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Marrickville Council intends to remove 1 Chinese hackberry (Celtis sinensis) outside 3 Calvert Street Marrickville.

Council gives the following reasons for removal:

  • Root growth from the tree has apparently caused fence damage on private property.
  • The species is considered a potential environmental weed.

Council say they will replace the tree with a Queensland brush box (Lophostemon confertus) though they don’t say when they will do this.

3 Calvert Street Marrickville

I went to visit this tree today.  First impressions were this is a beautiful tree planted in a lovely garden bed making this little area of Calvert Street look very nice. It is the only large tree in the street.

I was sad to see that Council’s Notice of Removal signs were nailed into the tree.  I had thought Marrickville Council had ceased this practice as they have been securing signs to trees with sticky tape for the last few months. I did notice that the trees in Toothill Street & Park Road also had their tree removal signs nailed, but as it was a given that these trees would be removed, I made no mention.  I am very disappointed that this practice has become the norm, as once again Council is sending a clear message to the community not to bother sending in a submission.

Council has excavated the footpath exposing a large root that travels underneath the brick front fence of the property.  No other roots enter the property.

The damage to the brick fence appears to be caused by the tree root, but the damage is restricted to one pillar on a 8-10 meter brick fence.  As is common with pillars regardless of whether there are trees nearby, the pillar has sustained a medium sized crack, which threatens to disconnect it from the remaining fence.

fence & tree root 3 Calvert Street Marrickville

I always take a man experienced in building with me where the tree is said to have caused structural damage.  His advice was the fence pillar is unlikely to fall in the near future without some other causative factor like a car crashing into it.  He said the fence could be easily repaired by filling the crack with cement & giving it a splash of paint. He said it they were really scared that the pillar might fall, they could fit a connector bolt to secure the pillar to the main fence.

I do not believe the damage is sufficient to warrant the removal of this beautiful street tree & will be putting in a submission asking Marrickville Council to repair the footpath, but deny the request to have the tree removed.

The tree is mature & healthy. I don’t care that Marrickville Council regards it as a potential environmental weed.  They also think Camphor laurel trees are environmental weeds, but City of Sydney Council has retained them as street trees in many places across their LGA such as Glebe Point Road, while Marrickville Council removes them.

Calvert Street is one of those streets that has very little green & almost no tree canopy.  This tree is important to the local community for the visual beauty & for maintaining property values. It also cleans up pollution from the large volume of traffic that drive through this street every day.

It would take many years for a street tree in these conditions to grow to this size.  We as a community need to keep all the trees we can.

Chinese hackberry is said to compete with native flora & is therefore detrimental to the local environment.  However, there is no native environment nearby.  Much of what surrounds this tree is cement, buildings & bitumen.

City of Sydney Council protects Chinese hackberry trees if they are 10 metres tall or more.

street tree Calvert Street

I would only support this tree’s removal if Marrickville Council plants more good-sized street trees along Calvert Street & only at a time when those trees have grown to a decent size. If this tree is removed now, it will denude the street of its greenery & have a negative impact on property values.  If it were happening on my street, I would be doing what I could to save this tree because of the impact its removal will have on my property value & the health of my family, especially if the tree was close to my house.

I know properties are going for high prices in Marrickville even if they are imbedded in cement, but ask any real estate agent whether a house is likely to go for a higher price if there is a good looking street tree out front & they will say yes.  The difference in what a property can sell for is significantly higher.  If people realised this, they would never allow street trees to be removed or be butchered by energy companies.

As is always the case, if mine is the only submission, the tree will likely go. I ask that you please send a submission to Marrickville Council.  You don’t need to live near the tree to be allowed to do this. The trees across the LGA belong to all of us & they benefit all of us.  I need others who care about street trees to help by sending in submissions even if the tree is not in their area.

I am happy to send you a draft if this will make it easier. You can change it as you see fit or just sign & e-mail it to Council. The deadline for submissions is Monday 9th August 2010.  Thank you. J

Banana 'trees,' perfect for rooftop gardens. For trivial pursuit fanatics: Bananas are not actually trees. Their trunk is a pseudostem that dies once a bunch of bananas have been produced

Right now in major cities of the world enormously good things are happening in regards to built-up areas & green space. They too have growing populations. However, they have made decisions to make buildings more green, sustainable, people friendly as well as environmentally friendly. They are doing this because these buildings are going to be there for the next few decades & rather than continue to build unimaginative buildings that only house people, they are making the buildings also improve the environment while they are standing there.

Melbourne just announced the winner of a rooftop garden competition, the first of its kind in Australia as part of its Growing Up project. The winning rooftop garden was built on top of an old 10-storey office block & included a lightweight polystyrene hill covered in soil & planted with drought-tolerant plants & permeable glass paving to collect rainwater.

The Growing Up project says 20% of Melbourne city’s available space is wasted on unused rooftops. If we see an increase in the number of green roofs in Melbourne, we could see a reduction in the urban heat island effect of up to 2 degrees Celcius. We can also improve biodiversity, air quality & they really are a fantastic aesthetic addition to Melbourne’s space. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/07/15/2954450.htm

An experimental rooftop garden at the University of Melbourne’s Burnley campus has shown an energy saving of up to 40% for cooling the building in summer. This is significant at times of high power prices & the serious issue of global warming.

Another benefit is better stormwater management as the rooftop garden catches & utilises as much as 80% of rainwater, meaning less water going down the drain, less stress on our often old & inadequate drains, less flooding of roads & footpaths & less stormwater running wasted into the sea.

Interestingly, the roof membrane lasts 2-3 times longer when there is a rooftop garden because the garden protects the roof from UV rays & temperature swings.

Green roofs combat the heat island effect dramatically without changing land use.  I’ve heard people query the relevance of the heat island effect saying they like heat, but when the surface of footpaths, outdoor cemented areas & roofs are 27-50 degrees hotter than the air, it becomes a major problem.  In built up urban areas, night time air temperatures can be as much as 12 degrees hotter due to trapped heat radiating out from the surfaces of buildings.  This makes for an uncomfortable time for those living close by as well as higher power bills, poor air quality from increased pollution levels because pollution gets trapped in the heat, as well as elevated greenhouse gases & ground level ozone.

If there is a heatwave, all these effects increase & can result in higher rates of respiratory problems such as asthma, heat stroke & heat-related deaths.

Although green roofs are not common in Australia, in other countries they are an established part of the infrastructure. For example, Copenhagen is about to adopt a policy that makes a green roof mandatory for all new buildings with roof slopes of less than 30%. http://inhabitat.com/2010/06/09/copenhagen-adopts-a-mandatory-green-roof-policy/

Chicago has a Green Roof Grant Program for a while & has over 200 green roofs, covering 232,257 sq metres (2.5 million sq ft). They have a very good picture of what a city could look like – http://www.artic.edu/webspaces/greeninitiatives/greenroofs/main.htm

Nice photos of green roofs in Chicago from 2006 –http://www.inhabitat.com/2006/08/01/chicago-green-roof-program/

90 second tour of a green roof –http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8E278d5d0z0

5 minutes video of research on green roofs & their benefits –

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XxqdPOUoJ90&feature=related

Finally, from the benefits of Green Roofs IGRA World

It is very difficult to find positive arguments for bare or gravelled roofs. Lower building costs for “Non-Green Roofs” in comparison to a Green Roof, are weak arguments considering it is only a short-term calculation. Long-term costs of maintenance & repairs of ‘naked roofs’ are much higher than that of Green Roofs. It has to be considered that roofs belong to the most strained parts of a building; if no precautions are taken & product qualities lack, problems arise quickly. http://www.igra-world.com/benefits/index.php

It would be wonderful if Marrickville Council adopted green roofs as a standard in their new Local Environment Plan, a draft of which is soon to be released for public comment. These types of roofs are likely to be commonplace in the future because built up urban areas are becoming very hot & costly in terms of power use. Businesses will want to save costs where ever they can. The initial outlay is going to be ultimately cost effective because of a 40% reduction in power costs & because a green roof is expected to last at least 20-30 years without maintenance.

Marrickville Council could build on their reputation as a Green Council by encouraging green roofs & green walls at all new major developments & set the standard for other councils to follow.  More on green walls in a future post.

car park reflection

The Hornsby Advocate wrote last week about a brilliant new stormwater management plan by Hornsby Council to filter stormwater & water street trees at the same time.  Hornsby Council will install 3 tree-pits. These tree-pits capture stormwater from specially installed gutters. The stormwater is then filtered through soil, sand & gravel.

It’s such a simple idea, one wonders why this technique hasn’t been used before & why it isn’t put in place with all new street tree plantings. It would certainly go a long way to preventing tree deaths due to lack of water.

The paper published a diagram of the tree pits. Unfortunately I can’t post the picture here due to copyright, but it is well worth a look.

http://hornsby-advocate.whereilive.com.au/news/story/hornsby-council-branches-out-with-its-stormwater-project-1/

New footpath in Canterbury LGA & not one street tree planned. A cement desert.

A selection of new garden beds in Robert Street Marrickville

We came across new footpath work in Robert Street Marrickville yesterday.  Marrickville Council has replaced the footpaths & created large garden beds around street trees planted on verges.   It’s happening in other streets so it appears to be a new trend.  I sincerely hope so.

The first time I saw this done was earlier this year in Ivanhoe Street Marrickville South & I was impressed.  The garden beds are twice as large in Robert Street because the footpaths are wider.

As well as the street trees on the verge, Robert Street has beautiful old Brush Box trees that were planted on the sides of the road around 80 years ago. Council has created garden beds on the verge next to many of these trees, which will allow these trees to be able to get a good drink when it rains.  These trees have suffered decades of bitumen almost to their trunks so they should respond well & live longer now they have better access to water.  Council have planted native grasses & Pig Face (I think) & in a year or so, they should look very pretty.

Unfortunately, works like these can cost many thousands of dollars (a tiled footpath outside a small group of shops can cost $60,000) so I would imagine that it would be a slow process creating these types of footpaths as the norm throughout the LGA.  However, it’s worth waiting for.

It is good that by creating these garden beds, the amount of cement coverage has lessened. Not only will the trees get more water & the streets look greener, but the street should be cooler during summer as well.

Is less cement an issue? I think it is & so do many experts.  Urban areas are much hotter than non-urban areas because cement & building surfaces can trap heat from the sun.  This is called the ‘heat island effect.’

The flying foxes that left Queensland to come & live in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens for the past 20 years or so have made their home there because the air temperature is to their liking.  The walls of the tall city buildings, roads, cement surfaces & roofs of the CBD have raised the air temperature & created a climate suitable for the bats. In the city it is called the urban canyon effect because the walls of tall buildings form canyons that capture & hold heat.

Air temperatures can be up to 12 degrees hotter in cemented areas during summer. I have read up to 50 degrees hotter, but this is probably in desert areas.  Much like a car parked in the sun with the windows closed, environments can become heat boxes keeping night temperatures warmer. A 2005 study showed urban air temperatures being up to 12 degrees warmer at night during summer than in rural areas.

Apart from the obvious increase use of power needed to cool houses & the associated costs, the heat island effect also impacts on air quality & health as it causes smog & ground level ozone. Ground level ozone causes respiratory problems like asthma, coughing & lung damage. It can also cause chest pain & heart problems.  This is why research shows that living within 500 metres of a main road can cause significant health problems.  See – https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/06/29/living-close-to-a-main-road-is-bad-for-your-health/

Ground level ozone is also a factor in global warming.  The heat island effect can raise the temperature so much that it causes heat events where heat waves are exacerbated. These events can cause death, particularly in children, the ill & the elderly.

There is also another issue with the heat island effect & that is storm water runoff.  If the runoff is heated by pavements, gutters & roofs, it may be very warm by the time it reaches rivers, ponds & lakes & we have a few in Marrickville LGA.  This hot water can cause death to fish & other water life as well as increase the growth of blue-green algae that sucks all oxygen out of the water causing more fish death.

This is a very basic outline of the heat island effect & I will be writing about it in more depth in a later post. However, I hope what is written so far is enough to understand why our society’s love for cement is a problem.  Cement is easier, but it comes with it’s own problems & these problems follow us into our homes.

A couple of examples in Robert Street Marrickvillewhere residents created gardens to protect street trees. To me, they look great & are far better than bitumen up to the trunk.

It is my belief that we need to plant many more trees across Marrickville LGA.  We need larger trees that create shade, both on private property & as street trees. Street trees that grow straight upwards & have a canopy of no more than 2-3 metres are not a ‘shade tree.’  We also need less cement & bitumen, more gardens & pockets of green space outside of formal parks to keep the heat down, for our mental & physical health & for the health of the planet.

Sydney is getting bigger & bigger & with this urban sprawl comes more cement, more hard surfaces & fewer trees.  My fear is that, if climate change does happen in the way the scientific experts predict (& being a prediction, it has a 50% chance of being worse than what they think will occur), that we & our governing authorities will realise just how important trees & green spaces are, but the weather will be too hot & water in short supply that whatever is planted will have trouble surviving.  Bleak I know, but I have read a lot on this subject & none of it is heartening.

So getting back on subject, what Marrickville Council is doing when they are replacing footpaths is terrific & sensible action for the future.  It will allow people to get used to less cement & hopefully encourage them to be actively involved in the garden beds outside their property.

Those who know me know that for a good chunk of last year I had a dream to start a campaign across Australia to plant 1 million trees in 1 day.  Some people had the reaction of  “Whoa! Unachievable.” I didn’t think so & nor did the majority of people with whom I spoke. What was needed was organisational skills to bring together the necessary components &, most importantly, a famous person to be the public face of the campaign.  My face was definitely not suitable.

land at the back of Tempe

I had it planned, knew whom I would contact & was at the stage of deciding whether to make the leap or not.  Then Tony Abbott said he would plant 20 million trees if he was elected & I threw the whole idea out the window.  I had the idea that either side of federal politics would implement something like this now that such a proposal had been put into the public arena. Mind you, this was before Copenhagen.

I have been really excited about the many community/government supported tree planting programs world-wide.  There have been some fantastic mass tree planting achievements, some of which did occur in one day.

The Macedonian people planted 2 million trees in one day in 2008 (1 for every citizen). A year later, riding on the excitement of the previous years achievement, the Macedonian people got together & planted an extraordinary 5 million trees in 1 day in 2009. I get excited just writing this.  What an amazing thing for a community to do.

This morning I read another tree planting story that made me very happy.  Felix Finkbeiner, a 12 year old German boy decided to plant 1 million trees across the planet when he was just 9 years old.  He did a presentation at school & his idea gained wings, super-sonic wings.

Teachers & his family must have supported him, because the media became involved & they too supported his idea. Plant for Planet was formed, three years later, Germany has 1 million extra trees & tree planting in the name of this organization is happening in 70 countries. Isn’t this both amazing & wonderful. Plant for Planet aims to plant 212 million trees world-wide, 1 million trees on each country of the world. (not a typo) 1.4 million trees have already been pledged for planting.

One campaign of Plant for Planet is Stop Talking & Start Planting aimed at adults.  http://www.care2.com/greenliving/boy-inspires-planting-of-one-million-trees.html

a gorgeous Eucalypt in the grounds of a petrol station on Parramatta Road Camperdown

Sure, there are cynics who dispute the validity of climate change & others who will say the trees will die. Regardless, with the rate of urbanisation & deforestation world-wide, we need trees & so does the wildlife. I don’t believe we can continue at this rate of tree removal & cementing of the earth without serious consequences.

Those involved in Plant for Planet are not planting small saplings. They are planting 4 metre high saplings with significant sized trunks that would have a far greater chance of survival. I presume they are also doing the obvious & organising regular watering to ensure the trees become established, strong & healthy.

Any organisation can become a part of this program & I am hoping local schools in Australia will become involved. Last year, quite a few people thought I meant to campaign for 1 million trees for Marrickville LGA. When I balked they were surprised saying the LGA could certainly fit another million trees.  I don’t even know what that would look like.  Perhaps only like Sydney’s North Shore.

We could however cope with 100,000 new trees across this LGA if private gardens joined in. Imagine what it would look like 2-5 years after planting was completed.  I think our part of the Inner West would be transformed.  The wildlife would be better off & I have no doubt we would be better off too.  http://www.plant-for-the-planet.org/

Closer to home, Marrickville Council does have it’s own tree planting/bush care regeneration volunteer opportunities.

  • National Tree Day 2010. This year, Marrickville Council is planning to host National Tree Day along the Cooks River foreshore at Steel Park where the Waterplay Park will be constructed over the next few months. Sunday, 1 August 2010, Steel Park, off Illawarra Rd, Marrickville. Put it in your diary.
  • Friends of Camperdown Cemetery. 3rd Saturday of every month 9.30-11.30am. Meet inside the grounds of St Stephens Church, Church St Newtown.
  • Marrickville Landcare. 4th Sunday of every month. 9.30am -12.30pm. Meet at Marrickville Golf, Sporting & Community Club, Wharf St Marrickville.
  • Friends of the Cooks River Valley Garden. 2nd Sunday of every month 9.30am-12.30pm. Meet behind the Jets Sports Club at Tempe Reserve, Holbeach Ave Tempe.
  • Inner West Environment Group. 3rd Sunday of every month 10.00am- 1.00pm. For location details, contact rsvp@iweg.org.au or 9560-9281.
  • Marrickville Community Nursery. Wednesday 10.00am-12.00pm. Saturday & Sunday 10.00am-1.00pm.  Located at Addison Rd Centre, 142 Addison Road Marrickville

For more information, on any of these volunteer opportunities contact the Biodiversity Coordinator for Marrickville Council 9335-2254 or biocoord@marrickville.nsw.gov.au

autumn colour

Currawong

This months Festival of the Trees is looking at food for wildlife.  Marrickville LGA has quite a lot of  wildlife for an inner city urban area, especially with the Cooks River, the Tempe Reserve & Wetlands & some of our major parks.   The presence of nearby Girraween Park  at Wolli Creek helps our urban wildlife enormously.  However, when we first moved into our home 15 years ago there weren’t many birds in our immediate neighbourhood.  There were some of course, but we were not as aware of them as we were in our previous home.  They were mostly Pied Currawongs in winter, Common Mynas all year round & a couple of Turtle Doves as well.  Over the years this has changed significantly.  Now birds feature strongly in our neighbourhood.  So what happened to bring the birds here?

The neighbourhood around us changed in that many new people moved in & they did 3 things.  They removed the cement from their garden, reduced the size of their lawn or did away with it altogether & they planted trees & shrubs, many of them Natives.  Some of my neighbours are spectacular gardeners converting their bare gardens into mini-botanical havens filled with a variety of bird-attracting plants.  The transformation has been dramatic & they still kept the lemon tree.

birds sunning themselves

The other thing I noticed was that many people started putting birdbaths and/or ponds in their gardens.  This combination of water & food brought the birds back in droves.

It also brought the frogs seemingly by magic.  We put in a pond & 2 days later a rare frog breed arrived.  Now we have small frogs that hibernate under our very small piece of lawn.  They wake up in summer & leave at night.  We hear them, but rarely see them.

At least 24 Turtle Doves live in our block now so their family extended. There are many White Eyes, Willy-Wag Tails, Red Wattlebirds, Magpie-larks, Australian Magpies, large groups of Noisy Miners, Red-whiskered Bulbuls, Crested Pigeons, a Common Koel or two, Grey Butcherbirds, Olive-backed Orioles, Silvereyes, Figbirds & Pallid Cuckoos.  Masked Lapwings fly over-head on their way to the river.  Even a couple of Spotted Pardalotes have moved in.  This is amazing as they live in areas with many Eucalypts, not Sydney’s Inner West.

small part of a large flock of Cockatoos who visited

Large groups of Cockatoos fly over most days & when the nuts & fruit are ripe, they descend on mass devouring them.  It’s a gorgeous sight & they are very noisy.  The powerlines can be covered with white birds all with something to say.  Both neighbours who grow the food the Cockatoos like to eat do not mind the invasion of these birds.

We still have the Pied Currawongs & Common Mynas, but they are not so destructive now they are out numbered.  The Common Mynas tried to get everyone to move, but the sheer numbers of birds had their power reduced to almost nil.  They now just get on with living.  We also have native bees & a Ring-Tailed Possum or two.

From a reasonably quiet area in terms of birds, our neighbourhood has become filled with bird song & bird activity.   I love the change.  It seems somehow more like I remember things used to be when I was a child & the presence of birds was taken for granted.

The Australian Museum has a wonderful web-site called Birds in Backyards. They list 40 birds & provide a fact-sheet & a short sound-bite of each bird call.  It is a wonderful reference for school children as well as people like me who don’t know much about birds.  Through this site I have been able to identify 20 of the 40 birds listed that I can hear & many times see from our own back garden.  http://birdsinbackyards.net/feature/top-40-bird-songs.cfm

Birds provide white noise that is soothing & helps block out traffic & other noises that can lead to stress.  They also help you in the garden by eating the insects that eat your plants.

White-eye

If you want to attract birds into your garden & neighbourhood, all you need to do is plant a variety of bird-attracting Australian native plants & provide a source of water.  The water is best placed near other plants as this gives the birds a sense of safety.  They will use a birdbath in the middle of a lawn, but if there is another in a better location, they will use that one first.

Our birdbath needs filling often & sometimes daily during hot weather.  A wide range of birds use it to drink & bathe at many times during the day.  Sometimes there is a line up.  The larger birds go first with the smaller birds in surrounding trees watching & waiting for them to finish.  At night, much to my delight, the bats use it. I haven’t managed to see them yet, but I hear the “woop, woop, woop “as they take off vertically.

If you can, plan to plant a range of plants of different heights & thicknesses.  Some birds love to go into small shrubs & eat the nectar from flowers & insects while hidden from sight.   Others are not afraid to sip nectar from flowers high up & in open view.  A range of plants will ensure a variety of birds visit.

Cockatoo eating something from my neighbours garden

Native grasses offer a great source of food as well.  I have seen them used in very creative ways by my neighbours.  Most Australian Natives do not require much water once established & thrive in poor quality soil, though they do appreciate mulch & regular fertilizing with a Native fertilizer.

Native plants can be used successfully with a cottage garden if that is your preferred look.  Many are prolific flowerers & some have flowers all year round.  Most respond to pruning allowing them to be kept in a shape you like. Pruning encourages more flowers & bushiness.

From being a person who preferred cottage gardens I have become someone who would rather plant something that gives food to another.  I do think the long drought we had stressed the wild birds & animals, as their water sources shrunk & their food sources didn’t flower or simply died.  The Ibis who have decided to stay in Sydney are an example of this.  Even though it’s raining torrents in Sydney & parts of NSW have flooded, the drought is not over by a long shot.  16 areas or boundaries in NSW (a little over half the state) are classified Exceptional Circumstances. This is done when drought is regarded as severe.

As a number of people have indicated they want ideas for native shrubs & trees, I’ll do some research & put together a list soon.  It will be good learning for me as I am not an expert in this area either.

Kookaburra

Stunning trees at the Opera House end of Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens

50 years ago the Sydney Basin had extensive habitat for urban wildlife.  There were Sydney Blue Gum High Forests along the ridges from Crows Nest to Hornsby.  Today this species of tree is on the critically endangered list.  Despite being on this list, I know that 4 x 61 metre (200 foot) Sydney Blue Gums were chopped down for a development at Wahroonga last March.

The woodlands of the Cumberland Plain between Parramatta & Penrith are almost gone with the community fighting Blacktown Council unsuccessfully to prevent the removal of more 100 plus-year-old critically endangered trees for 2 football fields in Glenwood last April.  Not to be left out, Penrith City Council recently approved the removal of more than 300 hectares of the critically endangered Cumberland Plain woodland from the ADI site for a new suburb to be named Jordan Springs.  The community are protesting this too, yet 10 hectares of trees have already been removed.

There were salt marshes & fresh water swamps on the western side of Botany Bay.  Most have been filled in & developed for the airport, for golf courses & for housing.  Even our back yards have changed with a trend towards paved, concreted gardens or covered with decking.

Anyone aged 50 & over who grew up in Sydney will know just how much Sydney has changed.  I played in a natural creek in amongst thick bush where there is now a 6-lane highway.  In another family home, a horse lived 5 doors down.  Many people owned chickens & grew their own veggies.  Most ¼ acre blocks had multiple tall trees & they were not looked upon as a threat to life & property.  Admittedly, there are still suburbs where gardens are heavily treed, but I maintain the do-it-yourself renovation trend has been to remove these trees & neaten gardens.  Leaves are a problem for many people.

Our governments are pushing for massive population growth & demanding more development for housing.  As the population increased, our green areas decreased as well.  I think it is likely that these remaining green areas will also come under threat of development.  I remember reading last year that the proposed light rail through Rozelle & Leichhardt intended to use parks along the way for stations.  There was an outcry from the community & I think the parks have been left alone in the final plan.  As I write this post the TV news is talking about the loss of Sydney’s ‘green belt’ to development of high-rise units.  It’s non-negotiable despite opposition from great chunks of the community & many Councils.

Port Jackson Fig trees provide homes for possums & food for birds & bats

Housing developments are generally not built with significant green areas & space, like they are in London & New York for example.  When trees are used, they are often ornamental & of small stature.

Tree species such as Prunus & Ornamental Pear are being planted as street trees because they have a straight growth habit, have thin branches which can be easily pruned & do not have a shade canopy.  However nice they look, especially in autumn, they do not provide food or homes for birds & native animals.

Urbanisation has removed much of the food sources our wildlife depends upon to survive & has made many species of birds & animals extinct or placed them on the vulnerable, threatened or endangered species lists.  For most wild birds & animals, it is not as simple as finding somewhere else to live as each has their own territory & do not take kindly to interlopers arriving as they are a threat to the limited food sources.  Generally they fight until one either dies or leaves.

Yesterday I read an article about possums in last weekends Sunday Herald 23rd May 2010 – “There is an epidemic of possum napping as an increasing number of residents illegally trap the troublesome marsupials then dump them in city & suburban parks.” Unfortunately, because of territories, this is usually a death sentence for the possums.  People who are caught can be prosecuted under the Cruelty to Animals Act.

2 large Palms in an Inner West front garden

If a possum has set up home in your roof space, WIRES can humanely trap them for you & take them outside to an appropriate tree.  This is not something which should be attempted by anyone but trained experts.  Not only is a terrified possum quite capable of putting you in hospital for a few weeks, you may inadvertently leave possum babies behind leaving a bigger problem for you to deal with later.

The thing is, if there are decent trees for possums to live in, they are happy to do so & won’t be looking to live in your roof.  Making roof space secure against possum invasion is easy & quite cheap with the benefit that birds like Indian Mynas won’t use it either & rats & mice are also kept out. Snakes too.

Last year a very young Ring Tailed Possum moved into a street tree near us.  No one but us knows where it is & we only do because it visits us occasionally.  It causes no trouble in the neighbourhood other than eating a few petals.  There is no noise, no poop on cars, no damage to property.  The only evidence is the occasional collection of small branches.  My neighbour is pleased with what she thinks is my cleanup work.

Just today a good friend said, “Why would you want possums in the area?”  My answer was because this is their home too.  Living next to a park, he undoubtedly has many possums scampering through his garden & street at night & he sleeps through it. They make no negative impact on his life. Possums are only a problem if they set up house in your roof & this is something easily & cheaply managed.

It is my opinion that Councils should be planting street & park trees that provide food & good homes for urban wildlife.  Not always, because certainly there are some streets & roads where another type of tree is more appropriate, but on the whole, trees should be chosen for their ability to provide food & homes for our wildlife.  I don’t think Councils can rely on the residents to do so.  However, I also believe Councils have a role in encouraging residents to plant bird & wildlife supportive trees/shrubs/plants on their property via education & community programs.

Developers should not be able to have DAs passed without significant green spaces as a requirement.  It would be nice to see real creativity in new buildings. Glass & brick blocks do very little for the landscape.  Roof gardens, gardens on different levels, buildings which are set back from the street so there can be green space in front where cafes/restaurants can set up tables or where shoppers can meet, have a rest etc.  Research has shown shoppers spend an average of 11% more in green leafy shopping strips, so this change in design has a real potential to make significant money for businesses.

Corner of Marrickville & Victoria Roads

I digress. Suffice to say, there is going to be a lot more development, especially high-rise residential.  As this will decide what the city will look like for the next 100 years, now is the time to say no to the ugly blocks, the cold modern glass. We should demand apartment buildings that provide a good lifestyle.  We also have a responsibility to design developments with urban wildlife in mind. It doesn’t take much.  Plant the right trees, ensure they flower & plant so that something is in flower for each season.  Plant undergrowth at different levels, use both shrubs & native grasses & dispose of the wall-to-wall, corner-to-corner cement.

Unfortunately, none of this is likely to happen unless the community make it really clear this is what they want.  In time, I believe we will all want it because global warming & the Heat Island Effect is going to bring this to the forefront of the mind of the majority.  Essentially, it’s going to get very hot. Then we will notice that most of our street trees give little shade & there is a proliferation of cement.

Street trees in Eastwood. Most of the residential streets in this & surrounding suburbs have many tall trees.

Dr Jago Dodson from Griffith University’s Urban Research Program is advocating the creation of many more community gardens in cities saying there will be increased pressure on urban areas to produce food in the future.

“In the context of some of the big challenges we’re facing – challenges about the sustainability of rural & regional agriculture, challenges about drought conditions, changing environmental conditions, questions about global warming’s impact on food supplies across the world & also questions about the sustainability of petroleum, which is one of the key inputs into industrial agricultural systems – those big changes are going to start to motivate more creatively how we produce food in society.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/03/22/2852294.htm

Most residential streets in Chatswood have many tall, shady street trees. This is the norm.

Dr Dodson has some innovative ideas that I think are really exciting.  Judging by Marrickville Council’s support for the latest verge gardening project in Wilga Avenue & the community garden in Denison Road Dulwich Hill, I would imagine Council will also support other community gardens in the LGA.  This year they have said they will provide help in-kind such as removing cement to facilitate such projects & that there are a number of suitable places for community gardens in the LGA.  Access to water is the main issue if the gardens are not on the verges out front.

I predict community gardens will be as popular as book clubs in the not too distant future & as is with Book Clubs, only limited places are available so it pays to be involved from the beginning.

The Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health published research from the VU University Medical Centre in Amsterdam showed that living less than 1km (0.62miles) from a green space had a major impact in lowering the incidence of major physical disease & mental ill-health.

Professor Barbara Maher of the Lancaster Environment Centre said, “The study confirmed that green spaces create oases of improved health around them especially for children.” She said, “At least part of this ‘oasis’ effect probably reflects changes in air quality.”

More proof that a good-sized street tree out front does more than beautify, raise property values & reduce your power costs for heating & cooling.  Street trees also remove up to 60% of street level particulate matter such as dust, smoke, ash & the sooty bi-product from car & truck exhausts that we would generally filter through our lungs & which cause asthma & other respiratory illnesses. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/8307024.stm

A recent study found tripling the number of street trees could reduce asthma among children by 25 percent.  Researchers from Columbia University in the US found rates of asthma fell by a ¼ when there were around 350 more trees in a square kilometre. http://www.nhs.uk/news/2008/05May/Pages/Asthmarisklowinleafysuburbs.asp

The research found that children are less likely to develop asthma if they live in tree-lined streets, particularly in areas with more street trees.  Here, I think they mean nice big trees with a canopy, not the hacked variety that are so prevalent in Marrickville LGA.

Part of the aims of New York City’s Million Tree Program is to reduce the incidence of respiratory illness as well as improve the overall mental & physical health of its residents.  They also believe in global warming & in 2005, New York tallied its CO2 emissions & found they were approximately 1% of US totals & less than 1/3 of the average US per capita level. 79% CO2 came from buildings. They believe their emissions are so low because there is a heavy reliance on cycling & public transport use. They still to reduce their CO2 emissions by a further 33%. http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/apr2007/2007-04-11-03.asp

Rockdale City Council planted street trees along both side of the Princes Hwy Rockdale for approximately 2 km. The awnings posed a problem, so each tree was pruned into a ball & these are maintained regularly. I like what Rockdale Council has done. It looks great & brings green every 3 metres along the shopping strip.

A short, succinct article from Real Estate Agents about the monetary worth of trees on your property, which says, “mature trees & a well-landscaped yard can improve your home’s value by 10-25%.”

Every time I mention this to others I watch the disbelief on their faces, yet this estimate is a number I come across repeatedly in research & articles about the value of trees.

Try looking in the local community papers in the Real Estate section.  If there is a street tree in front of the property, the photographer always includes a branch or leaves from the tree in the photo of the property.  They do this because the sight of trees has a subconscious effect on us.  When we see leafy green, we get a feeling of peace & safety even if we are not directly aware of this. Leafy green means good place to rear children, safety & happiness.  Not to many of us will look at a photo of a property surrounded by cement with no green & compare it favorably with a property that has trees & landscaping, even if the greener property is of lesser value.

http://www.keeferealestate.com/news/concierge.php?itemid=620

The iconic Coral trees in Clifton Gardens were chopped down mid April 2010 by Mosman Council as part of an upgrade of the picnic area. They said the trees had a high-hazard rating.  The residents were very unhappy to lose these & 4 other trees. http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/trees-cleared-at-clifton-gardens-no-picnic-for-some-residents/

Professional tree trimmers in Gilroy California killed 2 owlets when they chopped down a palm tree despite being warned twice about the nest. The Wildlife Education & Rehabilitation Center is caring for the third owlet, who survived the fall. Police are investigating. http://www.upi.com/Top_News/2008/05/21/2-baby-owls-killed-when-palm-tree-cut-down/UPI-39621211398657/

Energy Australia reduced a Frenches Forest woman to tears after their tree pruners entered her property & ‘butchered’ her trees.  She said her trees grew straight upwards & were 4 metres away from the power lines & Energy Australia’s intervention was unnecessary.  The first comment by ‘Chips’ is also interesting as he says this has happened to trees on his property numerous times. http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/tears-over-butchered-garden/

Good news… Buffalo, Illinois, a town of 500 residents has no more room for street trees. They have been focused on street tree planting since 1986 & have now run out of room.  Mike Dirksen, city arborist in nearby Springfield said, “There are so many benefits from trees.  They shouldn’t just be seen as having an ornamental purpose.” This should be engraved on a gold plaque. Bet the town looks stunning! http://friendsoftrees.org/blog/2010/04/16/illinois-town-has-no-more-room-for-trees/

CELEBRITY NEWS (drum-roll please) Last April, in Sao Paulo, Avatar Producer James Cameron & actor Sigourney Weaver planted a native Brazilian tree pau-brasil which is 99% extinct to kick-off a global Earth Day Network which intends to plant 1 million trees in 15 countries by the end of 2010.  http://www.tonic.com/article/james-cameron-plants-first-one-million-trees/

Chatswood, Ashfield, Pacific Hwy & Alexandria - all are very busy roads & they have large street trees at close spacing.

Another tree lost from the St Vincent's de Paul complex at Lewisham - photo taken by Brigette - thanks

1. It’s with sadness I report another tree has gone from the St Vincent de Paul complex at Lewisham.  This time one of the lovely Eucalypts has been removed from the front of The Rectory in Thomas Street.  I was told recently that they intend to remove all the Eucalypts in the complex because of dropping branches, which is a crying shame because they all have 2-3 metre plus girths so they will be doing a terrific job at sequestering CO2.

All the Eucalypts are straight growing & as far as I can tell, don’t pose a threat to nearby buildings.  Most importantly, they support local wildlife.  I witnessed a family of Kookaburras perched in one & was told many birds have made these trees their home.

I don’t understand why a dying branch can’t be pruned.  Chopping the whole tree down seems to be overkill.  Oh well, less loveliness in the area & more cement.

The locals are extremely unhappy about the removal of this tree & some cried while they watched it being chopped down.  I can relate as I could not bear to watch the Stanmore Gum be removed last month as I knew it would be too upsetting.

2. Marrickville Council’s web-site has 2 street trees up for removal.  The first in Dixon Street Dulwich Hill is an old Eucalypt.  It’s a lovely tree, but it is riddled with borers & if left, will most definitely fall down.  I’d guess it to be of the stock that was planted in the early 70s.

This Dixon Street Eucalypt in Dulwich Hill is riddled with borers

The second tree is in Belmore Street Enmore.  This tree also has significant & obvious problems.  If left, it is likely to drop at least one branch soon.  Pruning will not help it as it has deep rot high up in its branches & in parts of its trunk.

Remember this post, because I have agreed 2 trees should be removed.

2 other trees up for removal are in Ivanhoe Street Marrickville.  They both have signs on them, but there is no mention of them on Council’s web-site.  Why?  How many other street trees go this way without notification on Council’s web-site?

3. The Cumberland Courier reported that Ryde City Council has just received a government grant of $97,566 to help protect fauna.  This is great news for the significant wildlife corridors between the Lane Cove & Parramatta Rivers. http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/funding-to-help-fix-up-habitat-for-our-wildlife/

4.  Another Cumberland Courier news item reported that Liverpool Council is calling for suggestions for sites where they should undertake bush regeneration.  This will be funded by their environment levy.  Liverpool Mayor Waller said they have “funded some 30 bush regeneration projects…planted 147,757 trees & restored about 12.4km of creek line.”  Not bad!  This is a significant amount of tree planting & will be of major benefit as the years pass & the trees grow. http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/help-restore-liverpool-sites-to-their-natural-beauty/

5. The Cumberland Courier reported that Hornsby Council has a problem.  Local heritage Bunya trees dropped a 7kg nut through a roof of a resident’s house.  They will debate whether to pay for the seasonal removal of the Bunya nuts or chop the trees down.

I know which option I would choose.  How many Bunya trees are there in Sydney?  A day’s work (maximum) removing the nuts & the community gets to keep important & beautiful trees.  Has Hornsby Council ever thought of asking the local Aboriginal people if they would like the nuts?  I understand they taste wonderful & are prized bush tucker.   http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/bunya-debate-to-be-heard-by-full-council/

6. The Herald Scotland reported fantastic news that gained international attention & applause. The Scottish Government’s Scotland Rural Development Program has given a grant of 1 million pounds to create 600 acres of new native woodland & 193 acres of productive conifer woodland.  The area is the size of 323 international rugby pitches & will be planted out with 450,000 trees that are expected to sequester around 130,000 tonnes of CO2 over 50 years.   Interesting also is that Scotland is aiming to become zero carbon producers. http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/transport-environment/450-000-trees-set-to-be-planted-in-woodland-scheme-1.1006809

7. The UN’s Billion Tree Campaign released its achievements saying that, by the end of 2009, participants in 170 countries had planted 7.4 billion trees (not a typo) This gives me hope for the future. http://www.unep.org/billiontreecampaign/

8. Residents in Pittsfield Township, Ann Arbor USA came out & stopped the power company ITC Holdings Corp from chopping down several 25 year old trees which were within 10 metres of power lines.  The residents sought & were granted a restraining order against the company until a court hearing on 24 February 2010. Interesting reading & commendable commitment from residents. http://www.annarbor.com/news/pittsfield-township-homeowners-block-power-companys-attempts-to-cut-trees-today/

9. A letter was published in the Pub Beaufort Island Gazette, Hilton Head Island USA refuting the local airport’s stance that they need to chop down 1,400 trees on airport property & another 983 trees on private property supposedly for safety of planes.  However, removing these trees will seriously affect noise control & the area is a Bald Eagle habitat amongst other issues. phttp://www.islandpacket.com/opinion/letters/story/1135750.html

this street tree in Belmore St Enmore is diseased

10. If we lived in Portland Oregon, we would have the opportunity to be involved in their City-Wide Tree Project, which is deciding on regulations for trees to complement their urban forestry plan.  Portland is making the news a lot recently because they have officially recognised the benefits of street trees & have recently proven that property values increase significantly when there is a healthy street tree out front.  They calculate the benefit of a street tree at US$7,000 citing this is the cost of a new bathroom.  Try seeing what you get for that kind of money here!  House prices in Portland are also significantly cheaper than in Sydney.

Portland plans to increase their tree canopy by 50,000 street trees & 33,000 garden trees by 2015 (again, not a typo) to improve the lives of citizens & wildlife as well as help combat the effects of global warming.  This is quite different form the recent recommendation in a Marrickville Council report to councillors to remove 1,000 street trees a year for the next 5 years. The report  did propose to replace them with saplings, but how beneficial this will be is questionable as it says most do not survive.  http://www.oregonlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2010/02/street_trees_increase_home_val.html

11. To end, Thornlie (Perth) man Richard Pennicuik is still sitting up in the street tree out front of his house after commencing his protest on 5th December 09 to stop Gosling Council from removing the street trees.  Judging by comments on internet-based reports about him, views about his protest are polarized.  Some think he is a hero.  Others are filled with hatred toward him.  Strange that people would be so abusive toward someone they don’t know & whose actions have zilch effect on them.  Me, I admire him & wish him success.

What concerns me about the removal of  street trees when they have been accused of causing damage to property is the following:

  1. We have just experienced a long & protracted drought & more than 3/4s of NSW is still regarded as drought-affected.  The long-range weather forecasters say we have entered into another phase of drought. The Inner West has been affected, as has the whole of the Sydney metropolitan region.  This drought has resulted in severe water restrictions & this has affected our soils to a great degree.  Trees are stressed & quite a few have died within our local LGA.  Many of the saplings Council plants do not survive the summer because they are not watered.  This must result in significant financial loss to Council.
  2. Even though we had quite a bit of rain over winter, we are still on water restrictions.  The park trees were able to capture much of the water when it rained, but our street trees have only a slight chance at getting a proper drink.  Most of the street trees in our LGA have been given very little ability to capture rain water or storm water run-off.  Most have a small opening left open amidst the cement or

    Newtown street tree

    bitumen. I have only seen 4-5 street trees planted in cement where I feel they have been given adequate soil space around them to give them a fighting chance to capture rainwater.  Two were in a back street of Newtown & I doubt Council did this, as the kerb had been removed.  Both these trees had a lot of soil around their trunk.  The other example is new plantings bordered by raised brickwork on Unwins Bridge Road Tempe.  I think it would be wonderful if all our street trees that are in cemented areas could be planted in this way.  I would also very much like to see Council give funding for the watering of young street trees as they do in other Councils.

  3. Much of the Inner West is built on clay soils.  Clay soils are quite volatile as they shrink when they do not get sufficient water & expand when there is too much water.  Both these extremes affect the foundations of buildings & footpaths.  The term Seasonal Fluctuations describes the normal variations of the moisture content of clay soils through the seasons.  When clay soil gets a lot of water it is called Field Capacity.  When the soil is dry due to evaporation, heat  & lack of rain during drought it is called Desiccated & suffering from Soil Moisture Deficit.  If a drought is lengthy & the soil does not return to Field Capacity after some rain & then enters into another dry period, it is called Persistent or Permanent Moisture Deficit.  This is likely to have already occurred in the Inner West or will do during the next period of drought in which we are now entering.
  4. Soil movements cause what is termed Subsistence & Heave.  With Subsistence, the soil moves downwards.  With Heave, there is an upwards or lateral move of building foundations or footpaths.  While the clay soils go through Seasonal Fluctuations foundations of buildings don’t move much, though that depends on how much clay soil is directly under the foundations.  When the clay soil suffers from Persistent Moisture Deficit, foundations of buildings move & walls start to show cracks, paint peels & doors & windows are suddenly off balance.  Just last week our front door over night became hard to open & stiff on its swing.  It is recommended that you don’t fill in the cracks or shave wood off door or window surrounds when the ground is dry, but wait until the soils have returned to normal moisture content before doing repairs.  Most times the doors & windows will realign & the cracks will come closer together though paint work will need repairing.  If you do fill cracks while the soil is dry, the space will not be available for the building to move back into place & new cracks will appear, generally on the other side of the building.
  5. The experts suggest occasional watering of the exterior of the house as this will help keep the clay soil moist so that your foundations don’t move during a drought.  In my case, I have been keeping the water up to the back garden, but to save water, I have left the front garden manage as best it can.  Here is the reason why our front door has moved. Also, it is our hallway & the front room that are suffering the cracks & peeling paint.
  6. My research has shown that trees can increase the seasonal movements of clay soil, however, engineers also stress there are too many factors to consider before one blames the presence of a tree for causing the damage.  One of the problems is, if a mature tree is removed, this has a major impact on clay soil moisture & the property can actually sustain more damage as the soil fills with water & starts a process of Heave.  It is hard to stop Heave because there is no longer a tree to be taking up the excess water.  Because it is so difficult to categorically say that tree roots cause damage even if the roots do go towards & under the house, many engineers recommend using water to restore the water levels to clay soils rather than removing the tree.  I have read that a tree is not able to lift a house because of the weight of the house. A footpath is a different story.

Trees ... we need them

There are things we can do to minimize or prevent further cracking or movement of buildings which do not involve removing trees.  According to eminent scientists, we have entered a dangerous period of existence with CO2 levels actually threatening life on this planet.  All agree on the supreme value of trees.

Just today in Copenhagen, the Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations & Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research signed an agreement to work together in the field of emissions measuring and reporting by monitoring forests & calculating CO2 sequestration.  Essentially they are going to map & monitor the green canopy of forests of the world.  This clearly demonstrates the value of trees in dealing with climate change.  We should only be removing them after all options have been exhausted.

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