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There is an article in last week’s Inner West Courier about Ian Moss, Cold Chisel guitarist & Annandale resident, “saddened by the loss of an 80-year-old tree he dubbed the “queen of the block” in Pritchard Lane after it was poisoned & had to be cut down last week.”  The 28-metre (91.8 feet) Eucalypt was growing in the back garden of a nearby property so someone had to sneak in to someone else’s private property to poison the tree. I find this appalling & slightly scary. Imagine not knowing who of your neighbours poisoned your tree. I imagine it would erode any trust or friendship.

According to the article in the Inner West Courier, vandalism to trees has been growing in the Inner West.  The article was also posted on FaceBook, which is where I saw it.  After leaving a comment I received the following reply.   

“According to Marrickville Council there have been 9 requests to Council to investigate reports of tree poisoning in the last 12 months. There have been 19 requests to Council to investigate reports of tree poisoning in the 12 months prior.  Marrickville Council also said it does not consider tree poisoning to be a major issue in the area.  I thank the Inner West Courier for sharing this information.

I was shocked when I read this. How can Marrickville Council not consider the poisoning of 28 trees across Marrickville LGA to be a major issue?  Is it because they think the numbers are low or because they have greater issues regarding trees to deal with? 

Eucalypt - a familiar street tree in some parts of Petersham

How many other trees were poisoned, but not reported?  Quite a few people will not be prepared to report on their neighbour.  I am presuming that the 28 trees poisoned were large trees.  Large trees can be worth thousands of dollars to Councils in green infrastructure.  Many Councils consider trees to be major assets & even give them a dollar value.

When people refer to the ‘Leafy Suburbs,’ they are connecting an environment that has a significant green canopy to big money & financial affluence.  People with money like to live in areas that are beautiful & trees provide this.  Areas with few trees are regarded as poorer, less desirable places to live.  Any real estate agent will say the same thing.

Taking this into consideration & the fact that it takes decades for a tree to grow to a significant size & provide the most use to the community & the environment in terms of stormwater uptake, erosion management, carbon sequestration, pollution capture, oxygen production & other things, how can the loss of any tree by vandalism not be regarded as a major issue?  Any tree lost is a loss to the community. Some mature trees do have to go because of disease & decline, but a healthy tree to be secretly poisoned is unnecessary loss caused solely by the selfishness of one to another.

Ian Moss is grieving for a tree that was not on his property. He could only see the tree.  This shows that people connect to trees in the street, in the gardens of others & on the horizon.  If you are like me you will have favourite trees that you always look at when you drive past even thought the tree is far away from your home.  In this house we often say that we are almost home because of the trees that we pass. The vandal did not improve things for anyone else, but themselves.

Back in February 2011 Waverley Council took a man to court because they could prove that he vandalized a tree. He received a hefty $19,000 fine.  I can bet that almost everyone in Waverley LGA knows that they take on a huge risk if they damage trees. This is the same for Leichhardt LGA where a friend repeatedly says, “You wouldn’t get permission to remove that tree here.” Yet, here in Marrickville LGA, by Council’s own admission, 95% of requests to remove a tree are processed with a tick, even when it is significant, historic streetscape & habitat for a critically endangered native animal.  In Leichhardt LGA trees are not removed if they drop branches. They often are in Marrickville LGA.

Marrickville Street tree

Princes Highway Tempe

On 16th November 2010 Marrickville Council took its Draft Urban Forest Policy  & Strategy to the Council Meeting where it was endorsed.

The Urban Forest Policy replaces the Tree Policy, Protection of Trees & Tree Management Policy & is integrated with tree protection measures included in the Draft Development Control Plan 2010. The Draft Marrickville Urban Forest Strategy is a separate document that will be reviewed every 5 years & new priorities set.

In brief Marrickville Council intends the following –

  • Do a tree inventory & establish a Public Tree Asset Inventory. The data

    Caged trees

    collected will allow Council to know what their tree asset actually is & the actual location of trees.  This information should help Council to:  identify areas that have fewer trees & where to focus on planting, assess the health & condition of each public tree, identify when a tree can benefit from maintenance to increase its health & lifespan, keep track of tree loss from death, vandalism or removal by residents or Council,  help manage trees more effectively throughout their lifespan, plan for replacement trees in a strategic way rather than piecemeal, increase the community’s awareness about the urban canopy & increase awareness & understanding of trees’ economic, social & environmental value.

  • Take an aerial photograph to see what the actual percentage of canopy is within Marrickville LGA. This will include trees on private land.  Hopefully Council will do this every few years so they can see if their urban tree strategy is working & if the canopy is increasing.  It will allow them to target areas that need work.
  • Increase the urban forest including promoting the planting of more trees on private land.
  • Set up a Street Tree Master Plan.  This will allow creation of better looking streetscapes as well as planting larger growing trees where appropriate. A Street Tree Master Plan looks at planting the right tree for the right location.
  • Take a ‘whole of life’ management approach to managing trees.
  • Establish a Significant Tree Register.  Having such a Register will set up a

    Empty for years

    culture & philosophy of protecting our natural heritage & will go a long way to protecting significant trees. City of Sydney Council for example has 1931 trees on their Significant Tree Register.  They say, “The aim of the Register is to identify & recognise the importance of significant trees in the City’s changing urban landscape. The Register will help to guide the management of these trees & to ensure their continued protection for the benefit of the community & for future generations.  These trees are integral parts of the City’s historic, cultural, social, aesthetic & botanical heritage. Many of these trees have a story to tell & may have strong associations with past events & people.”

  • Involve the community in decision-making & care of the urban forest.
  • Identify opportunities for increasing the urban forest on State Government & “Not for Profit” organisation lands. This means that all the wastelands around the LGA could be planted out with trees instead of becoming garbage dumps or areas of long grass & weeds. It will also help do our bit for global warming.
  • Development Applications will be required to include information that will allow Council to assess potential impact on trees.
  • A bond will be set to protect public trees that may be potentially affected by development.  One only has to look at the deterioration of the bulk of the Hills Figs in Renwick Street & Carrington Road Marrickville South to see how important this will be.
  • Council will view trees as ‘infrastructure assets.’
  • Establish guidelines & procedures to manage insurance claims regarding public trees.
  • Increase the diversity of trees planted.  Hopefully the use of ornamental Pears & Prunus varieties will decrease & other species of trees will be used in place of these.  My personal opinion is these trees have almost negligible benefit for urban wildlife & there are other species that will create the same effect yet be beneficial.
  • Will look for new places to plant trees.
  • Will not prune or remove trees due to leaf, fruit drop or sap drop, bird or bat droppings or because a branch overhangs private property.

Almost treeless skyline

Last February Council recommended to the Councillors the removal of 1,000 trees per year for the next 5 years.  Their paper specifically targetted ‘senescent’ trees, meaning older trees.  This is of serious concern because it is older trees that provide the most benefits both to the community & the environment.

To lose these simply because they have been assessed as coming towards or reaching their SULE (safe, useful life expectancy) may be a matter for debate.  That Council has clearly stated that they “will involve the community as a key partner in managing the urban forest of Marrickville LGA” gives me great hope that they will actually do this. But I have not found in the new Draft Policy a target number. Perhaps some of these trees that would have been targeted for removal 10 months ago will now be protected.

Another treeless skyline

I was very happy with the changes & the new direction Marrickville Council intends to go with the Draft Urban Forest Policy and Strategy.  The new policy/strategy appears to me to be quite different than what they presented in February 2010.

Much of what it proposers is already happening in many other Councils across Sydney. The new direction can only improve the management of trees & communication with the community.  Increasing the tree canopy will benefit everyone & should have a positive impact on urban wildlife.

Sydenham Road skyline. The tree that created the shade in this photo has been lost

Unfortunately, it’s an aspirational document as many of the plans will remain just plans because Council doesn’t have the money to instigate much of what is in the Draft Urban Forest Policy & Strategy.  There isn’t long before the effects of global warming become obvious especially with the heat island effect. All the experts believe that trying to grow trees in these conditions will likely be much harder than today.  We need these trees now as they take many years to grow.

The Draft Urban Forest Policy & Strategy is a large document so I will go through it & post on any sections that I find interesting or relevant.  You can read what happened in the Council Meeting about the Draft Urban Forest Policy & Strategy here ––-16th-november-2010-–-part-2/

I haven’t been able to find the Draft Urban Forest Policy & Strategy on the Community Consultations page of Marrickville Council’s website. As soon as it is made available, I will post the link.  You can look for it yourself by going to – & scrolling down to Community Consultations in the left hand column if it is not on their main page. The deadline for community consultation is 2nd February 2010.

14th December 2010 – Both the Policy & the Strategy are now on Marrickville Council’s website. You can download them here – The deadline for submissions is Monday 28th February 2011.

Many street trees across Marrickville LGA have managed to survive in these conditions

Tall street trees in Petersham are the norm & residents benefit greatly from this

On 2nd September 2010 a news item in the Toronto Star titled ‘Tree-lined streets not worth the cost, arborists say’ caused a bit of an uproar on the net amongst people interested in trees. The article was discussing the problem of street trees in Toronto. For me it was a good read in that it showed me that problems with the management of street trees are happening elsewhere & that trees in Marrickville LGA generally get a better time of it than those in Toronto.

“You plant trees & people expect them to thrive. They don’t thrive, because they have lost 80-95 percent of their roots,” said Richard Ubbens, director of urban forestry for the city of Toronto. “These trees are in major, major shock.”

Well the first question I had was, “What happened to their roots?” but this was not answered in the article.  I’ve watched a street tree planted here by Marrickville Council staff & all the roots were planted along with the tree. The tree is still growing & didn’t go into shock even though it is in a concreted space, under an awning & the said tree lost a number of its branches.

Street trees in Toronto were described as expensive & barely contributing to the urban canopy goal because of their small size & that they die. They were also described as “really high maintenance.”

Petersham street trees

Here is a very big difference. Street trees in Toronto are cared for & watered for 2 years. Here they are watered once a week for 12 weeks.  I know for a fact Marrickville Council would be overjoyed if residents & business owners helped by watering the street tree outside.

Toronto street trees are planted into traditional holes cut into concrete & as with trees here, get as much water as they are able when it rains which is not much as most rainwater runs away as stormwater. “Above ground, trees simmer in the city heat, suffer in the smog & take in pollution. Underground, the roots compete for space & water in a concrete-laden system that simply whisks water away into the sewers.”

Toronto Tree Managers would prefer to plant trees in the city’s ravines as they mostly survive there. Although they see street trees as a waste of taxpayer’s money, they acknowledge that the streets would be bare without them.

Now they are trying to deal with the problem by establishing maintenance plans over a 10-year period that includes pruning. As well as watering the street trees regularly they feed them with compost tea (so easy to do) & mulch.

They are also trying larger pits with some pits connected so the tree’s roots can travel & also using Silva Cells where appropriate though they are an expensive option.  Silva Cells allow trees to grow deep roots & at the same time stop soil compaction & allow heavy use surfaces to be around the tree.  See –

For the Toronto Star article ––tree-lined-streets-not-worth-the-cost-arborists-say

Meanwhile scientists, planners & engineers gathered for the National Tree Symposium at Adelaide University.  They were discussing the latest methods to increase the urban tree canopy, including methods to direct stormwater to street trees rather than the age-old loss of this water down drains.

Street tree in Marrickville

Perhaps it’s the weather. Toronto has lashings of snow, while most of Australia bakes & it is getting worse. Last summer there were many heat-related deaths in Adelaide & Melbourne.  There is justified fear that summer heat-related deaths will happen again or develop into the norm because of increased temperatures due to global warming.  Tree & urban planning specialists know we need to increase the canopy as fast as we can & importantly we need to maintain it.

That street trees are only expected to last 5-10-15 years in modern-day tree management is to my mind crazy.  It’s crazy because with a few simple changes, street trees can live for decades.  We have many examples of old trees living happily across Australian cities, including throughout Marrickville LGA.

It costs money to buy trees, to plant them & to chop them down. I’ve said before trees are the only infrastructure Council has that increases in value.  We need to let them grow not only for the beauty they bring, but also because trees drop the need for power use (especially cooling), their shade lengthens the life of footpaths & roads & they have a major psychological effect on human happiness amongst many other things.   I will write about ideas that experts have to help street trees live longer in another post.

Council has planted quite a few new street trees along this section of Railway Street Petersham. 2 have already been vandalised

I have discovered 2 new examples of tree vandalism, one in Petersham & one in Marrickville.  Council recently planted a number of new street trees in Railway Street Petersham.  Two of these trees have been snapped in half.  One has been sticky-taped together by a kind person who is probably hoping it will graft together.  A couple of residents came out to speak to me & pointed out the damage.  They are concerned that Council won’t replace the trees.

Vandalised street tree Myrtle Street Marrickville South

The other is a Tuckaroo in Myrtle Street Marrickville that has been growing for  2-3 3-4 years. It has 2 main branches & one has been snapped off.  The site of the tree on the side of the road with no footpath & pedestrians as rare as hen’s teeth indicates it was done maliciously & not an accident.

I recently read a report from a Tree Manager of an American Council who, when disputing the power company’s right to remove a tree, said “It is 26 years of deficit you will be creating here.” I have not read or heard anyone refer to tree loss in this way before.  What he means is, it took 26 years for that particular tree to grow & to remove it means a loss of 26 years.

It’s the same for all the tree vandalism done by mischievous people & careless truck drivers.  Removing trees is easy. Replacing trees is easy. Growing is not so easy as urban trees have to overcome many obstacles to survive.

The saplings in Railway Street Petersham haven’t been growing long, but it may take Council a long time to replace them.  The young tree in Myrtle Avenue has been growing for 3-4 years. Now it is destroyed.  That’s a 3-4 year deficit. Makes sense to me.

I recently came across a video segment from the program Stateline on ABC from March 2010 where they discussed the dollar value of trees.  This video discusses the following & more:

  • The loss of Adelaide’s street & park trees for lack of water
  • Melbourne has decided to water their street & park trees
  • A real estate agent talking about how both street trees & trees on the property increase the value of the property
  • How much trees are actually worth
  • What it will be like to live in an area that has few or no trees
  • Councils used to irrigate street trees
  • Residents used to give trees both on their property & in front of their property regular watering
  • The cost of watering trees to save their life far outweighs the cost of losing a tree through lack of water
  • How the fact that a tree is not a native somehow gives permission for it to be cut down
  • Trees can be worth as much as $100,000
  • Trees are assets & investments which appreciate over time

roots of a big, beautiful Fig

In Melbourne, they are talking about how their 100-year-old trees are “an extremely valuable asset” while Marrickville Council talks about our older trees as “senescent” & past their time.  You may remember earlier this year Marrickville Council put up a plan before the Councillors to remove many of the old trees over the next 5 years.  The designated amount was 1,000 trees to be removed per year for 5 years targeting senescent trees.  Thankfully the Councillors did not accept this Tree Strategy Issues Paper, but it was a close call & a revised Paper will be returning for consideration soon.

This video is 7 minutes duration.  I whole-heartedly recommend watching it.  If you do, check out the hole in one of the larger trees right at the end.  I have seen a

Pine tree in Brighton le Sands

tree like that closer to home along the beachfront at Brighton-le-Sands.  A few of the tall pines had substantial holes in their trunks. Rather than chopping them down, Rockdale Council had the rot treated & the hole cemented allowing the tree to remain stable & continue to live for the benefit of the community.  I would imagine those trees are heritage listed.

When I was a child, it was quite common for a Tree Surgeon (as Arborists were called then), to be employed to save trees on private property. I remember watching them scrapping out the hole, using chemicals to stop the disease & filling the hole with cement, just like a dentist fills dental caries.  I saw trees bolted together if they had a split in their trunk & other such things that seem to be out of vogue today.  Nowadays, the simplest intervention seems to be to cut the tree down saying “everything has to die.”  True, but many tree species live far longer than what we are led to believe.  Melbourne is proof of this.

As we have been in a long & protracted drought that is not over yet, trees dying from lack of water is going to become a significant issue, especially if the culture changes & trees are truly recognised as significant green assets.  We may yet return to the days where Councils water the public trees & property owners take care of the trees on their property as well as the tree out front.  I have my fingers

lovely Fig in Enmore Park

crossed.  Already around the municipality there are trees dying.  Some of them were stunners that now stand brown & present a danger of falling, damaging property & perhaps a risk to life.  I find it sad as many of these tree deaths could have been averted if they had been watered.

Another article in the same vein that may be of interest says Adelaide City Council is considering putting a dollar value on its trees following in the footsteps of Melbourne.  This may lead to developers being required to compensate for the trees they say they need to chop down by planting trees to that dollar value.  So if trees are valued at $100,000, they will be required to plant trees to that value.  I’m hoping it may bring business to those tree companies who are skilled at large tree relocation.  Relocation costs may actually be cheaper than paying for the trees that would be lost if chopped down.

The Stateline video & a transcript of the main points can be accessed by clicking on the following link-

This beautiful tree-lined walk along the Cooks River offers respite from the city's hectic life. The tall trees which make this section special.

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 –’s-biggest-eucalypt-to-the-chainsaw/ & you can also view 2 photos taken today by the Greens at – & &



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