This street just off King Street South caught my attention because it has short street trees on the side of the powerlines & tall Eucalypts on the other where there are no powerlines. This is not something I see often.

Apologies.  This is a long post, but I believe the issue is important.  From memory the debate for this item lasted around 3-hours.

This was the Council Meeting. Absent: Clr Gardener.  The following is how I understood the meeting & all mistakes are mine.  Note: MC = Marrickville Council.

The Councillors & Wards are as follows – LABOR:  Iskandar/Central, Haylen/North, Tsardoulias/West, Woods/South. GREENS:  Phillips/Central, Ellsmore/North, Brooks/West, Leary/South.  LIBERALS: Gardener/North, Tyler/West INDEPENDENT:  Macri/Central, Hanna/South.

Tree Management – Inventory, Master Plan & Policy Framework – The state of the Marrickville Street Tree Urban Forest are drawn from the Street Tree Inventory Report.  For a summary see –

The recommendation was to –

  1. receive & note the report;
  2. provide a capital budget of $170,000 in 2013/14 for street tree removal & replacement;
  3. 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 & installation of the concrete footpath; &
  4. advise & clearly enunciate any changes to the policies & controls governing tree management within the Marrickville Local Government Area.

There were 10 speakers (including myself) against the recommendation & 1 speaker for the recommendation.  For brevity I will outline the issues discussed rather than each speech.  The report was described as draconian, shocking, contentious, preposterous & something that inflamed the community.

Issues raised were – Removing street trees fails to acknowledge the value of the tree to the urban environment.  The report does not look at other options & other technologies to deal with roots other than tree removal.  There was no community consultation.  The assessment of public infrastructure is that concrete will win over street trees.  Education & consultation needs to happen & this needs to be done street by street.  Questioned why community consultation is to happen 10-months after tonight’s decision.  Size of tree hole needs to be looked at.  There is a need for peer review of the report. There is an inequity of our urban forest compared with other Councils around Sydney. Exorbitant cost ($1,000) to plant a sapling.  Climate change & the importance of trees to create a livable environment.  Losing older, taller trees that are the very things that make our environment pleasant.  Changing community attitudes recognize the value & importance of the urban forest.  Contradictory elements  in this report compared to the Urban Forest Policy.  Council failed to consult with the Environment Committee.  The removal of 3,960 trees will leave an enormous hole in the urban forest.  The high loss of newly planted trees.  Planting new trees over the tree roots of the removed tree, thereby setting the new tree up for failure.  The large trees will be lost.  We are beset by pollution & need all the help from trees we can get.  We do recognise problems with trip hazards & that there are dying & dead trees that need to be removed.  Concerned that trees will be removed without the opportunity for the community to comment.  Trees should be marked for possible removal with the community given 1-month to comment.  Section 5.9 of the LEP sets out the policy of how trees are managed & removed.  The LEP has the force of the law.  Clause 4 clearly states the requirement for community consultation.  There is a huge contrast with the City of Sydney who are increasing their urban forest. They have doubled their trees & want to double this again.  Lack of shade increases the Urban Heat Island Effect.  Lack of aesthetics results in increased rates of violence in the community.  MC’s Urban Forest Policy is more a ‘vision’ & if the recommendation is approved it will be a step in the wrong direction.  MC has already adopted water-sensitive designs.  Replacing impermeable surfaces with permeable surfaces is a better solution.  The Urban Habitat Mosaic is important & concrete can be replaced with an understory.  There can be mini-raingardens that water street trees & filter water before it gets to the Cooks River & this will save MC money on watering.  MC should involve the community in planting as giving us ownership of trees will lower bills.  This is a blanket approval to cut down trees.  Only 1 person’s wage per year is being spent on maintaining newly planted trees – no wonder they die.  Replacement trees are not canopy trees. We are planting too small & too few species.  Trees are not maintained.  We are in for a 4-degree rise in temperature & heat waves are predicted. On a recent 41-degree day, thousands of trees died.  Bitumen becomes a heat trap.  Humans need to keep cool.  Trees prolong the life of house paint & concrete footpaths.  Would MC be legally liable for the loss of property values?  The recommendation is in strong contrast to every MC survey, which advocates for more trees.  MC should respect trees & not see them as liabilities. They should show vision & best practice for large trees that are more robust than short trees.  Big trees are carbon stores & lower the Heat Island Effect.  A tree should only be removed after all avenues have been explored & only after consultation with the community.

And finally this gem – The Urban Forest Policy says that 42,500 trees had been planted.  The Tree Inventory said there were 22,608 street trees – so where are the other 47% of missing trees?   Only half the trees that have been planted have survived. 

The speaker for the recommendations spoke about the following issues – Safety is a big issue.  Hard to navigate a wheelchair safely around & over roots & people often need to go onto the road.  I have 600mmm access for the wheelchair.  MC wants us to get reports that cost thousands of dollars if we want a tree removed that is causing property damage.  It should be easier & cheaper for people to have trees removed.  The new trees on my street did grow.   Tall trees are not stable.  The first priority is safety.  We need to get the balance right.

Clr Tsardoulias:  Moved the motion, but delete point 3.  MC staff should look at porous & flexible pavement & stop using asphalt to repair footpaths next to trees.  The main issues are serious trip hazards. There is a large incidence of liability over people tripping on our footpaths.  Verge gardens are increased.  Staff needs direction.  If a tree is ready to collapse, staff should do something about this.  We need to balance the issues with growing a canopy, maintaining trees & minimizing trip hazards. We need to trim trees & take action when there is an issue between the tree & footpath.

Clr Hanna: If I am going to fix trees in Silver Street then I want to talk to residents of that street.  I want to consult with the people living in that street.  Clr Tsardoulias:  We should talk to all the residents around the tree & plant the right tree or 2 or 3 trees.  We have a significant problem & need to do a lot – asap.

Clr Phillips:  I’m quite horrified with the recommendations to take a chainsaw to the numbers of trees & that concrete has priority.  It’s not with current community attitudes & our own guidelines.  It looks at trees as liabilities, not as assets.  Large, older trees, particularly Eucalypts will be the trees removed & they are giving a huge impact on the LGA.  Pulling out the Eucalypts will change the Australian look to the LGA.  We haven’t peer reviewed, sent the report to the Environment Committee or had community consultation, yet we are giving such a strong recommendation.  The Street Tree Masterplan is a great idea, a more holistic view & it’s what MC & community needs about removing trees.  To make major changes to our other tree policies should require community consultation.  Moved amendments – MC refers report to the Environment Committee & this audit be peer reviewed. Maintenance should be included in the $170,000 budget.  MC defers any non-urgent work until the Street Tree Masterplan has been adopted.

Mayor Macri: We are talking about removing 98 trees at a cost of $170,000.  The rest is renewal within 4-5 years & part of the Street Tree Masterplan.  We are voting on 98 trees now.  MC self-insures. Trees have been identified as a risk & MC must protect itself.  MC spends $23 per tree per year.  We have to remove trees. We want to gain canopy.  117 trees are dead. 18% are poor structure. 70% are mature.  We have to take a balanced approach & we need to start from the beginning.  We have never done it this way. We can’t take an alarmist approach.  Once the concrete comes up, that’s the best time to see the roots & sometimes they need to be chopped off.

Clr Ellsmore:  There were more than 250 submissions in a petition in under 24-hours.  Serious questions have been raised by the community. 80% of trees in my street have cracked the pavement.  It is important to remember than the community has gone through a long period of community consultation.   Why has the report not been sent to the Environment Committee?  Everyone wants a Street Tree Masterplan & have community engagement.

Clr Haylen:  We need to take the safety of our residents, which is a genuine concern.  Clr Tsardoulias’s amendment, when we are renewing an entire street, the Urban Forest Policy provides the guidelines whether that tree stays.  Repair footpath every 2-years or every 10-years?  Trees make our place a better place to live. I don’t support a further review.  It’s an audit.  Next step is a Street Tree Masterplan.  Let’s find those vacant spots.  Clr Hanna:  If the Director was here he would tell you how many people fall on the footpath. We have a lot of older people.  Safety comes first.  Trees come last.

Clr Leary: Staff need to look at other pavement options, stop using asphalt & consult with residents over verge gardens. Staff also needs to consult with residents of affected streets.  (These were incorporated into the amendment.)  Clr Tsardoulias:  We want to grow & balance services.  Fixing cracked footpaths & planting the right trees in the right place.

The amended motion by Clr Tsardoulias – That Council:

  1. Receive & note the report.
  2. Refer the report to the Environment Committee.
  3. Provide a capital budget of $170,000 in 2013/14 for street tree removal & replacement.
  4. Where capital renewal reconstruction works are undertaken & conflict exists between a street tree & infrastructure, the guidelines outlined in the Urban Forest Strategy should be followed.
  5. Advise & clearly enunciate any changes to the policies & controls governing tree management within Marrickville LGA.
  6. Council staff look at other paving options, including porous flexible paving & that staff stop using asphalt for reconstruction of pavements.
  7. Council staff look at options to increase the number of verge gardens & sustainable gardens.
  8. Consult with the residents of the streets affected.
  9. Defer any non-urgent actions arising from the report until the Street Tree Master Plan is completed & adopted & a thorough community consultation is completed.

Vote – unanimous. Motion Carried.

Thanks if you managed to read all of this.  Part 2 will be posted tomorrow. Jacqueline

These street trees along Petersham Road Marrickville are at least 2-years old. The photo was taken last winter when they had no leaves.

I think the verges around the street trees in Despointes Street in Marrickville look quite good.

Another street in Marrickville where someone is trying to add beauty by creating a verge garden.  Note the lack of & short stature of the street trees.