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Photo of street tree pruning done just two weeks ago by Ausgrid in Walenore Avenue Newtown.  Photo by Chris O'Dell used with thanks.

Photo of street tree pruning done just two weeks ago by Ausgrid in Walenore Avenue Newtown. Photo by Chris O’Dell used with thanks.

It is wonderful to see the push to have power companies take responsibility & pay for the damage they do to street trees is starting to gain momentum.  It means that there is cultural change happening & this is always good.

“A decision by the newly formed inner west Sydney Council to lobby Ausgrid to replace damaged trees is attracting plenty of interest here in the Southern Highlands.”

Wingecarribee Council Deputy Mayor Ian Scandrett “believes Endeavour Energy should contribute to selected replacement of the main trees which have been disfigured.   However, he’s also open to the idea of directing those contributions towards putting wires underground in our streets to preserve avenues of trees.”   

Hornsby Shire Council is also tackling the issue of street tree pruning for powerlines this time with Ausgrid.

In a January 2017 media release titled, ‘Council’s push to move powerlines underground,’ “At December’s meeting Council approved a mayoral minute seeking a discussion with electricity provider Ausgrid about ways to gradually place the power supply underground.  Council will also investigate ways to ensure all new subdivisions and high density developments include underground cabling.”

 “That pruning transforms the trees into stunted shadows of their real potential.  Imagine what we can do to our streetscapes if we have unlimited ability to plant trees and allow them to grow to their full scale.  We will have beautiful avenues of trees that will make our Bushland Shire an even more attractive place to live.” ~ ” Mayor Steve Russell, Hornsby Shire Council.

I agree 100 per cent.  Imagine also the ability to cool our streets & neighbourhoods if street trees were able to grow to their full potential.  It would mean that the urban heat island effect would be less dangerous, that people are less likely to die during heatwaves, that it would be nice to walk to wherever we are going & for those who do not have cars, walking would be a nicer experience than it currently is.

Those trees would be able to deliver more amenity in terms of beauty, shade, reduced cooling costs, & as the research keeps telling us, better public health.

Trees capture air-pollution & particulate from vehicles.  Particulate matter (that black stuff on your window sills) has been found to –

  • increase the incidence of respiratory illnesses such as asthma,
  • increase the incidence of heart disease and increase the incidence of fatal heart attacks &
  • increase incidence of dementia.

If these are not reason enough why street trees should be a priority, I don’t know what can be.

One of my Perth friends told me that powerlines are going underground, which was new to me.  I googled & found this published in January 2014, which shows how far behind we are.

For over a decade, Western Power has been undertaking an extensive program to put powerlines underground throughout Western Australia. Around 18 per cent of the overhead distribution network existing at the start of the program in 1996 is now underground, including 54 per cent of the Perth metropolitan area.”

“The recognised benefits of putting power underground include fewer blackouts during inclement weather, enhanced visual appearance, improved property values, reduced street tree pruning requirement and brighter, safer streets with the new lighting system.”

About 98% of the works are done by directional drilling. ….  The extensive use of directional drilling helps minimise the impact on residents and keeps reinstatement costs low.”  There is more information on how it is done & who pays for what in this interesting articlehttp://bit.ly/2kE43oH

I received the following in an email from a local resident last week –

“We desperately need a great urban canopy to cool our streets, footpaths and suburbs.   For visual amenity, for wildlife, to encourage walking, to cool cars for those of us without driveways/undercover car parking.  Putting power cables underground means we can have the trees we want looking great and providing the canopy we need.”

Inner West Council, please add putting powerlines underground in your negotiations with Ausgrid.   Although a slow process, underground cables will allow this municipality to be transformed into a greener municipality which would be healthier for all, including the wildlife.

January 2017 tree pruning by Ausgrid in Renwick Street Marrickville.  This is one of multiple examples on this street.

January 2017 tree pruning by Ausgrid in Renwick Street Marrickville. This is one of multiple examples on this street.

 

Most of the canopy is on the ground.

Most of the canopy is on the ground.

Great news for our street tree & our streetscapes.  Great news also for the wildlife who have barely any habitat as it is.

A statement from the Inner West Council said Mr Trevor Armstrong, CEO of Ausgrid power company, has made a commitment to the Council & therefore the whole community, “that contractors will reduce the cutback they are carrying out on local street trees following strong advocacy from Council and the community.” See – http://bit.ly/2dq10wk

After meeting with the Inner West Council, Ausgrid has said that “the maximum trimming for regrowth in the future will be 0.5 metres.”   Ausgrid’s current guidelines are for a “clearance of 1 metre around bare low voltage powerlines.”

The Inner West Council also resolved not to retain “TreeServe, the company responsible for the excessive pruning,” on their contractors list.  Let’s hope that the next contractors do a better job pruning our street trees.

I want to thank Ausgrid for taking this issue seriously & making the changes.   I also thank the Inner West Council for taking this issue to Ausgrid & pursuing the protection of our street trees.  Our urban forest is extremely important to most in the community & the look of butchered street trees does have a negative impact on us.

Two branches left after pruning by Ausgrid in 2014.

Two branches left after pruning by Ausgrid in 2014.

2014 street tree pruning by Augrid in Marrickville

2014 street tree pruning by Augrid in Marrickville

This sign was installed  by Marrickville Council.

This sign was installed by Marrickville Council.

I think it is laughable that a large organisation who has purchased another organisation, completely changes the way they do business and then after enraging the community, decides to do community consultation.  This is what is happening with Ausgrid, which is owned by the NSW government.

Prior to Ausgrid, we had Energy Australia managing our electricity supply.  The business name has changed, but not the service the company provides.

It’s like having a deli on the main street for 60-years.  Then the business is sold & it continues to operate as a deli, except under new management.  For 60-years this deli  was famous for selling a wide range of quality cheese.  However, the new owners chose not to have a wide range of cheese, only stocking cheddar for sale.  It’s still a deli, but what it offers has changed.

Now that might not be the best analogy, but this is what I feel has happened with the transfer of management of Energy Australia to Ausgrid in terms of street tree pruning.

  • Energy Australia pruned the street trees on a 7-8 year cycle.
  • Ausgrid prunes the street trees on an 18-month cycle.

Does this mean that Energy Australia provided an inferior & dangerous service to the community for all those years?  I don’t think so at all.

While Energy Australia was not immune to butchering street trees, they did not do it as a matter of course.  Since Ausgrid has taken over management, the state of street trees all over their area of control in Sydney is deplorable.   It’s not unusual to see the street trees in sections of streets looking as though they have been through a war.

And the community has been complaining loudly.

After their initial round of pruning, it appears that Ausgrid do a few street trees in a street, then come back at a later date to do the others.  I presume this is to somewhat mitigate the look of destruction it leaves behind.

Ausgrid calls what it does “tree trimming.”  I would debate this.  “Trimming” sounds gentle & nothing like the savage butchering well below the service cable for Pay TV & even further below the electricity cables.

IMPORTANT:  I would like to state clearly that I am not focusing on or criticising the workers who do the tree pruning.  They do what the company tells them to do to.

Ausgrid clearly has different opinions on what is safe clearance from electricity cables than did the previous energy supplier Energy Australia.  Yet, we did not have electrical fires breaking out all over the place, as is the explanation for the brutal tree pruning on Ausgrid’s website.   We are keeping you safe is their message & that is hard to argue against unless you ask why Energy Australia managed to prune the street trees differently & still keep us safe.

Ausgrid needs to expand on their perception of “safe.”  Increasingly researchers all over the world are publishing about the urban heat island effect, deaths from heatwaves, mental health deterioration & increased respiratory illness & fatal heart attacks in areas that have a poor urban forest.

The street where I live had street trees that reached the top of the power poles for the two decades that we have lived here & it was the same for all the streets around us.  There were no fires. There was no loss of power supply.  Service was stable & all this through a number of major storms, including the incredibly damaging hail storm in April 1999 & the major storms of June 2007 & February 2010.

Ausgrid took over from Energy Australia in March 2011 & my street is a shadow of its former self.

We lost shade, we lost beauty (because our street trees were beautiful) & we lost bird life.  We are now a street with power poles poking metres above savaged street trees & every time Ausgrid visits, more branches are lost.

The urban forest is a mix of street trees, park trees & private trees.  Our area, the old Marrickville municipality, has –

  • the least green space in Australia – so we are not getting much benefit from trees in parks unless we go to the parks on a regular basis & stay there for a while.
  • Land lots are small & often not suitable for a decent sized tree. Therefore, the dependence on street trees – green leafy streets – is substantial in the Inner West.
  • In 2015 Marrickville municipality was rated “poor” in terms of its urban forest with a canopy cover of just 16.3%.
  • Marrickville was also also found to be the unhappiest community in Australia according to Deakin University’s Australian Unity Wellbeing Index.

Can poor happiness levels relate to the lack of canopy, to poor street trees & to the lack of green space?  Yes, I believe it can & that it does.

This is backed up by research published by The Forestry Commission of Great Britain called, ‘Trees, People & the Built Environment.’   The results of the study show that our trees are not just something to make an area look nice but they may actually be making people happier.  See – http://bit.ly/S8fjpR

So, with all this in mind, think about the impact Ausgrid’s new street tree pruning practices are having on our urban forest & how this flows on to the community’s health, our increased risk of a range of illnesses & disease starting from childhood & even death.   It is a serious public health issue & I have not even mentioned climate change yet.

Climate change is breaking all the records for increased & unseasonal temperatures.  Every year it is harder to be out on the streets in the middle of the day.  If we don’t have sufficient street trees with a decent canopy, then we are going to suffer.  We are already suffering.  Some of us will die from the heat.  It is as simple as that.

Research by the University of Oxford published in July 2016 found that –

  • “Scientists have specified how many deaths can be attributed to human-made climate change during an extreme heatwave. Researchers calculate that in Paris, the hottest city in Europe during the heatwave in summer 2003, 506 out of 735 summer deaths recorded in the French capital were due to a heatwave made worse by human-made climate change. The impact was less severe in London, with an additional 64 deaths out of a total of 315 heat-related deaths.”

The paper says the mortality rate attributed to human-made climate change in both these cities is notably high, but they are just two of a large number of cities that were affected by the heatwave that year. It suggests that the resulting total number of deaths across Europe due to climate change is likely to be substantially higher.  See – http://bit.ly/2cJ5gXx

Researchers at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine found that “between 540 & 760 deaths could be attributed to the ongoing spell of hot weather” over a 9-day period in July 2013. See –   http://bit.ly/2cKDkUo

139 deaths due to heat occurred in Victoria Australia in January 2014.  Victoria suffered another heatwave in 2009 resulting in 374 deaths. See –  http://bit.ly/M0XGps

Research published in 2016 by Lancaster University found that –

  • “Toxic nanoparticles from air pollution have been discovered in human brains in “abundant” quantities.”
  • Air pollution is a global health crisis that kills more people than malaria and HIV/Aids combined and it has long been linked to lung and heart disease and strokes. But research is uncovering new impacts on health, including degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s, mental illness & reduced intelligence.” See – http://bit.ly/2bOMXew

This is truly alarming & should be also alarm the NSW government.  They constantly tell us that they are terribly worried about the cost of caring for people who have Alzheimer’s disease.

Particulate matter from air pollution has been shown to significantly increase incidence of this disease.  So what picks up harmful particulate matter?  Trees of course!  So once again, street trees are a public health issue.

If the government wants to get control of the increasing health care costs of the community, they should provide local councils with the funds to greatly increase the urban forest.  This spending will, as the trees grow & start to become more useful, start to impact on all kinds of health issues ranging from obesity, respiratory & cardiac illness, depression & Alzheimer’s disease.  It’s a no brainer. 

  • Stop ripping out the trees for development or parking lots for WestConnex,
  • Stop the energy companies from destroying the viability & usefulness of the street trees &
  • Provide sufficient funds to allow suburbs with poor canopies to start to look like other more wealthlier suburbs across Sydney. Often the housing is similar – it is the streetscapes that are radically different.  We already know that poorer suburbs tend to have less tree cover.

I’ve often wondered whether it has been a deliberate initiative to keep some suburbs more affordable by having less tree cover & unattractive streetscapes.  Unfortunately, this is being blurred by the soaring housing costs in Sydney where even a shabby house in an unattractive street is being purchased for $1 million plus.  Even so, I think some might use housing prices as their argument why I am incorrect in my observations.

I say to the NSW government – instead of whinging on the nightly news about how the government will pay for health care in an ageing population, take action to give people the quality of life while they are living, from the cradle onwards.   Give them a decent urban forest with a great tree canopy cover, so that the air that they breathe is not harming them by creating a range of physical & mental health issues.   Keep many of the community out of hospital by making our city green.

Ausgrid’s website (http://bit.ly/2cJ4aeB) says –

To help improve our services we undertook an engagement program that –

  • aimed to understand our community’s interests,
  • develop a shared understanding of the need for managing trees growing under powerlines and near other infrastructure on our electricity network and
  • help to improve the way Ausgrid performs this work in the future.”

Now Ausgrid is showing that they are listening to the myriad complaints from both the community & local councils by holding community consultation via a working group.  And as is usual with community consultation, if we do not participate, then it is business as usual. Any further complaints are met with – well we held community consultation & didn’t get much in the way of negative feedback, so what can we do.  We are keeping you safe…blah, blah, blah.

The working group –  “… includes nine community members as well as representatives from local government areas including Parramatta, Burwood, Botany Bay, Cessnock, Canterbury-Bankstown, City of Sydney, Cumberland, Hornsby Shire, Hunters Hill, Inner West, Ku-ring-gai, Lake Macquarie, Mosman, Newcastle City, North Sydney, Northern Beaches, Port Stephens, Randwick, Strathfield, Sutherland, Willoughby and Woollahra; the Southern Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils, Western Sydney Regional Organisation of Councils, Local Government NSW, Local Government Tree Resource Association, NSW Department of Planning and Environment, Arboriculture Australia, NSW Energy and Water Ombudsman and the Energy Networks Association.”

The working group will meet four times between August & December 2016.

So, if the state of the street tree pruning bothers you (It bothers Marrickville Council) & if you care about your own & your family’s health, take up their offer & leave feedback at the Inner West Council – council@marrickville.nsw.gov.au  Then Council will have something from the community to take to these meetings.  If enough of us participate, we may actually be able to effect positive change, though it may take decades for some of the trees to look good again.

I hope that Ausgrid does more than listen & that it makes significant changes to its tree pruning standards.   Sydney needs street trees now more than ever with Sydney’s population over 5-million.  Trees, the urban forest canopy will become more important than ever.

Most of the canopy is on the ground.

Most of the canopy is on the ground.

The sign by Marrickville Council. I am very pleased that Council is doing this.

The sign by Marrickville Council. I am very pleased that Council is doing this.

I am feeling proud of Marrickville Council. Today I drove up Salisbury Road, well-known locally as a lovely leafy street, even though it is a main thoroughfare. This is one of the few streets that has elm trees and sections where the canopy reaches across the road.

Quite a few of the street trees on the northern side of Salisbury Road have been pruned by power company Ausgrid and left a shadow of their former selves. The pruning is quite vicious with many of the trees losing a whole side.

My initial response was despair as I looked at the poor trees thinking yet another street of great trees has been lost. Then I saw a large vinyl sign tied up high on one of the more butchered trees.

The sign says – “THIS TREE HAS BEEN PRUNED BY Ausgrid. Contact Ausgrid on 13 13 65 to express your concerns. Marrickville Council wants to prevent this type of destructive pruning.”

(Sorry, no photos at this time as our computer is in for repairs. I will add photos once I get it back.)

I was extremely happy to see Marrickville Council making such a visible and clear response to Augrid’s pruning standards.

Although Ausgrid says their “tree trimming” conforms to standards, one need only drive, walk or cycle around the streets of Marrickville municipality to see that the tree pruning is radically different than it was when Energy Australia was the power company that pruned the street trees. Yes there would be the occasional butchered tree, but it was certainly not the norm, as it is now with Ausgrid at the helm.

Street trees that have been there since the 1940s have lost their shape due to recent pruning, where they lived happily with power lines and a cycle of 7-8 year pruning. Even when pruning was done, the trees were left viable and for the most part, with their beauty intact.

We did not have electrical fires and streets or suburbs burning down. Nothing happened. The community had street trees and electrical power. It is my experience of the past that convinces me that Ausgrid’s tree pruning standards are beyond what is needed. That Marrickville Council agrees with me also confirms my opinion.

I do not think is okay for Ausgrid to decimate the street trees leaving many unviable. This approach to street tree pruning not only has a negative effect on the trees themselves. Ausgrid pruned during spring when many of the trees were in flower. Consequently they removed a large amount of food that wildlife was dependent on. Spring is also nesting season and is the one time when trees should be left alone. It is even more important to consider wildlife when we now know that bird numbers are declining in urban areas.

The other impact is on the well being of the community. Recent research is quite clear that green leafy streets have a positive impact on human health. Trees clean the air from pollutants. If you only have half a tree remaining, it can do only half the job it was doing. Therefore air pollution rises and according to researchers, so does respiratory and heart disease, with more fatal heart attacks.

Then there is the psychological impact of less green and ugly trees. Again, it is well-known that a green leafy streetscape results in significantly less depressive illnesses within the community. Less obesity too, as people are more inclined to leave their house and ditch their car if they have pleasant streets to walk. The flow on effects of a poor canopy on public health is costly and accumulative.

Then there is the issue of climate change with COP21 recently finishing in Paris. Trees are a vital component in managing. climate change. The urban forest has a major role sequestering carbon dioxide and cooling the streets. Marrickville Council is trying to lower the urban heat island effect in Dulwich Hill, but how can they make any meaningful and lasting impact if Ausgrid comes and removes half or more of the street trees.

All power companies need to play a big part in managing climate change. Their aim may be to have no trees on the side of the street with power lines, but if this happens our suburbs will become much hotter. With heat comes heat-related deaths, sometimes in the thousands.

What Ausgrid presents as a simple community service to keep us all safe from fire, has multiple impacts and all of them negative. I cannot understand why the previous power company Energy Australia, who managed electricity and street trees for many decades, were able to prune street trees without decimating them and causing local councils to be outraged at the loss of community amenity. As far as I can tell, nothing changed except the attitude and practices of the new power company Ausgrid.

Marrickville Council hung this large sign high up in a street tree on Salisbury Road Camperdown. My photo does not show that a whole side of the tree has been removed.

Marrickville Council hung this large sign high up in a street tree on Salisbury Road Camperdown. My photo does not show that a whole side of the tree has been removed.

Two branches left after pruning by Ausgrid in 2014.

Two branches left after pruning by Ausgrid in 2014.

Here is your chance to tell power company Ausgrid what you think of their tree pruning techniques.

Marrickville Council is holding a “Tree Trimming Pop-up Community Engagement” at Alex Trevallion Plaza in the Marrickville Road shopping strip (next to the Post Office Café).

This Friday 27th November 2015 from 10am to 3pm.

Two branches left

Two branches left & this is not an isolated example.

Clr Phillips put up a Notice of Motion – Moratorium on street tree pruning by Ausgrid for the Council Meeting of 18th February 2014.  To read the Notice of Motion see – http://bit.ly/1jeuRBj

I was reading the business papers today & decided that Council staff comments should be shared.

“Council has no power to impose a moratorium on Ausgrid.  Under the NSW State Government legislation, the Minister of Resources & Energy has authorised the Electricity Supply Act 1995 ….. if a network operator has reasonable cause to believe that a tree could interfere with its electricity works….the network operator may trim or remove the tree.  This section applies despite the existence of a tree preservation order or environment planning instrument.”

“….Council met with Ausgrid representatives in January 2014 to discuss the recent heavy pruning of Marrickville’s street trees.  Clarification was sought as to the clearences they are required to prune to achieve.  In summary [they are] –

  • LOW VOLTAGE LINES: 1m clearance at all times & an extra 2m ‘regrowth zone’ resulting in a total 3m pruning.
  • AERIAL BUNDLED CABLE:  0.6m at all times & an extra 2m ‘regrowth zone’ resulting in a total 2.6m pruning.

As a result of the 3m clearance requirements many trees are being left unviable & disfigured.”

The outcome of this meeting is as follows –

  1. Council are writing to Networks NSW to request an amendment to the above guidelines.
  2. Ausgrid committed to improving the quality of their street tree pruning & also committed to contacting Council regarding any public tree where necessary pruning could render the tree unviable.
  3. Ausgrid will remove all tree pruning material before they leave the area, instead of leaving them overnight taking away residents car parking spaces.

Marrickville Council itself has said that they will plant only small tree species under powerlines as part of their upcoming Street Tree Master Plan.

Considering that aerial bundled cabling is expensive, I do not understand why the benefits only amount to less than half a metre.

Also, pruning to 1m below the telecommunications cables has not been mentioned.  I have received information on good authority that pruning for these cables is unnecessary, as contact with trees does not create a safety hazard.

Considering that the NBN cable will also likely be attached to powerlines in some areas, this will mean a much lower ‘regrowth zone’ if current pruning to protect telecommunications cables is followed.  If this does happen, even a small stature tree will be unsuitable for under powerlines.

To view examples of street tree pruning in Marrickville by Ausgrid in January 2014 see – http://bit.ly/1bc7QJOhttp://bit.ly/1alsNri & http://bit.ly/KR2E7Z

Council’s response to the recent tree pruning can be read here – http://bit.ly/1buApYP

There is no amenity left in this street tree in Warren Road.

There is no amenity left in this street tree in Warren Road & this is what is being done to the street trees all through our streets.

In a media release dated 21st February 2014, Marrickville Mayor Haylen said “Councillors were unanimous in expressing outrage about the excessive tree pruning practices used by Ausgrid.”

“We have asked Ausgrid for immediate clarification of their powers to prune trees.  While we accept that some pruning is necessary to protect electrical wires, it does appear that some of the overpruning is occurring because contractors are also pruning to lower hanging data & communications cables, rather than just the higher electrical wires.  This has resulted in some horribly butchered street trees & residents are highly distressed.”

Council has called on Ausgrid to provide resources for the bundling of overhead wires, especially when the pruning of street & park trees would be excessive.”

At the Council Meeting of 18th February 2014, Councillors passed the following motion (this started from a Notice of Motion brought to Council by Clr Phillips. See – http://bit.ly/1jeuRBj) –

THAT:

1.    Council expresses its grave concerns about the recent changes to street tree pruning practices being implemented by Ausgrid & considers the methods excessive & unreasonable.

2.    Ausgrid provide immediate clarification to Council of the authority vested in it by NSW Electricity Supply Act 1995 to prune for clearance data & communications cables as opposed to its own electrical wires.

3.    Ausgrid provide resources for the aerial bundling of overhead wires in locations where the impact of tree pruning on street & park trees is excessive & unacceptable.

4.    Council review its standard conditions of development for larger developments to aspire to provide for the undergrounding of overhead wires & data cables at no cost to Council.

5.    Council’s proposed Street Tree Master Plan identify the need for the selection of street tree species to take account of the site conditions, including the presence of overhead wires.

6.    Council consider, as part of future budgets, the need for ongoing allocation of new funds to provide for the regular pruning of street trees by Council’s own contractors.

7.    Council write to the NSW Minister of Resource & Energy, Anthony Roberts, MP, expressing its concerns about recent changes to Electricity Network Standards, adopted by Ausgrid, that require tree clearances of up to 3.0 metres to overhead wires.  Further that Council requests that urgent consideration be given to the amendment of these standards to provide for more reasonable clearances, no more than previously in force.

8.    Prunings be removed from streets on the same day they are cut.”

Halleluiah!   Finally, something will be done & hopefully before Ausgrid remove the remaining tree canopy throughout Marrickville municipality. 

As to whether they have legal rights to prune 1-metre minimum under the telecommunications cables, this is what someone who has 25-years of working in the telecommunications industry told me –

“The power cables are all attached to cross arms, the lowest ones are for normal residential use, those above are for high voltage, the bigger the insulators the higher the voltage.

Telstra have been using power poles for many years to deliver telephone services.  In Sydney you will find that they still have over 40% of their network attached to poles.  It is not all underground, as many people believe.

Optus cables are hung approx 1-metre below the low voltage power cables.  This was done as they found it to expensive to use Telstra’s network and it was not feasible to run it underground.

Foxtel cable is then hung approximately x 1-metre below the Optus Cables.  This was done as a fast and efficient method to roll out Pay TV and be competitive with Optus.

Foxtel/Telstra cables are very low voltage; the same as the Optus cables.  There is no real reason to vandalise the trees, but the contractors are cowboys and use the excuse that they could cause a problem.  The only problem that could happen is that people lose their phone or Pay TV connection if a tree branch damaged the cable.

The power companies are covered by an act of parliament that allows them to prune if required because of the problems caused if their cables are damaged.

We should also be aware that the NBN mob are putting pressure on the Government to allow them to also go up on the poles, even though the power companies are opposed to it. The Pay TV and telephone cables are causing huge problems for the power companies because it takes the telco’s too long to fix or move their cables when there is a problem.

I understand that at this time the Pay TV and telcos cannot put any more cables on the power poles.  They can only replace like for like if a cable is damaged.

The other thing that causes issues is that no one really knows who actually owns all the poles.  There are the power companies’, Telstra, State Rail and privately owned poles.  Very confusing.


But at the end of the day there is no real reason why they need to hack the trees back so severely when they are close to the Optus or Foxtel cables.”

One last thing I would like to know is why Ausgrid need to do 18-month pruning cycles, when Energy Australia managed quite well with 7-8 year cycles.  Four to five extra pruning visits seems a lot for the public to have to pay for, while at the same time losing amenity.

Thank you to Marrickville Council for taking a stand on this issue.  The trees, the wildlife & the community deserve much more than having their street trees butchered in the manner in which they have been.

I recently wrote about Ausgrid’s tree pruning in Marrickville here – http://bit.ly/1bc7QJO , here http://bit.ly/1alsNri, here http://bit.ly/KR2E7Z and here http://bit.ly/1gJ1hSL

Two branches left

Two branches left

There is no amenity left in this street tree in Warren Road.

There is no amenity left in this street tree in Warren Road.

Another street thee in Warren Road

Another street tree in Warren Road decimated

The top half of Warren Road, Roach Street & Wrights Avenue Marrickville was the focus of street tree pruning by power company Ausgrid yesterday.  I took these photos at dusk today.

I find it a shame that Ausgrid prunes in this manner because it does appear extreme & often the trees they leave us with have little amenity or beauty left.   Our streetscapes are starting to look very bad & this loss of canopy already has a negative impact on wildlife.  Since the latest round of pruning, we have lost birds in my street because of the loss of food for them.

However, I think the real focus should be on our own Council who chose to plant trees that they knew will grow well into, as well as above the powerlines & therefore, would need pruning by Ausgrid.  It’s like setting the trees & the streetscape up for failure. 

The look for a few years in many sections is saplings that eventually grow into young trees, some faster than others.  Once they reach a certain height the streetscape becomes a line of hacked lob-sided trees with barely any canopy.  It is this look we live with for many years until Council takes them out & starts again.  Currently, it costs $1,000 to plant a new tree. Removing trees is not cheap either.

I call this section of Warren Road ‘Tuckeroo Central’ as they are the dominant street tree.   Tuckeroos (Cupaniopsis anacardioides) are a hardy drought & pollution resistant tree that copes with a range of soils, which is why many councils use them – some would say to excess.  The Tuckeroo has non-invasive roots making it an attractive choice as a street tree.  It reaches a height of between 8-15 metres making it unsuitable for planting under powerlines in my opinion.

When planted as a feature tree, it can look fabulous, especially if the council has left the side branches, as it can grow a thick wide round canopy.  There are excellent examples in Paddington, but they don’t mind big street trees in that suburb.

The Red Ash (Alphitonia excelsa) on the left in Roach Street is a short-lived (less than 15 years) tree that can reach a height of 7–35 metres by 5–10 metres.

The Red Ash (Alphitonia excelsa) on the left in Roach Street is a short-lived tree (less than 15 years) that can reach a height of 7–35 metres by 5–10 metres.  Even 7-metres is too tall for under power lines.

Three Tuckeroos in  Wrights Avenue

Three Tuckeroos in Wrights Avenue

This is  Wrights Avenue with Tuckeroos on both sides.  It gives an indication of how tall the trees can reach, though the trees on the left are not fully grown yet.  The trees on the right were pruned yesterday.

This is Wrights Avenue with Tuckeroos on both sides. It gives an indication of how tall the trees can reach, though the trees on the left are not fully grown yet. The trees on the right were pruned yesterday.

 

 

 

 

 

Winged Victory when it was at the War Memorial outside Marrickville Town Hall.

Winged Victory when it was at the War Memorial outside Marrickville Town Hall.

This was the Council Meeting.  Absent: Clrs Tsardoulias, Hanna & Leary.   Note: MC = Marrickville Council.

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.

Last night’s Marrickville Council Meeting had some interesting items.  I did not attend.  The information below comes form the papers for the meeting & getting feedback about the votes.

Mayoral Minute – Save our streetscape amenity  – by Mayor Macri.  In brief: “In 2009, Council tree maintenance staff expressed concerns about the work health & safety of doing pruning work near over head electrical wires.”  The work was outsourced to Ausgrid & later, also in 2009, MC outsourced its tree maintenance work.  A resident alerted MC “that trees were being decimated along Federation Street Camperdown along the boundary of Camperdown Memorial Park.”  MC’s Tree Management Team assessed the work & found the pruning to be extreme & requested the Ausgrid contrator to cease work.  The Council Officer thought the pruning excessive, but within Ausgrid’s pruning standards.

The Mayoral Minute suggests an option to avoid this happening in the future is for MC to pay for Aerial Bundled Cabling to be installed in several key locations across Marrickville LGA “where valuable mature significant trees are being continually lopped.”

The vote was unanimous (Mayor Macri, Clrs Iskandar, Halen Woods, Phillips, Brooks, Ellsmore, Gardener & Tyler) for Council to write to Ausgrid seeking Aerial Bundled Cabling to minimize the adverse impact of pruning on trees & “confirmation that pruning by contractors be undertaken within acceptable standards that properly accounted for the potential adverse impacts of overpruning.”

[Well hooray!   I applaud the Mayor for this motion.  Let’s hope the Hill’s Fig trees on Carrington Road Marrickville that already have Aerial Bundled Cabling installed are left alone.  Their decline was rapid with most of the trees losing a full side.   I would like MC to ask if it is really necessary for Ausgrid to come every 6-months to prune trees as one of their contractors told me was the new way of doing business.  Before they took over from Energy Australia it was a 6-7 year pruning cycle.]

Winged Victory Statue – The vote was unanimous (Mayor Macri, Clrs Iskandar, Halen Woods, Phillips, Brooks, Ellsmore, Gardener & Tyler) for MC to retain the original Winged Victory statue created in 1919 & keep it in storage until funding becomes available, plus a suitable location for it to be displayed.  MC will call for an expression of interest for a replica to be made.   [Many people & some community groups have suggested that it should be on permanent display in the new Marrickville Library, which I think is a great choice.  The community will be able to see the much loved Winged Victory in this prime location & importantly it will be safe from thieves.  Many years ago one of the stone towers in Richardsons Reserve was stolen & has never been recovered, so thieves are not intimidated by the size of the object.]

Notice of Motion – Remove street tree at 16 Temple Street Stanmore – Clr Tasdoulias put up this Motion.  In December 2012 Councillors voted to give this Lemon Scented Gum (Corymbia citriodora) a 12-month reprieve to observe the tree.  See –  http://bit.ly/TICPY1  Two small branches – under 50mm at the point of detachment fell in February 2013.  A Brushbox tree,  plus verge garden was proposed as a replacement.  Vote to remove the tree – Mayor Macri, Clrs Iskandar, Haylen Woods, Gardener & Tyler.  Vote to retain the tree – Clrs Phillips, Brooks & Ellsmore.  This tree will be chopped down.

Notice of Motion – Urgent protection for Fatima Island – put up by Clrs Ellsmore & Leary.  Fatima Island opposite Kendrick Park Tempe is the last remaining island in the Cooks River. The island has important historical links & is the only area of safety & habitat for waterbirds.  In 2013 MC said they would include Fatima Island in the Cooks River Parks Plan of Management, not to be implemented this year.  However, erosion is destroying Fatima Island at a rapid rate.  Council staff responses in the business paper were not encouraging mentioning the need for consultants, an environmental assessment, costs, no legal requirement to look after Fatima Island as it is crown land, need for staff to be removed from existing operational priorities.  The vote was unanimous – Mayor Macri, Clrs Iskandar, Halen Woods, Phillips, Brooks, Ellsmore, Gardener & Tyler.  However, there was an amendment, of which I do not know the content.

Fatima Island at high tide last weekend. With the current rate of erosion, I doubt that this island will last long.

Fatima Island at high tide last weekend. With the current rate of erosion, I doubt that this island or its trees will last long.  To lose it would be dreadful, especially for the waterbirds.  It is an extremely important site for biodiversity.  Visible in this photo is one Egret & three Cormorants.  It is not unusual to see Darters, Pelicans, Ibis, Gulls, Masked Lapwings & ducks here.

 

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