Lovely Melaleucas line the Sydenham end of Unwins Bridge Road.  Too old?

The Marrickville Street Tree Inventory Report has been completed. It found the following, though I recommend that you sit down while reading this –

  • There are a total of 24,152 street tree sites including 1,544 vacant planting opportunities. (TOTAL: 22,608 street trees) 
  • Compared to 8 other Councils Marrickville street trees are smaller in size – average height 5.2-metres & width 4.45-metres.   (I’ve been saying this since I started SoT.  Most of the municipality looks like a desert compared to the municipalities that surround us & who also have similar constrictions with planting.)
  • The large majority of trees have good health & structure.
  • 9% are in poor or very poor health or dead. (TOTAL:  2,034 trees)
  • 18% have poor or very poor structure or have failed. (TOTAL: 4,068 trees.  This makes 6,102 trees in total that are sick, have poor structure or are dying or dead.)
  • Marrickville streets show good biodiversity with over 360 species from 170 genera found, but at an LGA level over 42% of the street tree population is provided by only 5 species. (I wouldn’t call this “good biodiversity.”  The recommendation I have read repeatedly is that no more than 5%-10% of any tree species should be planted, not 5 species for almost half.)
  • Marrickville has about half the number (7.2%) of vacant tree planting opportunities of most other Councils. Vacant sites include vacant locations in the grass verge & empty tree pits cut into paving. It does not include potential planting locations that require pavement cutting in either footpath or road pavements.  (We don’t need to go far to know that there are thousands of places where street trees could be planted, but are currently concrete.)
  • 3,960 trees were identified as causing footpath damage, 1,614 causing kerb damage, 424 causing road damage & 122 causing damage to private infrastructure. TOTAL:  4,236 trees.

(Read:  these trees will probably be removed, especially as one of Council’s three recommendations for this paper is – “where capital renewal reconstruction works are undertaken & conflict exists between a street tree & footpath renewal made with concrete, that conflict shall be resolved by removal & replacement of the tree and installation of the concrete footpath.”  In plain English this means if a tree is causing the footpath to rise where Council is planning to renew the footpath, the tree, healthy or not, will be removed & replaced with a sapling.  4,236 trees. 

I have been cycling the footpaths around the LGA & can say without hesitation that for the most part they are in a bad state & many trees will be removed, as this is Council’s most expedient way to manage the situation.  It’s not what other Councils around Sydney do however, as they appear to be willing to work around a healthy tree to keep it rather than remove it.  I guess this demonstrates a difference in how the urban forest is valued.)

  • There are too many old street trees in the Marrickville urban forest – 69% are mature. (TOTAL: 15,226 trees) with only 10% of young trees.
  • (Considering it was found that most of our street trees are small in size compared to other municipalities, this means that almost 70% of our older & therefore taller trees will be removed.  To me this will compound the situation where we see more red roofs, concrete & other hard surfaces than we do leafy canopies.  I also believe that there is nothing wrong with an older tree, as long as it is safe.  We need trees that connect us with our history.  We need significant trees, historic trees, grand old trees & we need shade, plus all the other health benefits trees bring.

Cannonbury Road Dulwich Hill is unusual because of its old street trees. It’s much better than what my photo portrays.

If the trees of Cannonbury Grove in Dulwich Hill were removed for example, this would destroy what is a fantastic streetscape & have an enormous flow-on to the residents by significantly decreasing the value of their properties. 

The trees surrounding Marrickville Town Hall are a prime example of trees that connect us to our history.  They should be taken care of & gradually replaced over many years if & when they become unhealthy, but not removed on the design whim of a Councillor or Council itself. 

That Council have not done graduated replacement over the last decades is not something the residents should pay for in terms of loss of canopy cover, loss of property values, loss of beauty & loss of the significant & important health benefits trees bring.  Saplings & immature trees do not make an urban forest.  This work is something to be done over a long time period so it does not hurt the community or urban wildlife who are stressed enough as it is.)

  • 4,540 trees (20%) are assessed as having a Useful Life Expectancy of 10 years or less. (In plain English this means how long the tree is expected to live.  You can expect these trees to be removed as well.)
  • Approximately 986 trees have been referred to Ausgrid for clearance pruning around powerlines.  (Ausgrid are not known for retaining the beauty of any street tree.  Now that they come every 6 months instead of the 7-8 year cycle as was happening until around 18 months – 2 years ago, we will see our street trees get smaller & smaller.)
  • 7,997 trees were identified for works (minor maintenance through to tree removal.)
  • A further 7,011 trees were recommended for major & minor tree maintenance works. (TOTAL:  15,008 trees)  88% are Moderate Priority (within 2 years) or Low Priority (within 4 Years). Urgent works have been addressed & all High Priority works (within 12 months) will be completed within the next 12 months.  (Marrickville Council informed me that they did not prune street trees, so this is new.)
  • Removal of 1,590 trees has been recommended scheduled for progressive renewal over the next 5 years. (Don’t forget those of the 7,997 trees that were identified for tree removal.)
  • 24 trees were removed during the inventory data collection process.  (The community was not informed about these trees until now.)
  • 5 trees have been removed since. (The community were informed after the trees were removed.)
  • 98 trees require removal within the next 2 years.
  • 281 trees are identified as low risk with renewals to be undertaken within 4 years.  ((Renewal means removal.  Are these trees on top of the 1590 trees recommended for removal & the unspecified number from 7,997 trees that require work, which includes removal?)
  • 1,194 trees seen as very low risk & for renewal within 5 years.

98 trees will be removed during 2013/14 at a cost of $72,000. Replacement trees will cost $98,000.  That is $1,000 cost to plant 1 sapling.  Total proposed budget = $170,000.

This is Item 6 on the agenda for the Council Meeting of Tuesday 20th November 2012.  Members of the community are able to speak at this meeting for or against the item. You can download the business paper here –,pURL=businesspapers,

I will be posting more on the outcome & recommendations of the Tree Inventory.

At the re-opening of Mackey Park two years ago I was told that Marrickville Council is planning to remove the Poplars along the river & replace with Gum trees to let the light in. I was so shocked I failed to ask if the same was planned for the Poplars in Steel Park.