Here is your urban forest.

Here is your urban forest.

Way below the Optus cable.

Way below the Optus cable.

16th January – 5.30pm & there are few places to park in Excelsior Parade Marrickville.  Many of the car spaces are filled with piles of tree branches because today Ausgrid paid the area a visit.  I wanted to stop & take photos of Renwick Street as this street has had its street trees pruned as well.

Last time I spoke with Ausgrid they said they now do 18-month cycles for tree pruning instead of the 7-8 years as they used to do.  What I noticed is that they took off branches last time & this time they removed the expected epicormic growth & a few more branches for good luck.  The branches themselves had not moved closer to the powerlines.  However the v-shape is now pruned deeper & wider in most of the trees.   Some trees have only two branches left.

90-year-old plus Brushbox trees, the pride of this section of Excelsior Parade are now half trees.  I first saw them in 1996 & yes they were pruned, but they were pretty much full canopy trees.  It really does appear that pruning is getting harsher.  The need to make them have half a canopy did not exist until this visit.  Of course it makes them safer, as it is almost as good as no tree.  But how did we manage safety-wise over the preceding few decades?

Every vase I own is now full of Firewheel tree branches filled with flowers.  I picked them up from the two-thirds of a tree that was lying in two knee-deep piles on the street.  It seemed such a shame to leave them there, baking in the sun, to be dead by morning.  I would have preferred the flowers to be available for the birds that spend hours feeding this tree.

Why are summer-flowering native trees pruned in summer?   If Ausgrid prune every 18-months, why can’t they choose to allow summer flowering trees to wait until the next round when they come in winter & visa-versa for the winter flowering trees.  It’s not as if the trees grow much in 18-months & become “dangerous.”  Remember, the trees were not considered dangerous when the cycle was 7-8 years.

Instead, valuable food for wildlife is removed & that is a huge shame when trying to increase biodiversity.  Loss of habitat means loss of life.  For people it would be like removing two-thirds of the food from the supermarket shelves. You just might not be able to buy enough to feed your family.

I walked much of Renwick Street & the southern side of the street looks a mess.  Yes, Ausgrid needs to do their job & yes, every year the local papers around Sydney run articles on street trees that have been butchered – but really, nothing is done about it & nothing changes. 

The Ausgrid contractors once told me that street trees should not be planted under powerlines.  When I asked what was suitable they suggested shrubs.  I’ve thought about this conversation over time & decided that they are half correct.  Council probably won’t consider planting shrubs because they are likely to impede on visibility for both pedestrians & vehicles, but there are many short stature trees that would be appropriate & that would still provide greenery & some shade.

So instead of focusing on what Ausgrid have done to the trees & it isn’t pretty, I want to ask why Marrickville Council plants obviously unsuitable trees under powerlines.  This is not an occasional occurrence.  Everywhere you go you can see tall growing tree species planted under powerlines & opposite, where there are no powerlines, are small stature trees or only a few trees.  Often a street tree is planted directly under the powerline that crosses the street to go to a house.  It’s like no-one looks up.

I once had a long conversation with a previous Council staff member. He told me that street trees are only expected to live for 7-years.  When I expressed dismay, he changed this to 15-years.  He cited a range of reasons – poor soil, not enough water, not enough care, growing the wrong way, mechanical injury from mowers, whipper-snippers & vehicles & probably more.  Perhaps this is why the wrong tree gets planted in the wrong place.

Growing well beyond the space provides a perfect reason to remove a tree & ensures Council doesn’t get stuck with the problems associated with significant or historic trees or even trees that the community quite simply loves & doesn’t want removed.    I don’t know.   I am hypothesizing as to why this happens because it just doesn’t make sense.

The eastern side of Australia is currently experiencing a prolonged heat wave.  Councils all over are publishing information on how to keep cool & not become victim to heat waves that currently result in the death of about 1,000 people every year.  Climate change is happening & our suburbs & cities are getting hotter.

It is expected that Darwin will be unlivable in just a couple of decades.  Sydney is expected to have Rockhampton temperatures & is going to be a very different place to live in the not too distant future.  Street trees are going to be vital in helping both the wildlife & the people survive.  Go to Queensland & big broad-leafed trees are a feature & for good reason – SHADE.

Many of the streets in Marrickville municipality are hot.  Try being a pedestrian on a hot day & you will see how fast you walk to find shade.

One side of Renwick Street lost its shade on the footpath today.  I imagine the loss of the canopy will also impact the houses along this side too, as well as their gardens & the coolness inside their house provided by the shade from the afternoon sun.  This may result in plant death as well as higher water & power bills.

Any Real Estate Agent will tell you that lovely street trees add to property values.  Whether street trees like what one side of Renwick Street now has will impact on property values I am not sure because housing has gone through the roof.  I am sure however, that a great leafy well-shaped street tree out front would add to the property value as aesthetics & amenity count a great deal when buying property.

Marrickville Council occasionally mentions their Street Tree Master Plan when notifying about tree removal & in Council Meetings.  I have not seen the Plan & think it is still a work in progress.  Hopefully Council will think seriously about doing something meaningful to stop this cycle of ugliness that happens when Ausgrid comes to prune.  Perhaps they will think about planting tall growing trees on the side of the street that does not have powerlines & not to plant tall growing trees close or directly under the powerline to the house.  Perhaps they will choose tree species that are native, provide food for wildlife & will not require pruning for the side of the street with powerlines.  This is a reasonable expectation.

If appropriate trees are planted under powerlines, this should significantly reduce or remove the need for Ausgrid to prune our street trees at all.  Then we can have a streetscape that is beautiful, provides amenity, doesn’t have lob-sided & butchered trees & can also have trees that become a long-term feature, a friend we pass every day.  This is one way to have people learn to like & respect trees.  We also pay large amounts of money for Ausgrid to prune public trees.  This too bears thinking about.

I’ll let you make up your mind whether the trees have been over-pruned by looking at the photos or you can go & see for yourself.    I’m starting up the Shame Page again, so if your street trees have been butchered this pruning round, please let me know – savingourtrees@gmail.com

A Lily Pily - expected to grow up to 15 metres.  Why would you plant this tree under power lines?

A Lily Pily – expected to grow up to 15 metres. Why would you plant this tree species under power lines?

All of these trees were previously pruned into v-shapes.  Now they have lost even more & could barely be called trees.

All of these trees were previously pruned into v-shapes. Now they have lost even more & could barely be called trees.

Even more thick branches were removed, even though they were no closer to the powerlines than 18 months ago.

Even more thick branches were removed, even though they were no closer to the powerlines than 18 months ago.

Why plant a Firewheel tree under powerlines when they can grow to up to 35 metres?  About two thirds of this tree was removed.

Why plant a Firewheel tree under powerlines when they can grow to up to 35 metres? About two thirds of this tree was removed.

Pruned the tree, but left a suitcase up there.

Pruned the tree, but left a suitcase up there.

For decades these 80-90 year old Brushbox have had an almost full canopy. This time half of the canopy  was removed.

For decades these 80-90 year old Brushbox have had an almost full canopy. This time half of the canopy was removed.

 

 

 

 

 

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