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I’ve been noticing that many of our street trees under powerlines have started to have dead parts in the canopy.

Here is another example.

Two dead street trees in Marrickville – notable because they are beside each other.   They died quickly.  

Here is the red flowering gum in 2016 – short, but bulky.

Here is the same tree in February 2017 after being vandalised.  A dead Brushbox is on the right.

A close up of the vandalised tree. You can see that branches have been twisted and ripped off.

Around 5-6 years ago, Marrickville Council planted some red flowering gums along the verge on Livingstone Road near & in front of Marrickville Park.  At the time, I was very surprised as I think Council rarely plants flowering gums. Imagine if the streets were full of flowering gums instead of those awful weed trees Evergreen ash (Fraxinus griffithii), with their hundreds of thousands of seeds per tree.  Flowering gums come in orange, hot pink, soft pink & red flowers & are food producing for nectar-eating wildlife.  They are a short stature tree & perfect for under powerlines.

Unfortunately, Council was ripped off as these trees were the ones that only grow to 1 – 1.5 metres & over a very long time.  I do remember there was talk about removing them in one council meeting, but that did not go any further.

Every year these trees would burst into flower & look terrific.  Every time I passed I looked for them to assess their growth.

Last year Council planted six Queensland Brushbox trees outside the tennis courts on Livingstone Road in-between the flowering gums.  I thought this was wonderful. Brushbox trees grow tall, look lovely & have a great canopy.  This is the side of the road without powerlines so they could grow & eventually could create a visual link to the mature Brushbox trees in Marrickvile Park.

Unfortunately, only three of the newly planted Brushbox trees survived.  It may have been the extraordinary heat over the summer.  Who knows.

A few weeks ago I saw that the biggest red flowering gum, a quite substantial shrub really, had been vandalised.  Someone had twisted & ripped off all but one branch. It must have taken them a great deal of strength & energy to do this because the branches were quite thick.   Yet another public tree lost to an antisocial vandal who is against the public interest.

If I feel frustrated at the amount of tree vandalism that happens in the former Marrickville municipality, I think Council must be either pulling their hair out or numb with fatigue witnessing the destructive things the happen in public spaces.

There are some in our community who go out of their way to destroy any beauty in public spaces.  They would not pick up rubbish or pull weeds out from the verge or footpath as “this is council’s job,” but they think they have a right to vandalise or destroy a street tree because it is in front of their house or planted in a place they think a tree should not be. I have heard people express this sentiment a lot & I’ve never understood the contradictory personal ideology that creates it.

I scoffed when I read today, the following statement in a 2015 article in The Conversation about tree vandalism ( councils with 50-100,000 trees have somewhere between five and 10 trees killed each year.”

At last count in 2012 the former Marrickville municipality had 22,608 street trees & I doubt this number has changed much.  I can say with complete confidence that at least 10 street trees are vandalised & killed each year just in the suburb of Marrickville, not the whole former Marrickville Council municipality.

Everyone must have read the Chinese proverb –  “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.  The second best time is now.”   

It takes at least a decade for most newly planted trees to start providing any real benefits in terms of shade, carbon sequestration, pollution uptake & oxygen output.  The twenty years is needed to allow the tree time to grow into a decent size.

Anyway, Council has removed the three dead trees & the vandalised gum.  When looking at my photos tonight I realised that I had a photo of another flowering gum in this particular block & that too has been removed.  Maybe it was also vandalised.  So that is five dead or vandalised trees in what is the space of 40-metres.  Not bad hey?

I wrote a long list of reasons why I thought people vandalised trees here –

Showing 5 of the 6 newly planted Brushbox trees and TWO red flowering gums. It was only after looking at these photos did I see that there was another red flowering gum alive and well here and this too has been removed. Maybe this one was vandalised as well.  The second gum is behind the second staked tree on the right. 

Showing the tree death in this location. Three Brushbox in a row died and one red flowering gum was vandalised. One other small gum tree has also been removed bringing the death count to five.


Planted in about 1860, this is a very important tree for Sydney.  I am pleased Metro kept new infrastructure away from this tree.

Looking at the front entrance from the side.

The new entrance to Marrickville Metro from the front.

Last post I said I would post some photos of the landscaping work being done at the Victoria Road entrance of Marrickville Metro.

I love that infrastructure was kept away from the magnificent heritage fig tree planted around 1860.  It is an extremely important tree for Marrickville & for Sydney.

I also love that the bench seats do not include a bar to prevent people from lying down.  I loathe defensive architecture & the negative message it sends.

Facing Mill house, on the right there is now a lovely small school vegetable garden for local St Pius’ Catholic Primary School & also what appears to be an outdoor classroom area.  From memory this area contained a few trees, so to me it looks entirely different.  However, it is a nice & useful green space.

I do like that extensive verge gardens have been created down Victoria Street & more gardens behind the temporary fence.

Metro has obviously tried.  It is just a pity that the main entrance area is so visually harsh & is also a heat sink.  I think they may come to regret this in the years to come.

The fence is temporary. What concerns me is that lack of shade for dogs.

The dog tie-up area in this location is connecting all dogs to the one pole & although water bowls have been kindly provided, I think the dogs will bake if left here for more than the shortest time.  I also think there is a high risk they will get tangled up with each other, which may cause conflict with some dogs who feel anxious or who have a need for personal space.

It is interesting to notice how the community feel a sense of ownership of what is essentially private property.  My guess is Metro want the community to feel connected to this shopping centre, which is why they have the community library.   Something else that is important is that Metro is a place visited weekly by a large chunk of the community, so how it looks has an impact on how we feel & for many, whether we return or not.

There is the well-known research that found that spending increased by a whopping 11% in leafy shopping strips, so it behoves shop keepers & shopping malls to retain trees & lobby for more trees & greenery outside their shops & in public spaces within the shopping strip.   People like trees & tend to linger in green spaces.  If they linger, they tend to spend more.

The area outside the main entrance has been the focus of much conversation on Facebook & many people have initiated conversation with me wanting to talk about what has been done here.  No-one mentioned the school garden, the chess area, the verge gardens or the tree removal, so I was surprised to see all the other work.  Unfortunately, I do not know how many mature trees were removed.  What people talked to me about concerned the entrance area & their emotions were strongly on the negative side.

Having looked at the work I think Metro did not succeed with the front entrance, but have done well in the other sections.    For me I remember when Metro wanted to remove many of the Figs & other street trees surrounding the centre.  I am so glad this has not happened & think it is a major boon for both the community & the wildlife.

Despite that this is a large shopping mall, the streetscape around the centre is quite unique for Marrickville.  I personally enjoy walking here & find the trees beautiful.  Metro could have so easily made the whole periphery look like the front entrance.

I do think Metro realises the community’s love for the leafy outlook of the shopping centre & their love for the trees.  They had a mission to rejuvenate this area & they incorporated aspects that were inclusive to the local school & to anyone in the community who wants to play chess & sit in the shade of the Fig tree.  There are good points & not so good points.  I have included quite a few photos so you can make up your own mind & so that the good work they have done is not overshadowed by the front entrance.

I think the black block is to become a water feature.  The shade is from the veteran Fig tree.

Giant chess.  What I do like is that not everything in this area is concrete.  Paths are permeable or are raised wooden paths.

St Pius’ Catholic Primary School’s vegetable garden.

Outdoor classroom behind the vegetable garden.

New gardens behind the temporary fence.  I may be wrong, but I think there were mature trees here.

New verge gardens are a nice addition to the streetscape.  Maybe they will stop trolley dumping.


Rainbow Lorikeet

Rainbow Lorikeet drinking nectar 

When we first moved to Marrickville just over two decades ago, there were only Currawongs & Indian mynas in our street.  The Currawongs would leave in the morning & return at dusk.  The Currawongs would move somewhere else for spring & summer leaving the Indian mynas to rule.  What we heard most of the time was traffic & plane noise.  There were very few natural sounds.

New people started to move into the neighbourhood & we all started gardening.  Some of our neighbours planted cottage garden type plants, while others like ourselves went totally native & included some natives indigenous to this area.

We had a rule – unless it was spectacular, what we planted had to be able to provide food for birds or bats & at the very least, bees & other insects.

And then it happened….. the noise of our street changed.  All kinds of birds started to visit.

It was slow at first.  We started to identify different bird calls. Sometimes small groups of around 10-20 birds would visit.  The birdbath was used every day.  Evidence of their splashing was noticed & the water had to be replenished.  We would walk out the front door only to cause a mad fluttering of wings as bathing birds got interrupted.

Every year the sounds of birds were built upon.  A common question was, “What is that bird?”  The Birds in Backyards website was used often trying to identify the latest visitor.

A nest was spotted.  It turned out to be a pair Red Wattle birds.  Having been woken up by these flying alarm clocks for many years, I don’t feel like home is quite right unless there are Red Wattle birds around, so I was very happy about this.  Unfortunately, Ausgrid pruned off the branch that held their nest (in spring when they were breeding no less) & we feared we had lost them.   It was with much joy that we saw they had rebuilt in a branch of another street tree, closer to our house.  The branch is still at risk, but hopefully we will be able to convince Ausgrid to leave it be whenever they visit.

The Red Wattle bird pair have had three successful breeding seasons now.  They must like gardeners because they fly low over our heads when we are outside & even when they see our car.  We get greeted with a “Kuk Kuk!” most times we venture outside.

Little White eyes visit every day chattering at a million miles an hour when the right flowers are out.  They sound like a party.   For the last two years Rainbow lorikeets have visited the verge garden & their idea of party noise is much louder.  This season they come every 3-4 hours.  I imagine they circle the neighbourhood visiting known food sources returning after they have given the flowers time to replenish their nectar.  It is so much nicer than listening to traffic.

Someone else’s tree planting has attracted an Eastern Koel.  These birds migrate all the way from Papua New Guinea every summer.  Many people find these birds irritating, but I like the sound of his plaintive call calling for a mate.  I don’t find it too hard to go back to sleep after waking at 3am To “Kooel!  Kooel!”  The only time I had difficulty was when he sat in the street tree that was maybe 8-metres from our bedroom window.   I did mutter a bit that night.

One of the lovely things about living in Marrickville is the nightly wave of flying foxes that travel overhead at dusk.  I think they are beautiful to watch & especially like watching them from Turrella or from the Cooks River.  It’s a peaceful thing to do on a warm evening.

A pair of flying foxes have started to spend time eating from our street – the street trees & the trees in private gardens.   Their chattering sounds are quite lovely to hear in the background.   Flying foxes are experiencing a food shortage at present resulting in the death of many of their pups, so it is excellent to know that our effort is helping provide food for them.

There are bee hives in the area, which is great for our garden.  Bees are in trouble worldwide, so again, it is wonderful to know that we are doing our bit to help them survive just by making choices with what we plant.

We have a huge Salvia, which is totally inappropriate for our small garden, but we keep it because native Blue Banded bees come to feed from the flowers most days in the warmer months.    There are other native bees that hover & feed in this plant too.

There are lots of other species of bird that visit now & some are seasonal.  I can’t express how much better it is to live with a range of bird song & not just Indian mynas.  As an aside, I often read that Indian mynas chase away the native birds.  This has not been our experience.  The Indian mynas are still here of course, but they are overwhelmed by the sheer number of native birds that come here & that have moved into trees in people’s gardens.  The mynas no longer own this territory & they know it, so they quietly go about their own business.

If you want Indian mynas, lay a huge concrete slab driveway or concrete your back yard because they love concrete & bitumen. 

If you don’t want Indian mynas, plant a variety of food-producing native plants & trees & before long, the Indian mynas will be overrun by the new kids on the block.  You will be too busy noticing the native birds that you won’t see the Indian mynas.

In Part 2 I will write about ideas on improving biodiversity in small gardens & even balconies.

Here it is.  It blends in with the other close trees, which is optimal for wildlife.

Here it is. It blends in with the other close trees, which is optimal for wildlife.

Last December I posted about two new habitat trees in Mackey Park Marrickville next to the Cooks River.  See –

The Inner West Council said they had created three new habitat trees, but I was unable to find the third tree.  Well I found it.  It is one of the poplars close to the Rowers Club on the river side of the shared pathway.

I hope Council plants at least three new trees in this park to make up for the canopy loss of the others.  There is room.

This poor tree has been vandalised at least three times since the tree was planted in 2015.   Council did put up a small sign saying that it had been vandalised, but this was not a deterrent.

This poor tree has been vandalised at least three times since the tree was planted in 2015. Council did put up a small sign saying that it had been vandalised, but this was not a deterrent.

The Inner West Council planted a street tree in a pocket of grass in Myrtle Street Marrickville.  A tree was much needed at this location because it is bare & dare I say ugly.

I was very happy they planted at this location.  Then the tree had several branches snapped off.   The tree grew more branches & the tree was vandalised again.  I started to doubt that this was a random act.

The tree’s desire to live was strong, so it grew some more & started to look strong & lush.

I went by the tree today & its leaves are dry & crisp.  Its thin branches are still alive showing that whatever was done to this poor tree happened recently.

Unfortunately, this tree is dying.  To me it appears that some sort of chemical was fed to it to make sure this determined tree would not rise up again.

It is beyond my comprehension why people rob the community & the wildlife of street trees.   One tree may not matter much, but we have an urban forest classified as ‘poor’ in terms of percentage of canopy cover.  We need trees just to break even in terms of the norm in Sydney.  We also need trees for good public health & we desperately need trees in terms of climate change.

We need more trees in Marrickville & throughout the old Marrickville municipality.  We need bigger, more shade-producing trees.

2016 was the third year in a row of record-breaking heat.  “The average global temperature last year [2016] reached about 1.1°C above the pre-industrial era, which has brought us extremely close to the 1.5°C target established at the historical December 2015 Paris climate summit.”

1.1°C may not seem much, but you only have to have been in Sydney this past month to experience what a heatwave feels like.  Heatwaves & extreme weather events are all part of this global rise in temperature.  The Arctic is the warmest on record, sea ice is melting at alarming speed, coral reefs are bleaching, the oceans are heating up….  There is more, but you get the picture.

Now here is where is gets really interesting.   “Australia is especially at risk as we are 8°C hotter than the world average”

We cannot keep relying on air-conditioning.  One day there will be too many of us using too much power for the system to cope with & we won’t be able to turn on the air-con.  Then people will die.  Perhaps thousands of people.  Death in numbers like this has happened many times before.

We won’t be able to easily acclimatise to the heat either.   The following is part of a summary of research titled, ‘Limitations to Thermoregulation and Acclimatization Challenge Human Adaptation to Global Warming’ published in 2015.   They knew then that it will be difficult for the human race to adapt.   Thousands of us are likely to die in each heatwave event.  That will be a devastating experience for many.

Human thermoregulation and acclimatization are core components of the human coping mechanism for withstanding variations in environmental heat exposure. Amidst growing recognition that curtailing global warming to less than two degrees is becoming increasing improbable, human survival will require increasing reliance on these mechanisms. The projected several fold increase in extreme heat events suggests we need to recalibrate health protection policies and ratchet up adaptation efforts.”   You can read the whole paper here for free –

I hope the Inner West Council plant another tree at this location.   Tree vandals cannot be the deciders on how the rest of the community live, their health, the level of pollution they live with, their ability to have a beautiful suburb, how cool their streets are or whether the wildlife can have habitat & food.  The culture must change.  The streets belong to all.

As I post this I am listening to the weather forecast on the TV news.  They are forecasting a heatwave two days from now on Tuesday.   That will be the third heatwave for Sydney in 2017 & it is only January.

Showing two of the new habitat trees - one on the left and the other in the foreground with the sign on the trunk.

Showing two of the new habitat trees – one on the left and the other in the foreground with the sign on the trunk.

Last October the Inner West Council posted that they created three new habitat trees in Mackey Park Marrickville South.   We walked the whole park, but unfortunately were only able to find two of the trees.  The trees we found were between the shared path & the wetland area.

Habitat trees are trees that have caused a safety problem by dropping branches. Rather than removing the tree, the tree is killed by ringbarking.  Then the branches are cut open & a cavity created with a chainsaw to create nest boxes & other kinds of hollows.

A large amount of Australian wildlife will not breed if they do not have access to a hollow, so retaining the structure of mature trees is vitally important.  See –

Council said they created five nesting boxes in these trees.  Three for Red-rumped parrots, one for Gould’s wattled bats (microbats) & one for a Brushtail possum.

They also plan to mulch & landscape with local native plants under & around the trees in the near future.  Good one Council.

Showing one of the nesting hollows.

Showing one of the nesting hollows.

Hot and not in a good way.

Hot and not in a good way.

3pm and some shade provided by the building. No shade provided by the tree.

3pm and some shade provided by the building. No shade provided by the tree.  The disabled access was to be a ramp that swung around the tree and came up the steps. 

In January 2013, when the temperature reached 46 degrees, I was inside with air-conditioning & visiting a friend.  It was only when we went outside at around 5pm that we realised just how hot it was.  It was like standing in a giant oven & there was no reprieve from the heat anywhere outside.

This was the first time I had experienced heat like this & it shocked me.  Today, the temperature reached only 39 degrees, but it reminded me of that horrible day almost 3-years ago.

I was going to Marrickville Town Hall & decided to ride my bicycle to avoid parking problems.  I knew it would be hot, but was unprepared for the feeling of riding in an oven.  The sensation while riding along the streets was weird in that the temperature would be hot, but okay for a few metres & then it would become really hot, baking hot for another few metres before dropping in temperature just a bit.

I started to take note why this was happening & observed that the heat was much worse at intersections.  It didn’t take me long to realise that it was because there was a greater expanse of bitumen road surface at these intersections & this wide dark surface was reflecting heat at me.  This is not something you feel while in a car, even if there is no air-conditioning. You are truly at the mercy of the elements on a bicycle.

Fortunately, I reached Marrickville Town Hall quite quickly.  It was then that I experienced the heat of the dark grey forecourt.  It was ghastly & gave me no satisfaction to have my rants on this blog about this $575,000 upgrade proven to be correct.

What an awful area the forecourt is on a hot day.  It was unbearably hot.   It felt like it was hot enough to cook on the dark grey pavers.  As such, the great expanse was empty of people, except for one man & his bicycle who sat with his back to the building.  He poured a bottle of water over his head & just sat there.  There was someone else in the bus shelter & myself.   The remainder of the space was devoid of people & it was easy to understand why.

I also noticed for the first time that the disabled entrance that was to go up the left side of the steps at the front entrance was not there despite being on the plans.     I remember thinking at the time that the large leaves of the planned deciduous Magnolia tree would drop on the ramp & cause a slip hazard.  Disability access remains via the driveway up the side. With such an expensive upgrade, one would think that disabled access through the front door would have been provided.

I noticed that the paving is already starting to deteriorate in areas, just 18-months after this expensive upgrade was completed.   Also, a public authority has come along & sprayed markings over approximately 15-20 metres on the corner.  These probably mark where the area is to be dug up.  This is not something council can control, but it is the start of the deterioration of this place.  I highly doubt they will remove the spray-painted marks when they replace the expensive pavers.

The Weather Bureau said today was the hottest December day in 11-years & they expect tonight to be the hottest night since 1868, 148-years-ago. 

Climate change is serious.  Every year it is getting hotter.  Researchers around the world have acknowledged that trees, shade, air pollution & the urban heat island effect are significant public health issues.  With this in mind, I think it is a crying shame that Council created a hot, ugly, public space – essentially a dead space unless the weather permits – outside what is Marrickville’s most important public building.   It is such an injustice to do this to such an important space.

Markings beside the traffic lights

Markings beside the traffic lights

More markings going down Petersham Road

More markings going down Petersham Road

View of the now scaffolded historic sewer vent in Premier Street Marrickville South.

View of the now scaffolded historic sewer vent in Premier Street Marrickville South as seen from the supermarket car park.

To me this is beautiful.

To me this is beautiful & historically important.

I read in the latest issue of the Marrickville Heritage Society ( Newsletter that the historic sewer vent in Premier Street Marrickville South will be remodified for safety reasons.  From memory Sydney Water did not feel confident that the vent would survive a one in 100 year storm.  Therefore, they intend to reduce the stack to half its current height.  There has been scaffolding around the vent for the last week or two.

While I appreciate Sydney Water’s reasons, I feel sad that this very significant landmark is going to be changed forever.  If it were a perfect world, I would like Sydney Water to spend the money to fortify the vent so it could be retained.

Incremental loss of our local history is happening at an alarming rate – from houses being demolished for new modern high-rise apartments to smaller things like the quiet removal of the street light that used to be suspended over the traffic island at the corner of Renwick Street & Excelsior Parade Marrickville.

The sewer vent in Premier Street is a local landmark & can be seen from many places across the locality.  For me, I look one way to see the Petersham Water Tower & the other to see the Cooks Pine & the Premier Street Sewer vent.  If I have been wandering aimlessly on my bicycle & need to focus on where I am, I can find these landmarks easily & orientate myself towards home.

I believe many in our community love these local landmarks as much as I do. These things make up the character of our suburb & some like this one, are definitely worth preserving.

If we continue to lose these things, we will end up with a homogenized & monocultural architectural environment.  Why can’t we follow London’s example?  They manage to keep their architectural heritage for many hundreds of years, while still morphing into a modern city. 

The front of the stack is dated 1898.  Part of the construction is a pair Queen Anne Revival worker’s cottages, that frankly look gorgeous.

Sydney Water has a great website page that covers the history & significance of the Premier Street sewer vent.  It is good to see this done so anyone can have access to information about our history.   I have pinched a few interesting tidbits, but you can read all the information here –

“The Premier Street Sewer Vent and Cottages is an item of significance for the State of NSW for the following reasons:

  • The excellent aesthetic and technical qualities of the masons’ craft of the classicist late-Victorian vent stack, the likes of which are not likely to be produced again.
  • The technical aspect of significance of the item is strongly emphasized by the ongoing operational use of the sewer vent and two cottages in their original function.
  • As a rare architectural composition in NSW consisting of a special sewer vent and a pair of cottages built by the Water Board for accommodation of maintenance staff.  For its role in an important stage of development of the sewerage services to the Inner Western Sydney suburbs area.
  • The aesthetically appealing historic vent stack and associated pair of cottages contribute significantly to the understanding of the development of design of special sewer ventshafts in Sydney and NSW. The item demonstrates historic circumstances of its creation, including the once common practice of the Water Board to create a cottage purposely built for accommodation of the maintenance staff on important sites.
  • The Premier Street ventshaft is also of significance as a prominent local area landmark, identifiable from a further distance and a notable element of the Marrickville landscape.”

Plus they say that the sewer vent is “substantially intact.”

If Sydney Water’s words do not support my argument to spend the money needed to retain this important local landmark, I don’t know what does.

Showing the top of the vent.  The vent already has has reinforcing rings.

Showing the top of the vent. The vent already has has reinforcing rings.

What a sad sight this is.

What a sad sight this is.

Vale to the massive street tree on the corner of Livingstone Road & Pile Street Marrickville.  This tree has blessed us with its presence for more many decades & was a feature when I first visited Marrickville in my twenties.   I call it significant because of its size & large canopy that spread over the road.  We don’t have many street trees like this one.

Who knows what happened, but its death was quick.  Hopefully Council will replace it with another tall-growing native tree since one has managed at this site for so long.

a closer look

a closer look

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