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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 – –


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 – , here, here and here

Two branches left

Two branches left

Until recently this Hill’s Fig had a beautiful full canopy. Around a third of the canopy has been removed turning it into a v-shaped tree to install Aerial Bundled Cable.

I love Aerial Bundled Cable & wish it were the norm since we cannot have electricity cables buried underground.  For pruning street trees Ausgrid says, – In residential areas the vegetation safety clearance is typically 1.5 metres around bare, low voltage overhead wires & two metres around power poles. However, the safety clearance depends on the voltage of the overhead wire – the higher the voltage the larger the clearance.”

They say the following about Aerial Bundled Cable –  Councils are offered the option of installing Aerial Bundled Cable (ABC) which wraps the four Iow voltage overhead wires, strung between poles along suburban streets, into one single insulated cable.  The safety clearances required for ABC are less than for uninsulated wire. Trees that have already been trimmed for uninsulated wire clearances will take some time to regrow to the ABC safety clearances. ABC also reduces the likelihood of a power interruption, which can occur when uninsulated lines touch and then short-circuit. In some instances, this can cause live wires to fall to the ground.”

Marrickville Council have done the community a big & costly favour paying Ausgrid to install Aerial Bundled Cable for a Hill’s Fig located near the corner of Warren & Carrington Roads Marrickville South.  This is one of 14 Hill’s Fig trees that have graced this area between & including Warren Road, Carrington Road & Renwick Street for decades.  They are landmark trees & are very much loved.

In my opinion the Fig tree in Warren Road has always looked the best of all these Fig trees – until recently that is.  To install Aerial Bundled Cable through this particular Fig tree Ausgrid has removed around a third of the canopy.  One can only assume they did this to ensure that they don’t need to come back for a while.

How can installing Aerial Bundled Cable require more of the canopy to be removed than the ordinary pruning they do for powerlines?   I thought Aerial Bundled Cable was designed to actually save the tree’s canopy.

In this case it appears that 3 large branches have been removed making the tree into a v-shape.  It was upsetting to see & as is the case with pruning to this degree, the tree will never look the same again.  Yet another tree asset has been degraded.

I will look for, then post other examples around Sydney where Aerial Bundled Cable has been used on trees of equivalent size to show that pruning in this case was extreme.

I do not understand the extent of pruning to this tree to install the Aerial Bundled Cable, which is meant to protect the canopy of special trees.

There was some interesting news in both local papers this week.

  • Marrickville Council have designed a street bin that takes cigarette butts allowing disposal without setting the contents of the bin on fire.  60 of these street bins have been installed along Marrickville & Enmore Roads & King Street with more on the way.  This is excellent & should go a long way to preventing butts ending up in the Cooks River via stormwater drains.
  • After complaints from residents in Lamb Street Lilyfield about street tree pruning for powerlines Leichhardt Council called on Ausgrid “to consult with them before undertaking any more work.”  Leichhardt Council thought the pruning of some street trees “excessive.”   From Ausgrid’s website – “Trimming is carried out by contractors who follow the Australian Standard AS4373 Pruning of Amenity Trees.  Ausgrid employs a horticulturist & an arborist to audit the work of our contractors.  Each contractor also employs a horticulturist & an arborist to monitor standards & ensure they are maintained.”

    This is one example of the many street trees in Hurlstone Park that were pruned for cables just before Christmas. It was quite a shock to see.

Beautiful & historic Northwood Street Camperdown - an asset to Marrickville LGA

For years when driving along Salisbury Road I have thought I must stop & have a look at this beautiful street.  I never have.

Recently I was walking in Camperdown Memorial Rest Park & instead of putting my attention towards the church wall, steeple & canopy of trees within the church grounds as usual, I looked the other way & between the boundary trees, saw a street full of Hill’s Figs.  I realized that this was the other end of the street I had always meant to have a look at.

It is Northwood Street Camperdown, lined with beautiful mature Hill’s Fig trees that have created a gorgeous canopy over the street. It’s like walking through a green tunnel & reminds me very much of Laman Street Newcastle.  Northwood Street is peaceful, shady, cool & filled with birds so it sounds nice too.  I would guess the age of the trees to be around 80-years-old.  It looks like over the years some trees have been lost, but the overall feel remains.

Ausgrid (the new name for Energy Australia) have done something wonderful by putting up aerial bundled cabling eliminating the need to do any further pruning for power lines.  This was especially nice to see as it is recognizing the history & value of these street trees.

When doing a Google search to see if there was anything written about the Fig trees of Northwood Street I happened across the February 2011 edition of ‘Branch Cuttings’ – the newsletter of the Sydney & Northern New South Wales Branch of the Australian Garden History Society.  The lead article, ‘Wauchope’s & Newcastle’s figs to stay’ written by Eva Cassegrain & Stuart Read made for very interesting reading.

The article lists where now historic Figs were planted around Sydney as well as in Wauchope, Sawtell & Newcastle & also mentions the mature Hills Figs that were removed last year from Wahroonga Railway Station much to the community’s dismay.

The main section of the article speaks about the median avenue of Hill’s Fig trees in Hastings Street Wauchope planted in 1938.  “Over the years 2007-2010 there has been an active public campaign to protect these against proposals to remove them due to complaints of damage by roots to plumbing on adjacent properties also because of invasive roots causing trip hazards, dislodging paths & walls. Wauchope received a wonderful christmas present when Hastings Valley Council decided to preserve the trees in the block from Young to Bain Streets.”   To fix the problems the Council installed a root barrier & planted gardens underneath the trees.  The before & after photos show a profound difference & illustrate the benefits of retaining these trees for the streetscape.

Unfortunately, at the time of writing the Laman Street Figs were thought to be safe from the axe. Not so, as the strong community opposition to Newcastle City Council’s decision to proceed with removing these trees continues.

In amongst this great article, the street trees of Northwood Street Camperdown rated a mention.  “Northwood Street Camperdown is another example of an avenue of Hills figs under pressure of removal, thwarted so far only by vigorous resident opposition.”  It was very nice to read that the residents have stopped the removal of these trees.  Northwood Street residents have benefited from these trees by raised property values, much beauty & wildlife & lower bills for cooling.  It’s worth a stroll down Northwood Street. I should have stopped here years ago.

I feel it is a shame we can’t have more of these trees planted in appropriate places around Marrickville LGA.  We do have a few suitable places that remain as barren areas.  A large canopy tree in these locations would improve the streetscape dramatically & add much needed green to the skyline.  Planting a Hill’s Fig or two in the vast areas of lawn in some of our parks would also be beneficial as the trees would provide shade & beauty.  Most people love large Fig trees & because they live so long, they become part of the community’s history.

Hills’ Figs can be managed by installing root barriers when planting them which increases the options of using them as street trees (in appropriate places).  The article also says, “San Francisco still uses them as street trees but with careful management including use of root barriers. Spain & the Canary Islands use Hill’s figs proudly in town squares, plazas & streets.  Beirut sports Hill’s figs in similar situations.”

The Australian Garden History Society have regular lectures, outings & publications.  If this newsletter was any indication, their publications should be great & of special interest to those interested in gardening, gardens, soils, trees & so on. You can find them here –  & the Sydney & Northern New South Wales Branch page –

I made a short video of the Figs of Northwood Street Camperdown –

Google Earth map of Camperdown showing the difference between the canopy of Northwood Street & the surrounding area. The street trees make this area in the image quite leafy compared to many areas across Marrickville LGA.

This map was provided by Mr Bowden & shows the route of the underground cables. Click to enlarge.

I received an email yesterday (today) from Mr Des Bowden, Senior Community Relations Officer NSW/ACT for Energy2U Alliance, which is the company installing Ausgrid’s new 132,000 volt underground cables as part of the Beaconsfield to Kogarah cable project. These cables will be travelling through historic Richardson’s Reserve, Warren Park & under the Cooks River in Marrickville South.  If you have concerns for the old street trees & the heritage Figs in this area, then I think your fears will be alleviated by the following information.  Thank you to Mr Bowden, Energy2U Alliance & Ausgrid for your transparency & respect for the concerns held by the community.  It is much appreciated.

The bulk of Mr Bowden’s email is as follows –

“Bore under the Cooks River– From September 2011 until January 2012 we will

Showing the crypts built by Thomas Holt for his family. According to Wikipedia the only person who was laid to rest here was the Mother Superior of the Carmelite order who lived in The Warren mansion until they were evicted in 1903. Her body is no longer here. The white markers show the route of the underground cables. The Cooks River is about 5 metres behind if you were standing here

construct a section of the cable route under the Cooks River. This work will involve drilling a bore underneath the river bed. We will set up a site compound in the centre of Richards Avenue, halfway between Premier Street & Holt Crescent (see attached diagram). This site compound will be the receive pit for the bore. The drilling will take place from Gough Whitlam Park in Earlwood, on the other side of the Cooks River. No work will take place within Warren Park / Richardson’s Lookout.

The receive pit for the bore was originally planned to be located within Warren Park. As part of the environmental assessment for this project, Ausgrid engaged an arborist to evaluate the impact of the proposed location of the receive pit & cable alignment on the historic fig trees in Warren Park. In response to the arborist’s advice that the work posed a risk to the trees, Ausgrid redesigned the bore so that it will now be more than 12 metres below ground level as it passes underneath Warren Park & will exit in the street.  The markers which have been placed in Warren Park are temporary guides so that we can survey the alignment of the underground bore.

Work in Excelsior Parade – … the cable route for this project will also pass through Excelsior Parade, Marrickville, where there are a number of Brushbox trees in proximity to the route. An arborist assessment has been undertaken & found that installation of the underground cables would not result in any adverse impact on the Brushbox trees within Excelsior Parade. In the majority of cases the incursion created by the trench will be less than 10% of the Tree Protection Zone (TPZ), which is within acceptable limits. In a small number of cases the incursion exceeds 10% but is less than 20% of the TPZ, which is still considered tolerable given the less than favourable conditions for root growth beneath the road pavement.

In rare instances, some minor localised trimming of trees may be required along the cable route. If this is the case, any trimming will be carried out in accordance with Australian Standard AS 4373 -1996 Pruning of Amenity Trees.

Cable trenching work in the Marrickville area is currently planned to start in late 2011.

More information – As with all our work, strict environmental controls will be in place & all impacted areas will be restored in consultation with the local council.

Looking from Richardson's Reserve over Warren Park. The bore will travel underneath.





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