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Happy concrete

I have mentioned recently that Portland Oregon in the US has for a while been my number one favourite with all things environmental in an urban environment.  If it can be done & improves the livability of the environment, they do it.  If it extends the life of a street tree, they do it.  If it improves stormwater management, they do it.  They also have what appears to be large community interest & involvement with a thriving community of volunteers across many programs that better the urban environment.  Portland shows the rest of us what can be done.

The latest that I have discovered is depaving.  There is a push coming from the community to remove unnecessary concrete in urban environments for the following reasons –

  • It’s ugly & not seen as conducive to creating livable cities.
  • It’s bad for stormwater management. Hard surfaces increase stormwater, over-burden drains & carry large amounts of ground pollution to rivers, lakes & oceans.
  • Impervious surfaces prevent much of the rainwater seeping into & refilling the groundwater table.
  • Impervious surfaces increase the Heat Island Effect making our environment hotter than it needs to be resulting in increased power usage just to cool our buildings.
  • Concreted surfaces have destroyed habitat & made whole areas unsuitable for urban wildlife.
  • In some cases these kind of surfaces have disconnected people from the natural world. Some people see concrete as ‘clean’ & fallen leaves as ‘dirty.’ This creates a cycle where more & more trees in gardens & along streets are seen as pests & either removed or vandalized.  Once the overall canopy is lessened, the Heat Island Effect grows, power use also grows, but what doesn’t grow is urban wildlife who has fewer places of habitat & food supplies.

Thankfully street trees were planted last year in this vast area of new asphalt in Camperdown. The photo doesn't show it, but the pavement is at least 5 metres across with plenty of room for gardens

Paul Sheehan wrote the following for the Sydney Morning Herald in July 2009 –  “You, reader, live in a primitive city. In a hundred years from now, the society we are building will look back & marvel at how little we really understood about the world we have constructed for ourselves.

We are stewing in our own juices.

Last Wednesday, a night of driving rain, I attended a seminar where more than 100 professionals, a standing room-only crowd, had gathered to learn about practical, cheap, achievable ways of stopping Sydney’s pot from simmering. These were not wide-eyed utopians. In purely parochial terms, the heating of our biggest cities is even bigger than the global warming debate. Because the rise in temperature is mostly & demonstrably caused by outdated thinking.

The story starts on Observatory Hill, at the southern end of the Harbour Bridge, where weather records have been kept daily since 1860. What the observatory has recorded is a rise in the average temperature at the centre of Sydney from 20.5 degrees to 22 degrees. As Sydney grows, Sydney slowly heats.

At last Wednesday’s seminar we learnt why – 27% of the surface of the metropolitan area is covered by bitumen, the black tar which soaks & retains heat & thus changes the city’s climate.

Nearly all the rainwater run-off on this 27% of the city is lost to productive use, flowing into Sydney Harbour because it is designed that way. The city’s rooftops also gather heat. Roads & pavements maximise the waste of arable land. Tree-planting is stunted for legal reasons. Topsoil is “scalped” by roadworks. The increasing use of air-conditioners is creating more energy. More heat begets more heat.”

There is much more to this article, including the work Landscape Architect Micheal Mobbs & his neighbours are doing to green & cool the residential streets of Chippendale – http://www.smh.com.au/environment/climate-change/we-are-stewing-in-our-own-oven-20090726-dxew.html

I wrote about Micheal Mobbs & his green verges here – https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/10/24/verge-gardens-in-chippendale/

Great use of stormwater, but not very efficient

People & local Councils have paved whatever they could since the late 70s.  It was a movement of convenience as concrete is easier to drive on, easier to walk along & easier to clean with a hose.  The main beneficiaries were people with a disability who need flat surfaces to get around & parents with prams.

I believe we need to continue to provide safe & easy access for everyone & there is much need for improvement in this area. Just last month I watched a man in a wheelchair who was forced to travel along the road next to Petersham Town Hall with the cars because there were no wheelchair ramps on the high kerbs at all 4 corners of the cross road.  There must be many such areas like this that make wheelchair travel dangerous & difficult.

Leaving aside wheelchair & pram accessible footpaths & kerbs, many government authorities overseas think that concrete worship has gone too far &, because of the above negative effects, are rethinking their concreting practices of the past.

Most car parks do not need to have concrete or asphalt/bitumen. They can easily be compacted permeable surfaces allowing stormwater to travel into the ground to the water table rather than into 100-plus-year-old drains. Permeable surfaces actually need less maintenance than do impervious bitumen surfaces & therefore are cheaper in the long run.  Appropriate trees can be planted within the parking spaces improving the visual outlook & also helping with stormwater & pollution uptake.

Footpaths do not need to be wall to kerb, except in shopping strips where a greater use of the footpath space is required or where the space between building & kerb is unusually narrow.

This was a very popular landscaping idea in the 1990's. Cement pavers with pebbles or mondo grass in between allowed walking, but let the water drain away.

Marrickville Council is adept in building bio-swales & rain gardens. There is no reason why a small rain garden or two cannot be built within a car park if there is a reasonable flow of water from nearby buildings & from the lie of the land when it rains.

I suspect these ideas will be dismissed in most areas of Australia as ‘too greenie’ because of the convenience of paved surfaces. However, in a few years depaving will be the norm because of the worldwide push to restore groundwater, lessen the Heat Island Effect, restore habitat & make cities more livable.

Although many governments are stalling any real action on climate change, some overseas already depave, create green space & plant more trees in public spaces in cities because they know what is coming. It is like a slow culture change. Once we get used to these changes back to softer infrastructure, we will cope with the bigger changes of gravel lanes & fewer paved surfaces.

If we can create a balance where people who require flat surfaces for mobility can have this, but remove unnecessary hard surfaces & green up, we will have a much cooler, prettier, more environmentally friendly & wildlife habitable environment to live in.  It doesn’t take much to create a huge improvement on many levels.

Here is a 4-minute film where the Portland community removed 278.7 sq metres (3,000 sq feet) of asphalt to create a community space with a perennial food forest.  http://www.streetfilms.org/depaving-day/

Many hundreds of cars use this car park to busy shops in Croydon 7 days a week. Cars are sheltered from the sun under Ornamental Pear trees, there are garden spaces where the trees are, red gravel allows the water to pass into the ground. There are no tyre troughs or dips & it is easy to walk on. Your car is cool when you return from shopping & it is visually pretty making the shopping area look more inviting. (Ignore the imprisoned tree. It's far to late for it now)

 

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Sections of Dulwich Hill shopping strip are looking much better than they did a couple of years ago

I was sent a link to a truly wonderful website earlier this week.   The website is about greening the footpaths & public spaces in San Francisco which the group Plant*SF call ‘Paving to Planting.’ Volunteers plant the newly created pavement gardens in San Francisco & make barren concrete, hot, ugly areas look wonderful.

Apart from the hard work of removing the concrete & the physical effort of planting, the process of greening an area is really quite simple.  It just needs people, some funds, suitable locations, cooperation, organization & plants, lots of plants or Council could just do it as part of their usual management of the LGA.

Marrickville Council has started doing verge gardens somewhat like those being created in San Francisco & it is a huge improvement to the past practice of a hole cut into the cement for the odd street tree.   Quite a few streets in Marrickville have had much larger verge gardens prepared around or near existing street trees & native grasses & succulent ground cover planted along with heavy mulching.  These changes have occurred during footpath replacement & apart from looking much better, they allow better access to rainwater for street trees. They also cut down the actual amount of concrete, making footpaths easier on the eye.  I have posted about this here – https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/07/05/new-works-by-marrickville-council/

The ‘Paving to Planting’ projects done by Plant*SF take what Marrickville Council are doing a step further & is what I think Marrickville Council should be aiming for.

The volunteers of Plant*SF not only remove concrete for a garden bed on the verge, they also remove extraneous concrete beside buildings where they plant vines & espalier trees along walls of buildings so the green walls stop reflecting heat.  They leave a good size footpath & plant along both sides.  This is what I remember from my childhood before the reign of concrete became the norm.

They also add planter-boxes & the odd seat encouraging people to use the footpath as a space to congregate & communicate with their neighbours.  Mind you, their planter boxes show there is quite a difference in effect just with the choice of planter box design.

Council have created a number of new verge gardens along Ewart Street Dulwich Hill

The Heat Island Effect is something we ignore at our peril.  Most of the remedies are so easy, though they do require a change in the way we think things should look like. Making changes to our footpaths & cemented or paved areas is relatively cheap to do & have the potential to be quite pretty as well.

This can only be good for the community because it is known that green plants, flowers & trees make people feel good. It’s been proven that a view of trees relieves anxiety & depression, helps kids with hyperactivity, helps girls study, helps people heal quicker & reduces hospital stay for a start. Concrete only where it has utility, garden beds & plants will make Marrickville LGA a far nicer place to live.

If Marrickville Council do decide to do this, I would hope they start on the areas that have fewer trees & more concrete as I keep discovering areas in the LGA that are really in need of serious greening.

An example of the wrong type of green in Gerald Street Marrickville. This street is in serious need of help.

Our shopping strips, now under threat because of the Marrickville Metro expansion, could also be helped with beautification to encourage more people to shop there.

Paving along shopping strips is nice, but better would be regular spaced planter boxes brimming with plants, hanging pots from awnings, street corners or from poles like City of Sydney Council have done along Glebe Point Road. This would also make the shopping strips much nicer & would have to be cheaper than the $60,000 needed to replace the tiled footpath along a short space of shops.  The hanging pots & planter boxes in Glebe are still going strong more than 18 months after they were installed proving that stepping out of the box can have longevity making the initial outlay of money worthwhile.

This is a big topic & I will be writing about other issues.  Please have a look at the website of Plant*SF. It’s a great article & they have a number of ‘before & after’ photos that illustrate what I am talking about. http://www.plantsf.org/FeaturedProjects.html

winter trees along the Cooks River

Conservation group Bat Advocacy with funding from Humane Society International is taking Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens Trust to the Federal Court to contest Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett’s decision to allow the bats to be dispersed using noise. I had not realized that permission was given for the noise dispersion to occur for the next 20 years.

The Royal Botanic Gardens Trust recently announced that the relocation, expected to start in July, has been postponed until next year, because of the inability to tag enough flying foxes. Dr Tim Entwisle, the executive director of the Botanic Gardens Trust, said many of the bats were too underweight to tag. Bats are also starving all over Australia & leaving QLD & flying as far as Adelaide & Tasmania in the search for food. http://sydney-central.whereilive.com.au/news/story/group-to-challenge-bat-relocation-in-court/

Up to 7,000 grey-headed flying foxes, a threatened species in NSW, have moved in to Parramatta Park along the banks of Parramatta River. They have come to this location due to severe food shortages in their usual habitat.  I hope Parramatta Council don’t decide to use dispersion or chop the trees down.  http://parramatta-advertiser.whereilive.com.au/news/story/bats-put-residents-in-a-flap-over-fruit/

Adjunct Professor at Charles Sturt & Sydney universities, Professor David Gloldney has been employed by Orange City Council to look at ways of preventing flying foxes returning to central western NSW. He says so far he has been looking at the legal implications of the recent arrival of the grey-headed flying foxes. “To look at the various acts under the National Parks and Wildlife and DECCW [the Department of Environment, Climate Change & Water] & the Federal Government’s Endangered Species Act.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/07/29/2967437.htm

Yet more critically endangered Cumberland Plain & endangered shale transition forest woodland is at risk of development in Kellyville. Hills Shire Council wants to clear 10 hectares of its own woodland at Withers Rd Kellyville despite massive community opposition. They have applied for a State Government BioBanking Agreement that would allow it  the Council to clear this land in return for protecting land somewhere else.  The community met a fortnight ago as part of Council’s community consultation. http://hills-shire-times.whereilive.com.au/news/story/fight-to-save-woodland-at-kellyville/

Wyong Council has directed that all gardens around caravans & mobile homes be removed in all caravan parks in Budgewoi, Canton Beach, Norah Head & Toowoon Bay. Another win for the fans of concrete.  http://express-advocate-wyong.whereilive.com.au/news/story/anger-over-council-order-to-turn-beautified-caravan-sites-ugly/

Community tree preservation groups Save Our Figs Wauchope & Save Our Figs Group have a big fight on their hands with Port Macquarie-Hastings Council who intend to remove 13 Fig trees in the town centre “to prevent future damage to private property & public infrastructure.” The roots of the Fig trees are presenting a trip hazard & 3 residents have complained of damage to their property they say was caused by the trees.

These 2 massive Figs next to Marrickville Youth Resources Centre enhance the building & the area.

Thing is, the Council have just completed major works on the streets with the trees described as the centerpiece.  Importantly, 3 years ago the community fought to retain these trees & won.

Now the threat of litigation has reared its head & if history is anything to go by, a very small number of people are going to get their way & have the trees removed.  Council can’t take the risk that people will start litigation in the future.

A couple of days ago I posted that Goondiwindi Regional Council chopped down healthy Fig trees despite community opposition.  It’s the same story.  Now that the trees are gone, the Council has made the decision to spend $96,000 on floating footpaths.  They are doing this now because they, “understand how important these trees are to residents.”

Using floating footpaths means the trees can grow normally. There is no need to cut off or shave down roots, nor cover them in bitumen.  Nor will they need to chop the trees down because of a trip hazard or damage to footpaths. Seems like sensible spending to me.  Given that any large healthy tree can be worth around $100,000, spending money to keep them is a good economic decision.

This Fig is literally holding the building up. There is no visible damage to the exterior of the building

The large street trees in the centre of both these towns are what bring beauty & a sense of place. The towns use their street trees as a tourist draw card.  The Fig trees also provide a tangible history & are held dear by most of the community.

Take the trees away & you have substantially changed a place. Not only have you removed things that are worth a great deal of money & with 13 Figs we are talking in excess of a million dollars, but their loss will have an impact on spending in the shops. Researchers have concluded 11% more money is spent in shopping areas where there are big healthy shady trees.  To their credit Port Macquarie-Hastings Council plans to replace the Figs with 11 advanced Brush Box trees.

My question is why don’t Councils or organizations take pre-emptive action on their big trees when the trees are in areas that could damage property or cause trip hazards?  Ultimately it is worth the financial outlay when one considers how much these trees are worth in a monetary sense. Then there are all the other factors to take into consideration, history, place, future, community cohesion (fights like these in small towns could escalate into severe divisions), trust in the Council/organisation & stating the obvious, climate change.

These roots have infiltrated a parking area. I found it interesting is to see that the roots didn't travel far from the tree despite its size. It has been like this for years & the tree is still healthy even though cars park on the roots, proving it is unnecessary to remove a tree when this happens. It might look unsightly, but the tree itself is gorgeous.

Root barriers can be put in place.  Sewerage & water pipes can be replaced with pipes that can’t be invaded by tree roots or re-routed & be done with the problem forever. In Canada, they use a system that allows pipes to be replaced without digging, disturbing or damaging tree roots. They use a water flushing vacuum system to remove the soil from around the roots, pipes or wires, then install the new pipes & put the soil back in.

You don’t even need to put in concrete foundations near a tree when you are building anymore.  Again in Canada, they insert giant steel screw piles into the ground that are just as stable as concrete foundations & require no digging.

There is also a high-density plastic grid system that I have seen used in Sydney.  Once laid over the ground the grid disperses the weight of vehicles over a larger area. The grid also prevents soil compaction, which can damage roots.  Best of all, the grid allows rainwater to permeate the soil, reducing the need for irrigation & improves storm-water management. Ground cover or other plants can be grown in the spaces within the grid.

The grid also prevents soil erosion. I can see these grids used to support riverbanks & to create cement-free car parks. They could also be used to channel water into the ground near a street tree rather than be wasted by pouring down drains.  There is no reason why a section of the gutter cannot be a grid.

There is also porous concrete used across City of Sydney & North Sydney Councils.  Porous concrete provides a seamless surface allowing people to walk across it, but still captures any rainwater that falls on it, watering the tree.

There are quite a number of beautiful Figs in Marrickville LGA & many of them are planted near buildings. Unfortunately many of these trees live in less than perfect conditions with cement & bitumen almost to the base of their trunk. Many have cars & trucks parked right next to them. As we have seen, it is only a matter of time before branches get gouged or broken off by trucks.

Canary Island Palms line Graham Avenue Marrickville. I hope these trees are heritage protected.

The only reason why money isn’t spent on protecting trees before problems start is that trees are not held in high importance or the Council is so strapped for money that understandably, urban forest issues get moved down the list of priorities.

Many Councils do hold their trees in high esteem & look after them. They use floating footpaths & permeable rubber surfaces or permeable ‘solid’ surfaces. They put garden beds around trees to prevent or limit the amount of vehicles that can park under them. They put ‘no parking’ signs for vehicles over a certain size & weight & they do other things like prune dead branches & normal die back. They probably feed them occasionally as well.

I would do all of the above & if property damage occurred with people saying get rid of the tree/s, I would think it is the community’s & Council’s best interest to fix the damage (within reason, once proof & access has been given to Council) & put things in place to ensure the problem won’t repeat itself.  Too many people & future generations miss out for cracks to walls & pipes, both which are easily fixed without costing as high as the value of losing a tree.

Trees are the only things Councils own that increase in value each year.

I have written about clay soils & how they affect buildings at – https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/clay-soil/

You can read both stories at the following links –http://www.portnews.com.au/news/local/news/general/lastditch-figs-effort/1874281.aspx

http://www.goondiwindiargus.com.au/news/local/news/general/tree-choppers-are-really-tree-huggers/1872430.aspx

The following is my take on the meeting.  All mistakes are mine.  There are likely to be mistakes because the sound system has been deteriorating for weeks & is now on its last legs.  The microphones alternate between soft/loud & it is often difficult to hear the Councillors over the air conditioning system & a strange bubbling sound that makes one feel they are in a fish tank.  Nevertheless, the proceedings were blessed with plenty of incisive debate.

1. Sydney Fringe Festival – The Director of the Festival addressed Council asking for $40,000 ‘seed funding’ & free use of Petersham Town Hall & Enmore Park saying that if Council didn’t provide financial assistance, the festival would not go ahead.  He expected the festival to generate $54,000,000 in local business.  Clr Macri was concerned about the money donated to the events sector because of Council’s poor financial situation.  Clr Peters asked Council to organise green transport options to bring the expected 80,000 people to Newtown & Enmore.  Carried.

2. Street by Street – Residents of Wilga Avenue Dulwich Hill have created verge gardens along the street.  They requested $1,000 to ‘further enhance their sustainability efforts.’  Carried.

3. Support for the Peloponnesian Confederation – A representative asked that fees be waived for use of Henson Park for the October Festival.  Discussion centred as to whether Henson Park was an appropriate venue, with Tempe Reserve offered as an alternative.  The Confederation will need to put in a DA.  Carried.

Petersham Oval - Don Bradman played here

4. Maintenance & use of turf wickets – A speaker representing Inner West Cricket Group (Randwick Petersham Cricket Club, Crickets Club of NSW & South Sydney Cricket Club) wanted the retention of 3 cricket turfs at Petersham Park, Camperdown & Marrickville Parks for their use.  Council will continue to maintain turf at Marrickville & Camperdown Parks while the cricket clubs will cover the costs of maintaining the turf at Petersham Oval.  The cricket clubs will also sub-lease the grounds to other cricket clubs throughout the summer season 2010/11.  Council will sell 1 of its turf rollers valued at $5,000.

Clr Marci said Council spends millions on maintaining grounds so Council shouldn’t have to fiddle with the budget to find $5,000.  Clr Wright disagreed saying this was a small price to pay for the overall benefits.  Clr Peters was concerned that they were making a decision to outsource 3 of the LGA’s major ovals without having previously discussed this.  Said the cricket group had no legal status & for transparency, there should be a process regarding insurance, liability & legalities & while the cricket club can sub-let ovals to other groups, their process has no transparency.  She wanted the issue deferred until these issues are dealt with.  Clr Phillips was also concerned that the community loses its ovals to sporting groups & wanted transparency in the clubs’ charges.  The request was carried with Clr Peters & Kontellis against.

5. Marrickville Rotary ClubRequest for financial support– They asked for $1,350 to pay for a driver & bus hired to take 25 refugee children to Jambaroo Amusement Park in April 2010.  Carried.

6. Sister Cities (SC) leave for the General Manager (GM) Marrickville Council for overseas trip – long debate about the value of the SC with Clr Thanos saying he will not support it in future meetings because the benefit to the community

Planter boxes along Brighton Street Petersham. It would be good if planter boxes were a common thing around Marrickville LGA

is nil and the cost high.  He also said Marrickville Council cannot reciprocate on the levels of money that other cities had spent when our officials & would rather see the money spent on Child Care Centres.  Said nothing ever gets done with the SC except for a few photos.

Clr Kontellis disagreed, saying Council has a Strategic Plan as well as a process of review, but despite these she would not support special leave for the GM.  Clr Phillips also did not support special leave saying he could not see the value in SC & would rather see Council spend money that would go on the GM’s salary while he was away go towards Council’s Green House Gas Reduction Targets.

Clr Wright supported the special leave, as did Clr Byrne, but only for the visit to Bethlehem because it is a new SC.  Clr O’Sullivan spoke about the “connections kept & forged within our community” & “that credibility with faith organisations was an assertion of our values as a community.”  Clr Tsardoulias said the program was about exchanging knowledge, ideas & resources.

Clr Peters asked that the GM visit Christmas Island to see what we can do about the refugees there, as some will live in Marrickville LGA.  Clr Hanna said that on previous tours, the GM phoned Council daily & worked on his computer at night, thus his work for Marrickville Council didn’t stop. As examples of the benefit of the programme he said Cyprus liked the Magic Yellow Bus & was going to do one of their own. He said perhaps the trip would give the GM ideas on how to reduce the rates.

Clr Macri supported the special leave.  He agreed we haven’t brought anything much back, but the SCs are poor & benefit from knowledge from us.  Mayor Iskandar who is a strong supporter of SC spoke about the benefits in depth saying the GM will educate people about our systems & advanced programmes.  Carried with Clrs Phillips, Peters, Kontellis & Olive against.

7. Draft Management Plan & Budget 2010-2014 – Clr Phillips reminded that Council put up an amendment regarding climate change in 1997 to lower our emissions by 2010, but we are not going to meet our target.  He said

Ashfield Council buries slotted ag-pipe at the time they plant trees. The pipes help to get air & water down to the soil surrounding the rootball of the tree, especially in cases where the tree is completely surrounded by paving. This is a great thing.

Marrickville LGA’s biggest user of energy is street lighting & Council should move to powering by green power instead of coal power.  Recent price costing was reasonable & he wanted this to be included in the budget saying “it was the moral issue of our time.”

Clr Peters questioned whether graffiti & rubbish removal were major projects. The GM said these are significant issues for the community.  Clr Peters noted  that tree planting & landscaping were not included as key issues. Clr Hanna said residents care about graffiti & clean streets & they do not speak about tree planting.  Clr Thanos said he would like to see sidewalks be other than concrete & wanted to see something done about our energy consumption.  Said again we spend too much money on SC & $500,000 per year on ‘Events’ was “ludicrous.”  He supported the plan.

Clr Kontellis wanted affordable housing included.  Clr Olive did not agree that NFP local organisations should pay for hall hire, saying they should continue to get it for free.  Passed to community consultation before coming back to Council.

8. Draft Core Asset Management Plan – Clr Phillips noted there were limitations to what Council could do because of rate pegging & said he thought the community would support an increase in rates.  Clr Wright said the report provided a framework to allow us to make assessments & go to the community with facts & options.  Carried.

9. 10 Big Ideas to Grow NSW – The NSW Business Council Discussion Paper proposed the formation of 10 ‘Super Councils’ in Sydney to replace the current

spectacular tree at the start of the Newcastle expressway

41 councils.  Clr Olive thought it was a “preposterous idea.”  Clr Thanos said City of Sydney Council has a surplus of half a billion dollars & can’t get that below $200,000,000/year.  Said we should be leaders & not wait until the state government forces amalgamation upon us.  Saying if it benefits our residents, we should say this to the State Government.  The vote was to oppose the idea.

10. 2010 Year of Women in Local Government – Clrs O’Sullivan & Byrne nominated to attend.  The program allocates $17,000 to collect stories from women working in child care, Aboriginal, Torres Strait Islander or multicultural communities working in positions where they don’t usually have a voice, opportunity to move ahead or have formal qualifications recognised or obtain formal qualifications.

11. Audit Committee Charter – The Mayor & Deputy Mayor are on it, with the third member as chair and not a councillor.  Clr Phillips put up a motion  saying he was concerned  that as the holders of these offices change, may have both representatives coming from the same party & he wanted the committee to have one more member. Mayor Iskandar said it could be discussed if it happens. Clr Wright said this committee is “an oversighting committee at the highest level & above politics.”  The committee does not have decision-making powers. Motion lost with the Mayor using casting vote.

12. National assembly of Local Government – this is a conference in Canberra in June 2010.  Marrickville Council will attend.  Carried.

13. Financial Assistance for Marrickville Greek Orthodox Church – Clr Phillips put up a motion to reverse the previous decision to give $5,000 to quieten the church’s bells.  Said it was totally inappropriate to financially support a DA & sets a bad precedent & other churches or community groups could feel entitled to $5,000 lots as well.  Clr Thanos, who set the first motion to grant the money, said it was a good will gesture.  Its significance is in that it is for a permanent fixture & not a once-off event.  Clr Olive said that he was bothered because it was a permanent structure & thought it was a bad decision heritage-wise.  Clr Peters said she didn’t think we should be funding a DA. Clrs Peters & Macri were out of the room when the vote took place.  Recision motion unsuccessful. See – https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/02/18/report-from-the-gallery-–-16th-february-2010/

14. Saving Marrickville from Financial Disaster – See Clr-Thanos-Notice-of-motion-Saving-MC-financial-disaster-2010 Clr Hanna said, if in 2011 there is

a friend's garden

a special rate for the environment, he would not support it & will vote for amalgamation to a Super Council.  Clr Kontellis asked that staff could prepare a study brief that determines the cost/benefit of amalgamation.  Clr Wright opposed the motion saying it “was a wild goose chase that won’t happen unless the state government make us.”  Clr O’Sullivan agreed & mentioned that Glebe Books is coming to Dulwich Hill (yay!) because City of Sydney’s improvements works to Glebe Point Road negatively impacted on businesses. Clr Phillips said amalgamation was a way out from having to vote for a special rate variation (rate increase) as Council’s costs are far greater than the rates coming in.  Clr Thanos spoke about the history of City of Sydney Council amalgamating with South Sydney Council saying it was “a secret agenda of the government for years & he wanted to know the facts & be ready for it.”  Clr Hanna, Byrne, Olive, Kontellis against with Mayor Iskandar using his casting vote.  Motion defeated.

And here ends Report from the Gallery for this week.

New grass planting at Cooks River Marrickville

Cooks River at dusk - the black marks in the sky are the bats leaving their home in Wolli Creek - I am told it is a spectacular sight to see them leave from the vantage point of just outside the park

Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens Trust have been concerned about a large colony of bats who have made their home in the Gardens for years.  The bats are grey-headed flying foxes, which are listed as a threatened species in Australia.  The Trust say the bats are destroying trees in ‘Palm Grove’ & it’s true, they are denuding the trees.

Federal MP Peter Garrett is about to decide whether to allow the Trust to get rid of the bats (they say humanely) by causing a noise, which the bats are unable to tolerate, hoping they will move & find another home.  There are many problems with this.

  • They intend to do this in the breeding season when many of the mothers are pregnant.  The dispersal techniques of noise, harassment & sleep deprivation result in many miscarriages.
  • The bats become disorientated & exhausted (as we all would) during this intervention.  As a result there are many injuries.
  • It’s cruel & at the risk of sounding like a zealot, all about man’s domination over animals.  The gardens are 75 acres in size.  Yes, they are destroying a certain amount of trees on the south side of the gardens, but there are a lot of other trees & the grove can be replaced.
  • The Trust says the bats will find another home, but on the small chance they do, this itself will likely result in problems.  They may try to join other colonies, which will make other areas overburdened with bats.
  • They may stay in the gardens moving to other trees they have so far left alone.
  • They are disliked in residential areas for good reasons.  If they relocate to these areas, it is likely residents will campaign to get rid of them or take the matter into their own hands.  It’s moving a ‘problem’ to another area & another community.

I was at the NSW Art Gallery at dusk last week. It is a truly beautiful & special sight to watch the bats quietly fly over the Domain as they go off to search for food during the night.  It is also a very good thing for tourism.  Many countries do not have such nature in the CBD.  The tourists & I stood for a long time watching them & we all loved the sight.  The Trust & the City of Sydney should be promoting the bats as a tourism highlight.

I trust WIRES &, when they say there will be a problem with the dispersal intervention, I believe it.  There are a lot of other organisations who joined with WIRES opposing the bat dispersion. If there wasn’t a significant & valid reason, I do not think these organisations would take on the Royal Botanic Gardens Trust.

I found this birds nest in Dulwich Hill last week - they used all sorts of material to make it - they even have 3 little doonas for 3 little eggs

Personally I think we humans are constantly taking away habitat from wildlife.  We control ‘our’ environment at the cost of other living beings & many times we do this as our ‘given right.’

The bats are usually nomadic, seeking warm places.  Experts believe the Heat Island Effect caused by our love & prolific use of cement & paved surfaces has improved conditions for the bats in Sydney so they have stayed.  We have also had a long & protracted drought so why would the bats move on as they usually do when they know there is limited food & water outside the city?  They stay where there is food & water & once the drought is well & truly over, some of them may return to their nomadic lifestyle.  We just need to be patient.

I think the bats should be allowed to stay.  Although there are negatives, there are just as many positives, not the least these bats being a threatened species.  It is not as simple as the Trust makes out.  Trees benefit humans in many ways, but they are the homes for birds & animals.  Sometimes we have to give over areas & tree assets to them even if only out of fairness & compassion.

You can read a media release from the Humane Society, WIRES, Bat Advocacy & WWF written yesterday –  Eviction_of_Flying_Foxes

If you want to join the voices supporting the bats’ right to remain in the Royal Botanic Gardens, you can write to Peter Garrett MP via his online contact page – http://www.aph.gov.au/house/members/memfeedback.asp?id=HV4 or via his e-mail – mailto:Peter.Garrett.MP@aph.gov.au

You can read about them on the Royal Botanic Gardens Trust web-site – http://www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/welcome_to_bgt/royal_botanic_gardens/garden_features/wildlife/flying-foxes Today’s news about the bats on ABC News – http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/03/24/2854578.htm?section=justin

Trees are featuring in the news a lot at the moment, which is good to see.  The following is what I found most interesting.

1.  In Camden LGA vandals have been ripping out & chopping down street trees after dark. http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/outrage-growing-over-tree-vandalism-in-camden/

2.  Similar vandalism in Northbridge with community fruit trees that were part of Willoughby Council’s Sustainability Street program were stolen last month. http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/residents-sour-at-theft/

3.  In Western Australia the government is planning to log a Dardanup forest containing 500 year old Jarrah trees, which they can’t guarantee will be spared. The Preston Environment Group are fighting to save this forest.  These trees will make the princely sum of between $160,000 & $240,000.  Is nothing sacred anymore? http://au.news.yahoo.com/thewest/a/-/breaking/6894699/plan-to-log-500-year-old-trees/

4.  Residents in Dee Why are lobbying Warringah Council who are set to vote on a DA that will remove a healthy 45 year old Angophora just to fit 3 more units into a development.  A resident asked, “Why is it that developers have so much power over Warringah Council, yet local residents who have lived in the area for over 15 years & wildlife that use the tree as a habitat have been left helpless?” Sounds familiar? http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/old-tree-to-make-room-for-development-in-dy/

5.  The traditional owners of the Murray-Riverina Red Gum forest called for the forest to be managed by the traditional owners. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/03/01/2833148.htm

Later, federal minister Peter Garrett supported Premier Kristina Kenneally by agreeing to allow some logging to occur for the next 5 years despite prolonged activism to save these very special & unique forests.   It’s a hard decision to understand or support. http://au.news.yahoo.com/a/-/local/6881475/red-gum-park-decision-miserable/

6.  Residents are fighting Sunshine Coast Regional Council who have removed 2 Hills Figs & want to remove another 20 trees in Caloundra, South East QLD. A residents said, “Without the trees, Bulcock St is going to be another hot, characterless urban strip….” They will certainly bake.

Interesting, as my experience of this area of QLD is that there were large trees everywhere, including along shopping strips.  There were also massive garden beds & a green outlook that the locals were very proud of.  The area looked totally unlike Sydney. Perhaps the fact that much of the planting & maintenance was done by people serving Community Service Orders helped get such a green outlook.  Maybe, but there is also a culture which is pro-nature in QLD. The comments are overwhelming in support of retaining the trees. http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/residents-angry-over-plans-to-remove-bulcock-st-trees/story-e6freoof-1225821748442 and today – http://www.sunshinecoastdaily.com.au/story/2010/03/06/800-join-fight-to-save-trees/

7.  A November 2009 article from The Canberra Times because the trees in the ACT are mostly mature & the Council want to remove & replace them all.  Pertinent to Marrickville Council’s recent proposal to remove 59% of the public trees across the LGA.  A great many of the street & park trees in Canberra are Eucalypt’s & the city & suburbs are full of native birds because of this.   This article questions chopping a tree down if a branch falls & the issue of litigation.  Again, the comments are very interesting. http://www.canberratimes.com.au/news/local/news/general/greens-call-for-trees-probe/1673875.aspx

8.  In overseas news, the United Nation’s Billion Tree Campaign has reached 10 billion trees.  The BTC was launched in 2006.  170 countries participate & the latest to join were China late 2009 & India last February.  India has planted 6.1 billion trees since 2006 & 2.6 billion of these trees have been added to the UN’s program.

The UN says worldwide, 14 billion trees need to be planted annually to combat global warming.  This initiative is seriously tackling the serious problem of global deforestation.   Australia is a participant with the Boy Scouts planting trees.   I was unable to find out any other information about Australia’s input other than this reference.  http://www.prokerala.com/news/articles/a117813.html

So many of our street trees across Marrickville LGA try to survive in such dreadful conditions when it could have easily been fixed

9.  Not only is India making the news for their massive & commendable tree planting achievements (they don’t argue about the reality of climate change because they are living it), they have also an amazing High Court.  Why?  Because Delhi’s High Court ordered all concrete around street trees to be finished being removed within 3 months starting last week. 9,395 trees will have the concrete removed from around their trunk.  I wish the Delhi High Court had jurisdiction here. http://www.indianexpress.com/news/Remove-concrete-near-trees-in-3-months–HC/586569/

10.  New York City’s Million Trees program has planted over 300,000 trees since it began in 2007 focusing on all the empty street tree sites as well as areas of land which are bare. They call it “revolutionizing urban street tree programs.”  Over 1,000 volunteers showed up to plant 20,000 trees on one day. I love this program.  There are Million Tree programs in other cities across America & they are all successful.  Not only do they result in a significant increase in the green canopy, programs like these educate people about the benefits of trees & by offering regular days where the community can be actively involved, create pride & ownership in the community. http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2010/02/24/2010-02-24_big_town_going_green_trees_bring_green_benefits_to_the_city.html#ixzz0h3k2oVDW

11.  In Wellesley, Massachusetts USA more than 90 trees that were almost 100 years old & were 60-70 foot tall were chopped down by accident. How does this happen?  Were the lumberjacks talking & just numbed out for a moment? http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/02/18/scores_of_trees_felled_in_error_on_wellesley_park_land/

12.  In a generous green act, Chris Clark from Middle Tennessee USA is donating 100,000 trees in memory of his father who died 6 years ago.  This is a fantastic gift to the community & further confirms my belief that people like to plant trees in memory of a loved one.  http://www.wkrn.com/global/story.asp?s=12087906

13.  2,500 shade street trees are to be planted in Worchester USA to replace the same amount of street trees which were recently lost to the Asian Long-Horned Beetle.  Where trees will be affected by overhead powerlines, they are planting ornamental trees & larger shade trees everywhere else.  The comments after the article are quite interesting. http://www.telegram.com/article/20100302/NEWS/3020415/1116

14.   In Lichfield Connecticut USA, it is illegal to tie a yellow ribbon around an old Oak tree or any tree for that matter even if it is to honor troops in Iraq & Afghanistan.  I anticipate there will be peaceful civil disobedience about this.  http://www.wfsb.com/news/22703733/detail.html

young Oak street tree

15.  Lastly, a Welsh Oak tree died of the cold aged 1,200 years. (not a typo)  It had a girth of 10.36 metres.  It was called The Great Oak at the Gates of the Dead. From the article, According to legend, in 1165, King Henry II of England, preparing to meet Owain Gwynedd in the Battle of Crogen, commanded his men to clear Ceiriog Woods, but ordered the Great Oak to be spared. I bet there are many people who are very upset about the loss of this tree.  It reached an astounding age & if it weren’t for the extreme weather this last winter, it may have lived for much longer.  http://greenanswers.com/news/127110/winter-overcomes-1200-year-old-oak

I was invited by Marrickville Greens to go to watch the magnificent Lemon Scented Gum street tree in Cambridge Street Stanmore being chopped down by Marrickville Council.  For various reasons I declined, but I know I did not want this image imprinted on my memory.  I have come to love this tree & I am distressed about its loss.  To me, it was no ordinary street tree.

Marrickville LGA has some gorgeous trees, mostly in parks, though there are also good ones that are street trees.  However, we have thousands of butchered, stumpy & not good-looking street trees all over the LGA & it is noticeable if you look.

I think many of us have become desensitised to the ugliness of our street trees because their disintegration happens over time & we just get used to seeing them in this poor condition.  Leave the LGA & you immediately notice the differences.

This magnificent street tree is gone

The Lemon Scented Gum in Cambridge Street Stanmore was one of the better-looking street trees in the whole LGA & this is not an exaggeration.  Do I think this because I like Gums?  Yes & no.  I do like Gum trees, but I also like most other trees.  I am an all-round tree lover though I admit to preferring tall stature trees & especially trees which flower & provide food for insects, birds & animals.

I think it is necessary in an urban environment to think about wildlife when choosing trees to plant.  I also think we have a duty to provide food for these creatures who are losing more & more food resources every year.  If you don’t believe me, put out a birdbath in a safe place in your garden & watch how long it takes for birds to arrive.  They are short of water as well.  When we built a fishpond, the rare frogs of the area arrived within 2 days & there wasn’t other ponds around.  Where did they come from, we wondered.  If you plant flowering trees & shrubs that feed birds, they will come in droves & the air will be filled with birdcalls.

So for a tree of this magnitude to be cut down seems ridiculous to me.  The tree provided refuge for both wildlife & humans because it was a flowering native tree & its canopy significantly cooled the air in the street.  This is not a feeling I am used to when I walk the streets of my local area.  Mostly I cannot walk during the day because the streets are so hot with the heat reflected by the road & concrete.  I believe that as temperatures rise due to global warming, the heat island effect is going to get worse & we are going to bake.  City of Sydney Council recognises this & intends to plant 10,000 more trees in the CBD this year to counteract the heat.

I am aware the residents who wanted the tree removed said it was causing cracking to their house & Council felt hamstrung because of the potential of litigation.  However, because we do not have a Significant Tree Register, our public trees are vulnerable.  Cracking to houses can always be repaired & it is something we should expect when we live in 100 year old houses, which are built on clay soils & with poor quality mortar.  In fact, even renovated houses in the Inner West need regular work as they are always deteriorating.  It comes with the territory. That’s why many people prefer to live in modern units or project homes that are built on cement slabs.  As a norm, tree roots are not strong enough to lift a concrete slab.

Ordinary street in Chatswood with multiple large street trees- a very different outlook to our LGA

When we respect trees & fully appreciate their positive impact on our lives &  vital role in our civilization’s existence, if atmospheric levels of CO2 continue to rise as expected, then we will do everything we can to keep our mature trees that sequester large amounts of CO2.

The removal of this tree affects the whole community, not just the residents of Cambridge Street.  First is it one tree, then another tree & so on.  Before we know it, the whole streetscape is changed & not for the better.  It took 40 years for that tree to grow a 2.5 metre girth & it had at least another 60 years of life left in it.  Eucalypts often live 100 years or more.  All it took was 4 ½ hours for it to be gone.

The Marrickville Greens tried to get a stay of execution to try other methods to repair the cracking & fix the problem at ground level. The Labor & Independent Councillors had to power to grant this so that amelioration could be tried to give the tree a chance to be saved.  I would have conceded defeat if all avenues had been tried & agreed the tree needed be removed, but these avenues weren’t given a chance.   I am sure the Greens feel the same as I do.  This tree was also worth a lot of money to the community & especially to Cambridge Street.  Better to sell a house before a tree is cut down than after.

Our tree assets get voted out because of concrete, their particular species, because they are old, because, because, because.  I have not yet seen tree saving strategies voted in during council meetings, only the opposite.  Trees are seen as a nuisance & a liability.  The reality is: not having trees is a liability.

I will work with Labor & the Independents as well as the Greens if they are pro-trees & the greening of Marrickville LGA.  However, since I have started, I have noticed that support for my vision comes from the Greens & not from Labor or the Independents.  To be fair, Labor did reverse their decision over the Mackey Park Figs, but not until after a community protest of 300 people & an even larger petition.

Once again, regarding the Cambridge Street tree, the Greens voted to keep the tree.  Once again, the vote to remove the tree comes from the other counsellors.  Is it a pattern? Saving Our Trees hasn’t been alive long enough to be able to answer this question.

Frankly I was shocked when I read on the Greens website that:  Independent Councillor Dimitrios Thanos recently emailed Councillors & staff saying: “I’ll grab my chainsaw & meet the staff down there on the appointed day.” I just know he & I are not on the same page when it comes to trees.

Getting back to my intro, I didn’t want to go & watch the ‘Elle McPherson of trees’ be chopped down, but the Marrickville Greens did witness this.  You can read their posts about this tree –http://marrickvillegreens.wordpress.com/2010/01/14/risk-averse-council-condemns-stanmore’s-biggest-eucalypt-to-the-chainsaw/ & you can also view 2 photos taken today by the Greens at – http://yfrog.com/37y6 & http://yfrog.com/1ehcezj &

http://marrickvillegreens.wordpress.com/2010/01/20/stanmores-largest-gum-tree-turned-into-woodchip/

I was driving from Sydenham the other day & saw a stretch of new tree plantings along a particularly barren section of Marrickville Road just where the road curves and before the left hand turn into Fraser Park.  Many holes have been cut into the concrete footpath & young trees have been planted.

So today, during a break in the rain, we went there to take some photos to add to this post. We were walking along discussing the new trees & the wonderful planting done above our heads along the goods train line when a car mounted the footpath crashing into one of the newly planted trees right in front of us.  The car, which was travelling about 50km/hr, only stopped because the stakes that were bracing the sapling was sufficiently strong enough to act as a bollard.  If the car had been going any faster or had hit the footpath at a different angle, we would have been knocked down or pinned between the car & the brick wall of the goods line.

In a moment, a post about new tree planting became a post about how tree planting saved us from serious injury & perhaps death.

Firewheel saplings along Marrickville Road

Firewheel saplings along Marrickville Road

This event clearly demonstrated that street trees do actually keep pedestrians safer by forming a barrier between the pedestrians & passing vehicles. Research has also shown that drivers slow down if there is a significant canopy overhead because they perceive the road as smaller.  Less speed means less accidents & less damage if there are accidents.

I think most people would agree that street trees are more beautiful than bollards or steel barriers.  If the right species of tree are planted, street trees provide food & homes for birds & small native animals.  Their shade also prolongs the life of road surfaces & footpaths though I acknowledge that the roots of trees, especially older trees, can lift concrete footpaths.  This is easily dealt with by not concreting so close to the tree & by replacing concrete with permeable footpath material near older trees.  Councils on Sydney’s North take this option routinely, rather than remove their large trees.

Back to Marrickville Road.  The sapling itself is miraculously unbroken.  It just bent over with the stakes as the car hit.  We did the best we could to reposition both the sapling & the stakes, but the stakes could do with being hammered in & made strong again.  The car was able to drive away & didn’t sustain too much damage, though I think driver & passenger were quite shocked.  I think we all left thinking the whole incident could have been far worse.

Firewheel saplings

Close up of Firewheel saplings

Marrickville Council has planted 11 trees in this section.  I think they are Firewheel trees.  A little further along they have planted another 2 trees & it appears they intend to plant more trees as the space is certainly available.  Cutting out holes in concrete is a big job so I am not surprised they have not completed the job.  This area will look lovely when the trees have grown.  It is an ugly area of Marrickville so it will certainly benefit from a greener outlook.  I hope Council intends to do both sides of this section of Marrickville Road as well as the area near the bridge at Sydenham & nearer the railway line.

The Firewheel tree is a native of both QLD & Northern NSW.  Interestingly, the Los Angeles Department of Recreation & Parks describes the Firewheel as a fragile tree as well as a heritage tree.  They say “Preserving these treasures is important for future generations to admire.” I like their attitude.

For tree lovers, the Firewheel (Stenocarpus sinuatus) is a rainforest tree.  It can grow up to 30 metres in rainforests, but in gardens it grows up to 6-10 metres.  It has a 2-3 metre canopy making it easy to see why Marrickville Council likes it.  Being a rainforest tree it does need water, especially while it is growing.  I noticed that, unlike Ashfield Council, Marrickville Council does not add a watering pipe down to the roots when planting, nor have I seen Council workers watering street trees. Perhaps residents can water trees outside their homes, especially in summer when they can become stressed.

The Inner West Courier newspaper published another letter about the Mackey Park Figs on 29th September 09.  You can read it by going to the ‘Media articles’ page which can be accessed in the left hand column on this site.

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