine community members as well as representatives from local government areas including Parramatta, Burwood, Botany Bay, Cessnock, Canterbury-Bankstown, City of Sydney, Cumberland, Hornsby Shire, Hunters Hill, Inner West, Ku-ring-gai, Lake Macquarie, Mosman, Newcastle City, North Sydney, Northern Beaches, Port Stephens, Randwick, Strathfield, Sutherland, Willoughby and Woollahra; the Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils, Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils, Local Government NSW, Local Government Tree Resource Association, NSW Department of Planning and Environment, Arboriculture Australia, NSW Energy and Water Ombudsman and the Energy Networks Association.”

The working group will meet four times between August & December 2016.

So, if the state of the street tree pruning bothers you (It bothers Marrickville Council) & if you care about your own & your family’s health, take up their offer & leave feedback at the Inner West Council –  Then Council will have something from the community to take to these meetings.  If enough of us participate, we may actually be able to effect positive change, though it may take decades for some of the trees to look good again.

I hope that Ausgrid does more than listen & that it makes significant changes to its tree pruning standards.   Sydney needs street trees now more than ever with Sydney’s population over 5-million.  Trees, the urban forest canopy will become more important than ever.

Most of the canopy is on the ground.

Most of the canopy is on the ground.

Wolli Creek bushland to be cleared by the WestConnex Authority for parking of their equipment.   Unbelievable.

The WestConnex Authority has started learning Wolli Creek bushland for parking of their equipment. Unbelievable!  

Some days the news is just bad & today is one of those days.

The Wolli Creek Regional Park is our closest area of bushland. It is vitally important for wildlife because, really there is nowhere else that offers decent habitat for wildlife in the area.  The park, managed by the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service, also provides an important link to our collective history.

Today, the WestConnex Authority started work to destroy remnant forest in the Wolli Creek Regional Park.  The area where work has started is classified as ‘critically endangered Cooks River-Castlereigh Ironbark Forest.’

Destroying ‘critically endangered’ remnant forest is not something that should occur in an enlightened society.

“About 1.4 hectares of the critically endangered Cooks River-Castlereagh Ironbark Forest is earmarked to be cleared at the site in part to provide parking bays for construction equipment being used for the WestConnex motorway project.” See –

Really?  Destroying critically endangered remnant forest that can NEVER be replaced so they can have parking!   How disrespectful. 

Plus, to add salt to the wound, the WestConnex Authority started this destruction on National Threatened Species Day. 

By my calculation, the WestConnex Authority (read NSW government) will leave behind a paltry 0.47 hectares of remnant forest.  That’s just 1.16 acres.

This is an incredible loss to Sydney amidst an ever increasing toll on trees & nature for this Motorway.  Add the tree carnage in the Eastern suburbs & the NSW government, through whichever Authority they are using to do the work, look like they hate the environment.



One trunk and two branches

One trunk and two branches

We couldn't work out why this tree was pruned in the way it was.

We couldn’t work out why this tree was pruned in the way it has been.

Sydney is changing with all the high-rise development, but also because of the new style of street tree pruning by power company Ausgrid.    What was a rarity when Energy Australia managed power in the Sydney region, has now become a fairly common sight & frankly, it’s ugly.

The photos with this post are of Windsor Avenue Croydon Park.  I saw them while driving down Georges River Road & was interested enough to stop for a closer look on my return.  I imagine it was a shock to the residents when they came home because there is not much tree left.  Google maps show a much larger canopy when they last took images of the streets.

Ausgrid’s website says, Generally, in residential areas the clearance around bare low voltage powerlines is 1 metre.”

However, what I have noticed is that pruning happens much lower at 1-metre below the service cable.  I have been told to expect more service cables, so would that mean 1-metre lower than any new cable?

The following was taken from an August 2015 article in the Sydney Morning Herald where many local councils were upset about the degree of pruning by Ausgrid, including our own Marrickville Council –

“I’m not sure what’s driving the savagery that they’re using,” Cr Johns said.  I can only suspect that it’s to lower costs, that if you completely hatchet a tree then you don’t have to come back for two years instead of annually.”

My question is, why the need for annual pruning or every 18-months as happens in the Inner West when for decades, street trees were pruned every 7-8 years?   

The trees in my street reached as tall as the power poles for the two decades that we have lived here, but not since Ausgrid took over the company.  Now the power poles stick up bare metres above whatever foliage has been left on the trees & sadly, each year more of the canopy gets removed.

Even trees in front gardens have been removed after a severe pruning from the power company left them ugly & one-sided.

We were not a leafy street to start with, so this new pruning management has had a major impact on the visual amenity of the streetscape.  It is also hotter – much hotter because there is little shade left.

With more & more research showing how important trees, especially street trees, are to human health, this continued decimation is bound to impact the community.  This issue  must be addressed by local councils sooner rather than later.

Poor little tree.

Poor little tree….not much left.

One trunk and one branch

One trunk and one branch

Every branch topped.

Every branch topped.

Looks terrible.

Looks terrible.  Not only ugly, but these trees appear to be a few decades old.  They would have provided great amenity before they were reduced to this.  Much of the green visible comes from trees in front gardens.  

The winner.

The winner.

Beautiful Brushbox trees

Beautiful Brushbox trees

I was thrilled to see six good sized Queensland Brushbox trees planted along the west side of Livingstone Road near Marrickville Park.  Not only will these trees improve the streetscape, but they will also visually lead the eye to the park.  Big canopy street trees is totally appropriate for this wide road.

I was also pleased to see that Council did not remove the red flowering gum trees planted along here.  Although these trees could be deemed a failure because they range from around 1-metre to 1.8-metres tall after 5-years of growth, they still flower every year & provide food for wildlife.



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