This post is not just about a tree.  Once again, it is about Marrickville Council’s undemocratic processes that exclude the community & erode trust.

Last Council Meeting of 15th October the following Notice of Motion was put on the agenda by Clr Phillips –

Notice of Motion: Consultation on tree removal at 5 Day Street Marrickville & future Councillor initiated tree removals.

“MOTION:

THAT:

1. Council conduct its regular community consultation process on the removal of the street tree outside 5 Day Street Marrickville & report back the results of the consultation to the elected Council before removal of the tree; &

2. Council draft & implement a community consultation plan for tree removal decisions initiated by Councillors through notices of motion to ensure that affected residents are made aware of these motions & have the opportunity to provide input prior to the decision being made.  Such consultation may include a notice placed on the tree, a letter to neighbouring residents, & information on Council’s website.”

Background  – At the August 2013 Council meeting on the motion of the Mayor, Council voted to remove a street tree outside 5 Day Street Marrickville.

I have since been contacted by a neighbour who is concerned about the removal & extremely disappointed at the lack of consultation with local residents on the tree removal.

There is a policy issue for Marrickville Council that street tree removals that are initiated by Councillors do not go through the regular community consultation process that trees identified by staff for removal go through.  To ensure procedural fairness, Council should look to employ a similar consultation process, including with the tree outside 5 Day Street Marrickville.”

Email from resident: [bold is my emphasis].

“Dear Councillors,

I live at [I removed this] Day Street, Marrickville.  I came out of my house at 8.30am this morning to find 3 men & 2 large trucks ready to cut down the most magnificent tree in the whole of Day Street.  No notice on the tree, no notice in my mailbox, no notice to move the cars.  I was horrified that this tree was about to be destroyed & lodged a complaint immediately.

The tree in question, a decades old gumtree in perfect health, stands outside my neighbour’s property at Number 5.  However, it provides benefits to all in the street including considerable shade to our house & houses at No 7 & 9 & a cooling effect in general.  We bought our house in this street because it was green & leafy & much cooler than other streets in Marrickville in Summer.

I have been informed that the application, to remove the tree, was considered at a Council Meeting several weeks ago & permission to cut down the tree was granted.

Firstly, I am horrified that this kind of activity takes place with no regard or concern or consultation with anyone else in the street.  If we had known, we would have been at the meeting arguing against the destruction of this incredible tree.

I am writing to request that you please take this issue back to your next Council meeting & reconsider the decision.  Apparently the tree is causing some damage to our neighbour’s front wall, but I have been advised by the Council’s tree department that there are solutions to this problem that can save the neighbour’s wall & save the tree.  So why are these not being employed?  Why are the neighbours in Day Street not being consulted or considered?

 We have now been in Marrickville, in Day Street, for over 4 years.  Up to now we have had the utmost regard for Council.  We’ve been impressed with our own dealings with Council in relation to minor building works at our house, in the responsiveness of the Waste Management System (& the good humour of the garbage workers) & mostly in the brilliant Child Care Services that our small children have enjoyed.   But we are utterly dismayed at the lack of due process in relation to this magnificent tree & have now had our confidence in Council shattered.   We ask you to invoke the high standards we have come to expect of Marrickville Council & reconsider this decision & institute a fair & consultative process in relation to the tree’s future.”

The Council business paper said that the notification policy for tree removals initiated by staff is to–

  • Removal of shrubs & trees under 5-metres. – Nil prior notification. Notice to 3 adjacent properties stating reason for removal.
  • Standard tree removal eg. causing damage to building, poor structural condition of the tree & tree inappropriate to location. –  14 days prior notification to adjacent properties & those opposite, notice attached to tree & proposed tree removal included on website.
  • Emergency removal. – No prior notification, visit three properties directly in front of dangerous tree, plus one on either side & on opposite side of street to inform them of work commencing (6 properties), upon removal, postcard notice to immediately adjoining properties stating reason for removal & advice on Councils’ website.”

Councillors accepted Point 1 of the motion, but Clr Woods moved an amendment to delete Point 2.  The following Councillors voted to delete point 2 –   Mayor Haylen, Clrs Woods, Tsardoulias, Marci, Hanna, Garden & Tyler.  Against:  Clrs Phillips, Leary, Brooks & Ellsmore.  Carried.  Therefore, & unfortunately in my opinion, community consultation can be bypassed if a Councillor brings the matter of tree removal to a Council Meeting.

This did not go down so well on Facebook.  Here are some of the comments –

  • “I know Day St. & it would be a tragedy if this tree were removed.
  • This is horrific if this kind of lack of consultation continues!

  • I agree, there’s nothing more shocking than having the loppers show up without notice.
  • But I believe there was in independent arborist contacted who advised that the tree roots could be fixed without tearing down whole tree & still avoid damage to opposing neighbour’s footpath.
  • This is not now just about one street & one or two trees – its about consultation or lack of it – why is it that councillors think they have the right to make those sort of decisions without asking residents?
  • This discussion is not about the specifics of the Day St tree – it’s about equity. Why two different processes depending on the notification?

  • Clearly street trees across Sydney are community assets & benefit all local constituents by increasing amenity & property values (amongst other things).
 this is not about politics (OR it shouldn’t be) it is about equity, as others above have mentioned. street trees are community assets. if there is a loophole that allows councillors to nominate & decide on the fate of a street tree without opportunity for community consultation, this loophole should be fixed. WHY was the second part of the motion denied? surely it made sensetime & time & time again we read about disappointing, puzzling, downright wrong decisions & carrying-ons by our councillors – trust & confidence are being eroded, & replaced by cynicism & distrust. this is not the way to lead & represent our community.”

 

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