Part of the Town Green, a park in the city & on the Hastings River.  Lots of trees, lots of picnic tables & lots of park benches.

Part of the Town Green, a park in the city & on the Hastings River. Lots of trees, lots of landscaping, lots of picnic tables & lots of park benches. It’s a very beautiful park & a magnet for the community.

The Ned Kelly mask-like structures are benches made of huge pieces of wood.  The seats & the statue commemorate Harry, the unofficial Mayor of Shelley Beach who lived at the beach for 40-years.

The Ned Kelly mask-like structures are benches made of huge pieces of wood. The seats & the statue commemorate Harry, the unofficial Mayor of Shelley Beach who lived at the beach for 40-years.

A couple of weeks ago we went for a short visit to Port Macquarie.  It’s a very beautiful place with brilliant beaches, a wild beautiful river & lots of wildlife.  I expected beach & river beauty, but here were a number of things that really surprised me about Port Macquarie.

Both the Council & the community have a culture that is pro-trees & pro-environment.  I know this is correct because I talked to Council workers & many people who live in the area.

The very old Norfolk Island pine in the grounds of the old Court House, built in

The very old Norfolk Island pine in the grounds of the old Court House, built in 1869.  I’d bet the tree was planted around that time as well, as the girth is truly massive.

Port Macquarie Council has planted masses of street trees throughout the city.  Norfolk Island pines are a feature of this coastal town. They are everywhere along the coast & throughout the city area & many appear to be more than a century old.

Most of the street trees are in excess of 2-storeys in height.  The Norfolk Island pines were around 5-7 storeys tall.  Trees are planted in the middle of the road, as well as at the side of the road. The trees at the side of the road take a car space each, but it is very much worth it for the green, the shade & the ambience they provide to the streetscape.  I didn’t see one tree planted in a hole in the footpath.  The street trees all had lots of ground space around them landscaped with other attractive plants.  There are no bare patches without street trees in the city section that I noticed.

There are both flat areas & significant hills in the city section so you often find yourself looking up to see towering Eucalypts , palms & Norfolk Island pines on the hillsides. All this was very softening to the environment.

The parks are full of trees & these are planted all through the parks, not just around the perimeter, though this does happen in some parks in the suburbs.  Apart from Norfolk Island pines, Fig trees are used a lot & they too add a grandness & ambience making the parks very inviting.  The Council has planted a range of Fig tree species & do not seem to remove them once they are showing a bit of age.

The Town Green, the main park next to the Hastings River, has one very large Hill’s Fig next to the children’s playground.  The playground has sand & woodchip to soften any falls.   The Fig tree was full of children enjoying themselves up in the branches.  What really surprised me was that the Council had installed many cables between branches to catch a branch if it failed, ensuring that the tree could not harm those using the playground.  A section of rubber around the cable ensured that the bark was not damaged.  I’m used to a limb that can be the size of a normal tree being removed because it had the misfortune to connect in a v-shape to the trunk as apparently, this predisposes them to fail.

There are large grass trees in the Town Green, a surprise in that they have not been stolen.  These were part of a 1,650-year-old grave site & memorial to the traditional ancestors of the Birpai Nation. There are also public sculptures.  Some move, allowing children to interact with them & they do.

The Council has landscaped many areas.  Where native grasses are used they are mass planted so no soil shows through. The result is lush & green.  Strelitzias are used to great effect. I even saw bamboo creating shade & a providing a barrier to the traffic outside a café with outdoor seating.  Pedestrian crossings are not marked, but it is obvious where they are as there is landscaping & trees are on both sides of the road as well as in the middle.  I’ll add a photo so you can see what I mean.

This is not a bus stop or a taxi rank. I could not work out why there were so many park benches other than it was a nice place to sit.  There are many areas like this around the city streets.

This is not a bus stop or a taxi rank. I could not work out why there were so many park benches other than it was a nice place to sit. There are many areas like this around the city streets.

There are bench seats everywhere & I mean everywhere.  They are all through the city streets – many benches together so crowds can gather.  Somewhere to sit is a fundamental part of Placemaking.  Benches are also in the green sections in the middle of the roads.  The parks are full of bench seats & there are also seats along the beaches.  Some are memorial benches.  They also have memorial trees.  The War Memorial situated on the river in the Town Green was impeccable, with lots of flowers at the base.

There is a flying fox camp in a nature reserve right in the middle of town & an Arboretum, but these are for another post.  No one I spoke to hated the bats or wanted them removed.

There are also lots of palm trees, all kinds of palms planted closely in rows for maximum visual impact.  Canary Island palms line the centre of a number of city streets & they look fantastic.  Drive through town at 8.30pm & the joyful sound of many thousands of Lorikeets blasts your ears.  At dusk they come home to the city to roost.  Life is so good they find it hard to go to sleep.  Early in the morning they leave looking like green waves in the air.  The raucous is wonderful & I hope this always remains a feature. When I mentioned it to locals they smiled & said, “Oh yes!”  They didn’t complain.  It showed me how much we don’t provide for birds.

Garbage bins are along the river, in town, along the beaches & all through the parks.  Bins were everywhere & guess what? There was no litter!  However, I did see one drink can in the mangroves. One can – & we walked everywhere.  Chewing gum on the footpaths is rare. They mustn’t chew & spit in Port Macquarie.

There were even park benches at the top of the hill above many beaches offering a peaceful place to spend some time taking in the spectacular views.

There were even park benches at the top of the hill above many beaches offering a peaceful place to spend some time taking in the spectacular views.

Graffiti tagging isn’t an issue either.  I saw two examples of tagging & they were way out of sight.  I liked not seeing tags sprayed everywhere & on everything.  A local told me that Port Macquarie Council holds a painting event once a year around Christmas.  Hundreds of people come to paint whatever they like, usually messages of love, loss or family messages of ‘we were here’ along the large granite boulders that have been placed along the river from the Town Green & around the point to the beach.  The result is around about a kilometer of interesting reading on what is a very popular walk.  Perhaps the lesson is – give people somewhere to express themselves with paint & they leave the rest alone.

Large rocks extend as erosion prevention right along the Hastings River in the populated parts.  Most amazing is that there are no drink containers, polystyrene, food containers, paper, bottle tops, fishing line, unwanted TVs, bait bags or hooks caught in the rocks.  The riverfront is spotless.  So are the beaches. There is no litter – nothing floating on the river, except for pelicans, seagulls, some buoys & a few boats.

Fishermen were out in force.  Unlike here at the Cooks River where it is common to see one man managing anything between 3 to 10 fishing rods, at Port Macquarie it was one man – one rod.  I asked why & was told this sort of fishing is frowned on, that Fisheries patrol & you must have a license to fish on your person else you get fined & lose your equipment. Same if you are caught with undersized fish or some kind of river/sealife that you should not have in your possession.

The first fisherman I spoke to had actually lived for some time above McDonalds on Marrickville Road when it was there.  What were the chances!  When I mentioned the lack of litter along the river he spoke at length about the differences in attitude between many of those that fished along the Cooks River & those at the Hastings River.  He had nothing good to say about the fishing along our river, thought he loved Marrickville itself.

Port Macquarie Council has large fish scaling kiosks set up where the boats come in.  Pelicans hang around on guard waiting for an easy meal.  If they are not there, they are waiting a few hundred metres away on the sandbar at Pelican Island, a nature reserve where they rule.  I looked around the kiosks like a mad housewife looking for dust. Apart from some fish scales there was nothing that indicated fishermen had even been there.  The place was spotless.  My ex-Marrickville friend said this was the norm & it was not left as a mess for the Council to clean.  The wooden piers were not a mess either.

The shared pathways in the parks are not as wide as here & are made of brown paving stones.  The natural colour makes them blend into the landscape & they don’t get the dirty look that concrete acquires over time.  Lighting was attractive & lampposts in the parks are a teal blue colour, which also helps them blend into the landscape.  It was obvious that a lot of thought by the Council had been put into what materials were to be used & their visual impact.

Possibly the greatest surprise was that there are very few street trees in the suburban streets.  The public space on the streets varies from similar to the Inner West to wide enough to make a pocket park.   Where there are powerlines, there are no street trees.   I wondered whether this was an arrangement between the Council & the energy company.  Overall, it didn’t matter much as many properties had trees in their front garden or big trees in their back garden.

I did not see many concrete footpaths in the suburban areas either, except outside shops.  I asked a woman about this & she said no one bothers about them, or the lack of them. They didn’t want concrete.  When I asked about pushing prams she frowned & said, “Prams have wheels.  What’s so hard pushing a pram over grass? It didn’t bother me.  You use the road if you want to.”  The grass in all public spaces was cut very low & they use a thin bladed grass probably suited to sandy soils.  It doesn’t appear to be grass that grows high & thick like here & this would make a difference.

So that’s Port Macquarie.  It was our first visit & we will definitely return.  Looking around it is obvious that Port Macquarie Council works hard to improve the quality of life for its residents & visitors.  It also has wildlife & habitat high up in priorities as well.  We even saw Council workers weeding a revegetation area that extends along the coast.  In my opinion Port Macquarie Council have excelled in Placemaking with great designs that cater for people without destroying the environment & they appear to use concrete as a last resort.  It’s a fabulous place & well worth going if you haven’t been.

Later I will write about the flying fox camp & the Arboretum.  I won’t bother you with the one-hour-old baby whale we saw, the singing whales & us in the little red blow-up dingy, the dolphins frolicking in the ocean & slowly cruising up the river, the black Ibis, kookaburras, ducks, pelicans, yellow-tail black cockatoos, fish, koalas (oops I’ve written about them), albatross, the super-sized magpies or the large unidentified black birds scuttling through the rainforest. The wildlife here is wonderful & much of it is still here because there is habitat.

A Black Ibis by the river. I like Ibis & wouldn't mind a few of these guys locally.

A Black Ibis by the river. I like Ibis & wouldn’t mind a few of these guys living locally.

The lovely Hill's Fig next to the children's playground in the Town Green.  Nice to see a large tree providing shade & offering a place for kids to climb.

The lovely Hill’s Fig next to the children’s playground in the Town Green. Nice to see a large tree providing shade & offering a place for kids to climb.  This tree has cables shown in the photo below.

Cables tied around the Fig tree's branches in case of branch failure.

Cables tied around the Fig tree’s branches in case of branch failure.  I’ve not seen this before.

Up above the city centre. Trees are a big feature in the city streets.

Up above the city centre. Trees are a big feature in the city streets.

The pedestrian crossing is marked by different road surfaces as well as landscaping.  You don't even miss the zebra stripes as a pedestrain as crossing here seems natural.

The pedestrian crossing is marked by different road surfaces as well as landscaping. You don’t even miss the zebra stripes as crossing here seems natural.  Note the bench seat under the tree on the corner.

Another streetscape.

Another streetscape in the centre of town.  Landscaping & street trees are everywhere.

Another streetscape view.  Bollards of all kinds were another feature.  They were all attractive kinds of bollards. The green space in the middle of the road here had seating & was used by many people.

 Bollards in earth & water colours were another feature.  The green space in the middle of the road here had more seating & was used by many people.  Further along you can see street trees on both sides & in the middle of the street.  

6am in the morning & people were already out exercising. I was struck by the colours of a path & the lights thinking that they blended into the landscape & were not at all imposing.

6am in the morning & people were already out exercising. I was struck by the colours of the shared path & the lights (those blue poles) thinking that they blended into the landscape & were not at all imposing. Notice also the the curved path.  Curves are known to be easier on the eye.

Not any rubbish anywhere along the river or in the parks. Also, one fisherman and one pole.

No litter was to be seen anywhere along the Hastings River or in the parks & beaches.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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