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Agenda item Number 5 for next week’s Marrickville Council Meeting 6th December 2011 recommends –

1.   “Council undertake to remove & replace the 24 Norfolk Island Hibiscus Street trees in Harrow Road Stanmore (My count is 27 trees)

2.   the removal & replacements be phased to occur in 2 stages approximately 5 years apart,

3.   the first stage of removals comprise the 11 trees located between numbers 2-30 Harrow Road,

4.   the second stage of removals comprise the 13 trees located between numbers 40-64 Harrow Road, &

5.   the replacement trees be comprised of a single appropriate deciduous species so as to afford winter solar access & summer shade benefits to south west facing dwellings.”

“The approximate cost of required works is as follows –

  • Removal –

–       Phase 1: $9,000

–        Phase 2: $13,000 (including escalation)

  • Replacement (contract planting of 100L size trees with 12 weeks maintenance period) –

–       Phase 1: $28,000

–       Phase 2: $39,000 (including escalation)”

  • TOTAL:  $89,000

A petition of 27 residents has been sent to Marrickville Council asking that the street trees be removed.  Council states that they have received a total of 11 complaints about the street trees from Harrow Street residents since 1999.  In brief –

–        7 of these were about ‘seasonal infestation’ by Cotton Harlequin Bugs with 1 resident also writing about Rosella nests & possible bird lice.

–        2 were about flower litter with 1 resident adding that the seedpods produce ‘glass-like’ hairs causing skin irritations & get stuck in their feet.

–        2 households complained in February 2011 about the ‘glass-like’ hairs getting stuck in their feet & causing skin irritations to their children, babies, pets, fruit litter & possible damage to their property by roots of the trees. See report for more details – Item 5: 6th December 2011 –

The 11 residents who wrote to Council have legitimate complaints, but what a nightmare.  The community will lose 24 (or 27?) street trees, an average of 8-metres tall.  Apart from the issue of climate change & tree loss, urban wildlife will be the biggest losers. These trees are habitat for Cotton Harlequin Bugs, a harmless jewel-like bug with many different patterns. They are well known for their maternal care as they guard the eggs & nymphs until they are old enough to fend for themselves & fly off to live out their lives.  Even though they feed by sucking the sap of the tree, they do not harm the tree. For great photos & more information see –

This street tree in Harrow Road was unique for having so many Cotton Harlequin Bugs on its trunk. Not all the street trees had visible bug families & some had one or two small clusters of bugs sitting on the trunk. This tree was one of the 3 trees that had bead branches at the base or on the trunk.

Many bird species are all through these trees, eating nectar & feasting on insects.  With the amount of birds that I witnessed during 2 visits, thought really needs to be given that any new planting will produce food for the birds.  Council has recently started planting a new variety of Bottle Brush that looks spectacular, but flowers for a maximum of 3 weeks & interestingly, the birds don’t pay the flowers much attention. The flowers are probably all colour & pizzazz, but low producers of nectar.

The Norfolk Island Hibiscus has recently been added to the list of ‘exempt from protection’ trees in the Marrickville Development Control Plan 2011.  However, their Draft DCP 2010 (the only one I could find) says Council may refuse to grant consent to remove trees if, The tree is part of a wildlife corridor or provides habitat for wildlife; and/or the reason for removal is substantively aesthetics/emotive & relates to leaf, flower, seed &/or twig drop.” I would say that these trees in Harrow Street fulfill all these criteria.  Norfolk Island Hibiscus trees are on many Australian councils lists of recommended street trees.

Council is recommending the following deciduous trees as replacements –

1.   Trident Maple (Acer buergeranum) – A native of China, that grows to 5-20 metres high with a canopy of 6-7 metres & produces yellow flowers in spring. The seeds are known colloquially as ‘whirly-gigs’ because they have papery ‘wings’ & can fly long distances in the wind.

2.   Claret Ash (Fraxinusangustifolia ‘raywood’) – A cultivar of the Ash tree predominantly found in Europe, Asia & North America & grows to 15-20 metres. The dark green leaves turn claret red in autumn. It’s described as having invasive roots.  The WA Water Corporation recommends planting no less that 6-metres from a sewerage pipe.

3.   Jacaranda  (Jacaranda mimosifolia) – A native of South America that grows 12-15 metres high x 8 metres wide & produces lavender bell-like flowers during spring. Jacarandas drop a large amount of leaf & flower debris as well as tough seed pods 5-7.5 cm in diameter.  It’s described as having invasive roots. The WA Water Corporation recommends planting no less than 6-metres from a sewerage pipe.

4.   Golden Rain Tree (Koelreutaria paniculata) – A native of China & Korea that grows 10-metres high & 10-metres wide.  Produces yellow flowers in autumn 5-8 mm diameter seeds that look like Chinese paper lanterns.

5.   Leopard Tree (Caesalpinia ferrea) – A native of Brazil that grows 10-12 metres high x 5 metres wide & produces yellow flowers. It sheds bark in large flakes, leaving a patchy grey & white effect on the trunk. It’s described as having invasive roots. The WA Water Corporation recommends planting no less that 6-metres from a sewerage pipe. The Australian website ‘Save Our Waterways Now’ says of the Leopard tree, This is a weed to be expected” because it grows where the seeds land.  In November 2008, Brisbane City Council said, “Leopard trees will no longer be planted on Brisbane footpaths as the city takes stock of dangerous & nuisance trees ….”  See –

As the petitioners do not like flower, leaf & seed litter & one resident thinks the tree roots may be damaging their property, I suspect the choices for replacement trees will also cause them concern.

I am not a subscriber to planting only native trees, as I believe that many non-natives can be very useful to wildlife & I actually like the trees suggested.  However, in this case none of the replacement trees offer any value to Australian wildlife that I am aware of.  On 15th November 2011 Council approved its Biodiversity Strategy. 3 weeks later they are recommending that Councillors vote to remove a whole street of trees of high habitat value & replace with street trees of no habitat value whatsoever.

We spoke to 2 residents. One appeared angry with me taking photos of the trees & shouted, “I love these trees.”  The other had no notice of a push to have the trees removed.  The first thing they said was, “But the Cotton Harlequins live in them.” They were very distressed & said they would write to Council.

The residents who have put in the petition know, but the remaining residents in the street do not seem to know & I think this is important.

Council should be sending a letter to every household in Harrow Road informing of the petition & hold a public meeting at a good time on the weekend to speak to the residents about this.  Leaf, flower & seed debris & Cotton Harlequin Bugs are not issues of concern to every Harrow Road resident.

To my mind there is already a problem with Marrickville Council’s processes in that the removal of so many street trees is decided without community consultation.  To remove the trees & then give the community a choice from 5 tree species isn’t real community consultation.  It’s the leftovers. Harrow Road is a long road with many more than 27 residents.  They deserve a say.

Lastly, 1 tree has a large drill hole at the base of its trunk & appears to have been poisoned & 2 other trees next to it also show multiple dead branches at the base & on the trunk & perhaps this is also a sign of poisoning.

I have made a short video of the trees here –

Harrow Street Stanmore - all these street trees & more are recommended for removal

The tree was still like this late today. It was a guarantee that it would not survive unsupported


Last Tuesday I wrote about a 1-year-old Eucalypt in Mackey Park that had its stakes removed & being in a windy area, was unsupported with most of the tree almost on the ground.

I wrote to a Councillor requesting their help to ask Marrickville Council to re-stake this tree as soon as possible before it died.  On Friday evening this poor tree was still almost prostrate, so today we returned to the park & did the job ourselves.  While Mackey Park does have trees, a tall-growing Gum is much needed for both shade & beauty.  Quite simply, this tree deserved to live.  It’s looking like if you want to keep public trees in this municipality, you either have to fight to keep them or save them yourself.

You can read the previous post about this tree here –


This Prunus variety in Enmore stands about 1.2 metres tall & looks battered & awful for all but 3 weeks of the year when it puts on this fantastic display in spring

This was the Council Meeting. Absent: Clr Iskandar. The following is how I understood the meeting & all mistakes are mine.

Application for Special Rate Variation for new Marrickville Library – 1 speaker from the community: Against the rate rise. People are doing it tough. You are talking about borrowing $17 million & having the rate payers pay it back. There are a lot of pensioners & unemployed. You were not elected on this, nor do you have a mandate. I ask for lengthy & extensive community consultation.

Clr Olive: Councillors had a forum the other night & this was discussed.  It was explained that if we built a new library we would need to get a Special Rate Levy. We need community consultation. The community could have great certainty & confidence that Council will deliver.  Enmore Pool was a 3.5% rate levy & the pool is a success. It’s an average $50 increase per year. Not an insignificant amount of money, but not so much for people to bare. Council often gets less than the CPI. If we are serious about providing a library we have to have a Special Rate Levy & we have a time limit.

Clr Thanos: Moved to defer for 2 weeks until concept designs come next week. I ran an election campaign to get a new library & was elected for this. Our community has not been well serviced in terms of a library. We need to consider the future of people who will be using this library.  $15.6 million to build the library, $5 million for the car park, $3.5 million for additional level of car park; that will be sold off to residents in units that will be built & $4.5 million for landscaping. I am not against rationalizing libraries. We have 5 other libraries.  Our other option is to sell the site. In my view this will rip off the community, as we will never deliver a library.

Clr Wright: Support deferral & am committed to a new library. We can only fund it if we ask residents to assist. Staff: Costing relies on past experience of other projects. We can be confident that these are good figures. Car parking will be required. We need it underground for 60 spaces with a lift access.  Project would be finished end 2014.  We have outlined funding arrangements – $37.1 million, borrowing $23 million.  Once library project is complete there will be proceeds coming from other areas of the site.  Clr Olive: Supported deferral for 2 weeks.

Clr Marci: Committed to delivering a new library, but not so convinced we need to apply in December. Scheduled works start 2012 & Council has enough money to start. This gives time to convince the community. I don’t want to be caught out like the [Enmore] pool. That project went from $10 million to $18 million. That was an 80% increase for the pool & an 80% increase for the library would be catastrophic.  Ashfield Council got into financial difficulty with their library. Not many people know of the library. I’ve had to get smelling salts out, as people were shocked when I told them the cost.

Clr Kontellis: Reluctant to defer. I’m not sure a concept plan will help.  People are excited about a library. They want to be part of what it looks like & what services it will deliver. We must commit to raising appropriate amount of money to build this. What the concept design looks like should have community debate & inclusion. It would be $10 per week. I don’t want it to be misinterpreted that I don’t want a library.

Clr Philllips: I think the average cost is $1.50 per week. Staff: Maximum cost is $9 per week, $457 per year.  Clr Phillips: I support special rate variation. I will support deferral. I disagree with Clr Macri to start early works before financing the library. Clr Macri: I’m being misinterpreted. You want to get a Special Rate Levy without going to the people.  Clr Phillips:  I think it’s fiscally responsible to deal with the finances up front before going to the community, so they know what they are getting in to.  Clr Thanos: If we lose a year of rates, we may not have the funds to do the job.  Staff: The Regulated Authority has indicated that they want Council to tell them early so they can get all their resources together. The issue of timing is you don’t normally embark on a project & get community expectations when you don’t have the funds to do the project. By February, we will have a good idea what the community thinks.

Mayor Hanna: I’m in favour of a library, but not in favour of what exactly the library will be & what exactly will use the rest of the site. $4 million for a car park on the corner? Do we need a park?  Do the community want a park here?  We sold the land for IKEA so we have got the money.  Electricity prices are going up. Some people can’t even afford their electricity & tell them each year how much it [the library] will cost them. I want to know exactly how much it will cost in 5 years. I’m not going to a Special Rate Levy without going to the community. If we cannot afford it, why are we going to build it?

Clr Byrne: We unanimously voted to get a new library. This is an intergenerational cost to build something for our community that will benefit children who can’t afford a computer. It’s a space for older people to meet, a safe space for the whole community to meet.  If you truly don’t think it should happen, don’t vote for the library.  I will happily go to the community & ask them whether they want a park or a community building. I believe in this library & will be voting for it.  Clr Macri: $1.50 per week increases. Staff: Yet would rise with CPI. 3% would go up 3%.

Clr Thanos: When I was Mayor I moved that the only way to build a library at no cost was to bulldoze the whole site, including the heritage buildings.  If you are genuine about pensioners not paying rates I’ll vote for it.  The 80% blowout for the pool is not true.  It was costed at $15.1 million for a 25-metre pool & $18 million for a 50-metre pool. It wasn’t worth having a 25-metre pool for a $3 million difference.  Mayor Hanna: We have $900,000 in dispute.  Clr Thanos:  We changed our brief to the builders. We were right on the money with Steel Park. We cannot consult with the community on thin air.  We need to tell them how we will raise funds. I don’t need to know what it will look like. I want the community to say what it will look like.  If the community is opposed, we will not proceed. We can sell off the property to private business.

Vote – Defer for 2 weeks – unanimous.

Notice of Motion: New Marrickville Library – Allocation of resources for the Marrickville Heritage Society ( in existence for the past 25 years) – Clr Olive moved that the Marrickville Heritage Society be given some space when the new library moves on to hold their meetings & house their collection as they are a voluntary group who can’t afford to pay market rental rate.  Clrs O’Sullivan, Thanos, Byrne, Wright & Hanna stated they did not support this motion. Clr Phillips did support the motion.  I have not covered the debate, but essentially Councillors were against giving space to the Marrickville Heritage Society for reasons such as perceived favouritism, it would be like a cash donation, other community groups also need accommodation & Council should not be giving away rentable space.  Vote: For: Clrs Olive, Phillips & Macri.  Against: Clrs: Hanna, Tsardoulais, Wright, O’Sullivan, Peters, Thanos, Kontellis & Byrne.  Motion lost.

Here ends the Report for this week.

Recently I heard during a Council Meeting that these trees will be chopped down to build the new library building. Although some trees will need to go to make room for the building, I am very unhappy that the best Camphor laurel tree I have seen in Marrickville LGA will be chopped down. The reason I was given for its removal was that the tree would be in the middle of the park. This does not make sense to me. The tree is exceptionally beautiful, is not sprouting baby Camphor laurel trees around either the park or the area. It is healthy, provides much needed shade & is home to wildlife. In my opinion, the park is almost complete because of the presence of this tree & the 5 Canary Island Palm trees on the perimeter facing Marrickville Road. The Palms will be relocated, but to where I do not know. Remember, $4.5 million is planned for landscaping for the new library. Some of this money will be spent chopping down this magnificent tree that is linked to the site’s history & also matches the trees planted in the grounds of St Bridget's Church across the road.

The Camphor laurel tree that will be chopped down to create a park.

Yesterday, 17th October 2011, the General Manager of Newcastle City Council called a meeting with the Newcastle Councillors & did a very good thing.  He went against the last effective resolution by the Councillors – to have the 14 Laman Street Figs removed.  The General Manager did this because the community had been very actively calling for an independent assessment of the safety of the Fig trees because they did not trust their Council any longer, especially after one Councillor said that an independent assessment has the potential to ruin some “reputations” at Council. Nor did they believe that 7 Councillors should have the right to remove trees that the community believe are safe, important for wildlife & one of the few beautiful things left in Newcastle.  The constant call has always been for the Councillors to listen to the people, a job they were put there to do.

On Friday 8th October 2011, dubbed ‘Newcastle’s Day of Destruction,’ the tree loppers arrived & the community came out in force to stop the trees from being chopped down. They were successful with only 3 branches removed from 1 tree before the end of the day. Some in the community suffered injuries & 7 were arrested.

Since 8th October 2011, the community has been at Civic Park (which is attached to Laman Street) before dawn every day, maintaining a vigil to ensure the trees are not worked on.  Large groups were prepared to come at a moment’s notice which they proved on 3 occasions; when Linda Burney NSW Deputy Leader of the Opposition & Shadow Minister for Planning Infrastructure & Heritage, visited last Sunday & for the two Council Meetings when hundreds of people came to stand on the Town Hall steps & protest the decision to remove their trees. I was told that around 700 people came for yesterday’s Council Meeting.  These are noisy affairs as passing traffic also participates by honking their car horns in support.  I heard this myself with a phone call where the caller said, “listen to this.”

Here is the General Manager’s media statement of 17th October 2011 –  “I wish to emphasise that my first priority is the safety & wellbeing of staff, Councillors, contractors & members of the public.

 At this time I do not believe it is practical to continue work to remove & replace the 14 Laman Street Hills Figs.

 This afternoon I met with the Lord Mayor & eight Councillors outlining my concerns regarding the safety & wellbeing of staff, Councillors, contractors & members of the public. I indicated that for these reasons I have decided to delay work to continue to remove the trees. I also outlined a proposal to move forward & ensure a safe environment for any future action in relation to the trees. I have tonight forwarded a draft agreement for an expert evaluation to Save Our Figs to consider. 

I intend to meet with Save Our Figs tomorrow morning to further discuss the proposal. No work to remove the trees will occur until Save Our Figs has had the opportunity to consider & comment upon the proposal. 

I will not make any further comment to media until after the meeting with Save Our Figs.”   Needless to say there was a very happy section of the Newcastle community last night.

Today it was reported in the Newcastle Herald that at least 6 Councillors (the one’s that voted for the trees to be removed) are “livid that a decision of the elected body has been effectively overturned,” & the General Manager “now faces calls to resign from angry councilors,” while another Councillor wants “Local Government Minister Don Page to launch an investigation into the council.”

The community has been repeatedly saying that the Councillors were elected to listen & represent the people, not work against them, even while the community was gathering in great numbers to save these trees.  One Councillor has called the community “disobedient.”  This begs the question, what are the community to do when their submissions, letters, pleas, videos, songs, 69 nightly vigils, marches, posters, photos & a petition that is around 12,000 signatures & growing is not working? Go home & watch TV?

Community group Save Our Figs, who have always advocated peaceful protest, will work with Newcastle Council to choose an independent assessor & move this issue onward.  Hopefully, the independent assessment decides that the trees are safe. After all, they keep standing up during the many serious storms that have hit Newcastle over the last few years.

Save Our Figs –

This is a beautiful video showing some of the community protesters who have been labeled ‘ratbags & loonies.’   –

The Laman Street Fig trees at night from Civic Park. Photo by Stephen Fewson with thanks.

Video image of the twisted trunk of the Laura Street tree

Marrickville Council have given notification that they intend to remove the following public tree –

Acmena sp. (Lillypilly) outside 29 Laura Street Newtown –

They give the following reasons for removal –

  • An independent arborist inspection has identified the tree presents an unacceptable hazard to the public due to:

–       repeated lopping for power line clearance has caused poor form & structural attachment of scaffold branches &

–       tree has outgrown its planting location.

Council says they will replace this tree with an Angophora hispida (Dwarf apple), but as is usual, don’t say when they intend to do this.

The tree is special & visually interesting.  It’s decades old, the kind of tree that I would classify heritage & wish Council would actively look after. It has a massive base that is about 5-metres at ground level & a trunk that twists clockwise.  Due to pruning for the powerlines, there are 2 long branches hanging over the nearest house.  The tree is fused to the sandstone kerb, but does not in any way affect parking of cars, the stability of the kerb.  The edge of the footpath nearest the tree is raised, but the footpath itself is flat.

Within minutes of arriving we were approached by some of the residents.  None wanted the tree removed, though they all were concerned for the resident’s whose home the tree was in front of.  Apparently, the tree had dropped a couple of branches on the roof with the last branch breaking some tiles. Obviously, this is unacceptable.

I was told that Laura Street originally had an avenue of these trees. Now there are only two left.  Looking at the tree, it appears to me that there may another option rather than simply chopping the tree down.

Removing the 2 branches that overhand property will address legitimate concerns for safety & prevent any further damage to property. The whole canopy could be pruned & reduced to repair the damage created by previous pruning by the energy company. Previous pruning on this tree shows that, like Brush Box, these trees re-grow branches.  Council could allow for aerial bundled cabling to be installed for this tree to remove the need for ongoing pruning because of powerlines & then prune as necessary.

Our power company told me they have a 7-8 year pruning cycle.  If the tree does need pruning earlier than this, I’m sure the local residents would call Marrickville Council.  Laura Street is a close-knit community so I don’t doubt that there will be a community tree watch to make sure this tree causes no trouble for others.  Aerial Bundled Cabling is popping up across Marrickville LGA, so it is not too much for the community to ask that it be used in this instance to save this tree.  It would be great if Council gave this tree another chance if the above options are viable.

The tree cools the road surface & the local houses, it’s visually interesting & beautiful & is a great carbon sequester, important in high-traffic Newtown.  It purifies the air & adds beauty to the streetscape. It is also beneficial for wildlife as it produces fruit so is a great source of food & habitat.  This is not an ordinary street tree.

The residents in the street don’t want to lose this tree if there is an alternative to make it safe to property. What they do want is for Council to take a proactive approach & prune the tree so that it can be retained & not to take the easiest route & remove it.

Camdenville Public School is directly across the road. This school has a great reputation for their approach to the environment. The tree could be a learning opportunity for the children showing by direct example that old trees can be cared for & that they are very beneficial to the environment.  It’s a fact that larger trees are much more beneficial for the environment than small trees. As there are so few large trees by percentage across the LGA, Council should be doing its utmost to retain heritage trees like this when there is an easy & relatively cheap solution.  In this way everyone wins.

I’d appreciate it if you would join me in sending a submission to Marrickville Council –  asking that they look at options to save the tree & make it safe, rather than removing it. I am happy to email you a draft if this makes it easier.   It would be good to also cc a copy to the Councillors.  To get an idea of numbers I would appreciate if you would either bc me a copy or let me know that you have sent in a submission –  Hopefully we can save this tree.  The deadline for any comments or submissions is Friday 21st October 2011. 

Unfortunately I neglected to take photos, but you can see a short video of the tree here –

Click for a list of the Councillors email addresses – MC-Councillor-email-addresses

Video image showing the bottom of the canopy

Last July 2011 Clr Phillips put up a Notice of Motion –That Council develop a policy of requiring &/or facilitating the relocation of Canary Island palms where a development requires their removal.”  This was on the Council Meeting agenda last month.  Apologies for the length of this post.

Most of the staff advice is as follows, with my response written in bold. –

  • This will create an obligation on Council to locate & maintain the identified trees in Council streets & parks. (What is the problem with this? Council maintains thousands of public trees).
  • It is estimated the cost of removal & replanting will be covered by the Developer. As a general principle the merits of a development proposal should be considered on the basis of the tree in its original location, not on the developer’s ability to relocate it to a new site. (This surprised me.  I would have thought that if a DA wanted a Canary Island Palm removed, then Council could give approval on the basis that Council is given the tree & Council relocates it to a position of their choice).
  • The species is not self cleaning & mechanical removal of dead fronds is required as part of their maintenance. The trees were popular for civic, institutional & large formal garden plantings from about the 1850s to the 1950s. (Cabbage Tree Palms are not self-cleaning either, yet Council still chooses & plants these in parks & as street trees).
  • Marrickville has several significant plantings, including St Brigids Church & the old hospital site on Marrickville Road; Graham Avenue & Hastings Street behind the old hospital site; Carrington Road South Marrickville, & Brooklyn Street, Tempe. The Graham Avenue palms are listed in Council’s heritage register as an example of 1930s Depression relief work. (All these trees should be listed on the Heritage Register. These trees are well regarded by local residents I have spoken to who find them beautiful, impressive & a positive addition to parks & the streetscape).
  • All of these locations are identified in Council’s Australian White Ibis Management Plan 2007 because of the predilection of these birds to inhabit

    Beautiful landscaping at the intersection opposite Arlington Recreation Reserve in Dulwich Hill includes a Canary Island palm in the traffic island

    & nest in Canary Island Date Palms. Although native & endangered, the Australian White Ibis does not enjoy popular status when living in close quarters with humans, often being described as noisy & smelly. Management of palm habitat to reduce its attractiveness to the Ibis includes pruning into a ‘wineglass’ or ‘pineapple’ shape by removing horizontal fronds to reduce the space suitable for nesting. (Removing their beauty). However, constant pruning can damage palms.  Pruning palm fronds can lead to poor trunk formation & can threaten the health of the palm when applied over several seasons. Pruning also increases the risk of disease spreading between palms. At the time when Council’s Australian White Ibis Management Plan 2007 was being prepared it was noted that the Carrington Road palms had been regularly pruned by Council over the previous 3 to 4 years & their health was being compromised by the constant pruning. (Many in the community were wondering what was wrong with the Carrington Road trees.  Only last month a business owner spoke to me about 1 of these trees concerned that it was dying.  In 2009, 3 replacement Canary Island Palms died during the drought. They were removed & not replaced much to the disappointment of both the businesses & locals). Council’s tree management officer recommended that pruning should be limited to only removing dead fronds & flower stalks to prevent killing the palms. Phoenix palm tree maintenance is at the higher cost end of tree species maintained by Council due to the need to mechanically remove fronds on a regular basis, the elevated platform required for the work, arboricultural hygiene requirements & the difficulty of disposing of the fibrous & spiky fronds, which generally cannot be recycled & must be disposed of to landfill. (That Council would need to prune a few fronds is a small cost considering the overall benefits of this species of tree.  Council would not need to prune more than once year & even that may be an over-estimate.  Landfill from fronds is far better than most of what reaches landfill).

  • One of the recommended strategies of the Australian White Ibis Management Plan 2007 is to limit new ibis nesting habitat in Marrickville through revision of tree management related policies  (Marrickville Council chooses to get rid of trees on the basis of the need to prune & because of wildlife.  If there are no trees for the Ibis, perhaps they will start using the roofs of houses.  Places where these birds could be out of the way & not an annoyance for people like the Cooks River have more grasses than trees).
  • The yellow fruit of the palm, although not attractive to humans are popular with birds & bats & the seeds are highly viable. Self-seeded specimens propagate widely throughout the Marrickville LGA & metropolitan Sydney & it has become a weed species in East Gippsland, the Riverina & Auckland New Zealand. (I’d be interested if you have you ever seen one growing spontaneously in gardens, parks across Marrickville LGA.  I’ve seen 3. All are growing the fork of Fig trees & are small enough for me to remove.  I’d hardly consider them an invasive tree in this LGA.  Wolli Creek would be the only area I would worry about.   Marrickville LGA is not East Gippsland, the Riverina & Auckland New Zealand. Eucalypts are a weed in South Africa & the US, yet we still plant these species of tree in Australia. Causarinas which multiply by sending out endless suckers do not seem to be a problem to Council).
  • Canary Island Date Palms are susceptible to Fusarium wilt. The disease is active in Sydney & has resulted in the death & removal of a fine stand of the palms in Centennial Park. (Is the potential for disease a reason why these trees should not be saved? I don’t think so, nor do the people who pay many thousands of dollars purchasing mature Canary Island Palms to landscape their properties).
  • Consultation undertaken during the preparation of the Marrickville Urban Forest Strategy reflects a growing community interest in trees & in the use of locally provenanced tree species. The observation is made that although these grand, architecturally formed palms were frequently planted & often produced highly attractive landscapes, their day as landscape feature elements has passed & Council should be increasing its plantings of locally endemic species to address biodiversity & amenity issues. (I participated in this community consultation & did not see the issue of Canary Island Palms brought up as a topic by Council.  This blog has always advocated for native food-producing trees to be planted around the LGA.  However, I have also advocated for keeping & caring for non-native trees that provide food for both people & urban wildlife, especially when those trees provide beauty.  It is in autumn that one notices just how many ornamental fruit trees that provide no value to wildlife there are in our parks & streets across the LGA).
  • Any proposal to remove a tree as part of a DA is assessed on its merits.

    Canary Island palms in Marrickville Park

    Where Council agrees that a tree cannot be kept, if practical & appropriate conditions can be imposed to require certain species to be relocated within the development site – this is the preferred option in the case where retention of the tree is warranted & the species is suitable to transplant successfully. Transplanting of trees to Council owned sites within the LGA as a condition of consent is problematic unless there is an adopted policy & process to facilitate this option in an efficient & timely way.  (Once again, I fail to understand why Council sees the transplanting of a tree onto Council property as a cost that should be born by the developer.  Council should be requesting the tree as a gift to the community rather than it be chopped down & added to landfill.  I doubt that there would be many developers who would care that Council takes away a tree that they want to get rid of.  In fact, the transplanting of a tree removes the considerable cost of removing the tree for the developer).

I was not present for the debate. The vote was – For: Clrs Olive, Peters, Phillips, Kontellis & Byrne.  Against: Clrs Iskandar, Tsardoulias, Wright, O’Sullivan, Thanos, Hanna & Macri.  Not passed.

I will continue to advocate for transplanting these majestic trees.  I do so because it seems crazy to throw away a tree that likely has another 80-100-years of life left, that is relatively easy to transplant, provides food & habitat for urban wildlife, is a link to our history & significantly improves streetscapes.  The relative ugliness of our streetscapes in particular is a desperate need in many areas across Marrickville LGA.  Even Council has referred to these trees as creating “highly attractive landscapes.”

I feel disappointed with Marrickville Council.  Surrounding Councils do transplant these trees into traffic islands, as feature trees in appropriate locations & their community benefits.  I have talked to all sorts of people who frequently mention these trees in a positive light, particularly when they have been the beneficiaries of one planted in their locality.  As Ibis are a concern, there are plenty of sites where these trees could be planted where they would not be affecting residential homes.  I sincerely doubt whether half a dozen Canary Island palms a year would come up for removal & perhaps 1 or 2 of these would not be found suitable to transplant due to issues of access, but Council could at least try.  End of rant.

Here is a 1-minute video showing Ibis in a row of Canary Island palms opposite Lewisham Railway Station –

This Canary Island palm beautifies & makes an impressive feature a traffic island in the Stanmore shopping strip

Yesterday Marrickville Council posted a Notice of Removal for a Tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipiferum) in Enmore Park.  As usual, the Council web-link provided for further information did not work at the time of writing.

Council gives the following reasons for removal –

  • Inappropriate species for location.
  • Does not conform to landscape design.


They say they will replace the tree with a Port Jackson Fig (Ficus rubiginosa), but as usual, don’t say when they will do this.

Great – a Fig, but to chop down a healthy tree in a park where there is loads of empty space just because it doesn’t fit into their design?

Council says this tree is an ‘inappropriate species for location.’ Why did Council plant a Tulip tree in Enmore Park in the first place if they consider the tree an inappropriate species?   Why is a Tulip tree an inappropriate species? Why is it okay for Tulip trees to be planted as street trees less than 1km away, yet be ‘inappropriate’ for Enmore Park? How many years has the tree been there?  Why does it bother Council now?  I cannot come up with any ideas why a gorgeous & not at all common Tulip tree would be inappropriate for a large park.  Is it like kitchen & bathroom designs that change with the fashion?

The Tulip tree is about 5-6 metres tall & situated close to a row of palms that used to delineate 2 areas of lawn. Now one side is lawn, the other is the concrete walkway surrounding the Annette Kellerman Aquatic Centre. 3 palms away, there is another tree close to the palms.  So, I suspect they will soon think this is also unsuitable and will have to go.

Council says the tree “does not conform to landscape design.”  I agree.  However, the palm trees have been there for a very long time & someone in Council planted these 2 trees directly next to this row of palms a number of years ago.  Even before the building of the pool, the placement of these 2 trees was an odd choice.  Not so odd though, that the tree should be chopped down.

Another tree planted close to the row of palms

Someone suggested to me that the 2 trees were part of a row of trees intended to be planted next to the palms, but that Council didn’t complete this plan.  I must say this makes sense as to why these trees find themselves near the row palms.

I don’t believe this tree should be axed.  It is healthy, it shouldn’t lose its life simply for visual conformity & it is beneficial in carbon sequestration & cleaning the air.  That it is just only one tree in a park & is therefore expendable is not a convincing argument for me. Enmore Park has already lost 51 trees to make room for the pool, plus a large Fig tree was removed in 2010.

To be fair to Council, Tulip trees have a symmetrical & pyramidal growth habit & once mature, can have a 12-metre canopy & reach a height of 24-metres. If it does grow like this, it will eventually overtake the palm.  Council could choose to transplant this tree a few metres away.  These trees cope with transplanting as long as water is kept up them while they are settling in.  Enmore Park is a boggy park after rain. Tulip trees love these conditions, which is probably why this species was chosen in the first place.  The tree is small enough not to make transplanting an impossible job. Springtime is recommended for transplanting these trees to prevent stress & increase the chances of survival.

Council say they will replace the tree with a Port Jackson Fig. Well I would be surprised if they are planning to plant it where the Tulip tree is currently located.  If they do, they will only be recreating the same problem. Enmore Park could easily cope with another Fig as well as keeping the Tulip tree by moving it to another location.

I will be putting in a submission regarding this tree & requesting that it should not be chopped down, but just transplanted a few metres away.

The deadline for submissions is Friday 3rd June 2011.  Marrickville Council’s email address for submissions is –

The Tulip tree is the one second from the right & has lost most of its leaves for winter. Therefore, it is not its most attractive time

Marrickville Council intend to remove a Spotted gum (Corymbia maculata) from outside 8 Ross Street, Dulwich Hill.

Council gives the following reasons for removal:

  • “The subject tree has a repeat history of large branch failure & there remains the possibility that the tree may further shed branches in the future.
  • The subject tree in its current condition presents an unacceptable risk of harm or injury to persons & property.”

Council say they will replace this Spotted gum with another Spotted gum, but not when they will do this.    The weblink for further information did not work at the time of writing (error 404).

There is evidence of 5 branches coming off this tree.  The remaining parts of the branches are jagged & the tree looks injured.   I haven’t seen branch loss looking like this before, but this isn’t surprising.  The tree looks to be in good health. It’s one of 2 tall trees in the street & has a girth of around 1.8 – 2 metres.

I think there are a number of issues here.  My research came up with a report written in 2003 by Hornsby Council who refused an application to remove a 18-metre Spotted gum street tree that was dropping branches into the front garden of a property because the tree was healthy.  Hornsby Council refused to remove the tree even though they knew they could be liable, especially if property damage occurred in the near future.   See –

This is the Spotted gum up for removal

What I did find out was that Spotted gums are self pruning (meaning they drop branches as a natural characteristic) & have lighter branches than other species of Corymbia.  They are often deemed as suitable for use as street trees & have a life expectancy over 40 years.  Now I love my Gums, but I would ask – why are they deemed suitable if they are known for dropping branches?  Marrickvlle Council is using a Spotted gum to replace this one once they chop it down.

The technical name is limb shear & the branches of this particular tree certainly looked sheared.  It looks like a rope has been slung over the branch & pulled until the branch tore away from the trunk.  Shear is a good description.

Apparently there are a number of causes of limb shear & no single cause. Limb shear can happen as part of the behaviour of certain species, including the Spotted gum & because of drought or compaction of the soil.  An arborist can check limbs regularly to look for obvious weakness showing in the branch & prune to prevent the limb falling.  Problem is Marrickville Council doesn’t prune street trees, they chop them down when branches fall.

Yesterday I learnt that Leichhardt Council checks every single one of their public trees every 2 years & prunes as needed.  Their Urban Forest Policy says the removal of a public tree is the last option.

Most of the Council’s around Sydney have thousands more Eucalypts & Corymbia’s as street trees than does Marrickville LGA.  A quick Google search choosing Councils at random, showed me that Ryde, Hornsby, Newcastle, Randwick & City of Sydney all prune street trees.  This was enough for me to show that pruning is considered a norm.

I would prefer that Parks & Gardens were given sufficient money in the budget to allow them to establish a regular tree maintenance program & prune street trees to bring Marrickville Council up to the standard of other Councils.  Perhaps then, many more trees could be caught before they become dangerous to allow the canopy to remain. The cycle of chopping a tree down once it has reached a good height means we will never really have tall trees or increase the canopy beyond small stature trees.

The deadline for submissions is Friday 27th May 2011.  I will not be putting in a submission.

Showing where 3 branches have broken off

The injured Fig is shown. It's a beautiful tree

There are 2 fantastic Hills Figs in Lillian Fowler Reserve Newtown, part of Sydney City Council LGA.  They are mature & in very good health.  To protect these trees, a small picket fence has been placed around the drip line & the area under their canopy is heavily mulched.  One of the trees looks to have lost a branch, as there is a large wound on the trunk.  To me it looks like the branch was too heavy to sustain itself, but it could have been rot or any number of other reasons.

Showing the damage

Instead of chopping the tree down, Sydney City Council are encouraging aerial roots to grow from another large & heavy branch on the tree. They have packed soil & braced the lot inside a sack & a series of milk crates.  It looks clumsy, but is a very effective method.  Aerial roots form naturally & this setup with the crates will assist the roots to grow quite quickly.  It won’t be too long before these roots establish in the ground & the milk crates & material can be cut away.

The Fig trees in the Domain have been allowed or encouraged to grow aerial roots to stabilize themselves in the way they do naturally. Unfortunately, some see these roots as untidy & chop them off.  Neatness is the rule.

Assisting the growth of aerial roots

I was really pleased to see that the Newtown Fig is being retained despite its injury.  When I was growing up, this is how I understood Tree Surgeons to work on tree injuries. Somewhere in the intervening years the name of the profession was changed to Arborist & with it came a propensity for removing trees when they grow older rather than keeping them.  I am talking in generalities, as there are plenty of Arborists who work hard at keeping mature trees healthy & dealing with any problems that arise through size, aging & the environmental difficulties trees face. There are also Arborists who are specialists in veteran trees.

However, having spoken to Arborists & witnessed for myself how low trees are on the scale of importance within many Councils, I was very happy to see the work done by Sydney City Council for this tree’s particular problem.  Some Arborists may have said the Fig had reached its safe useful life expectancy (SULE).  These Figs are a huge asset to the park & the local area as well as urban wildlife.  I hope they live for many decades more.  They probably will with this care.

The other Hills Fig in Lillian Fowler Reserve. What a stunning tree


4 of the 7 large trees photographed here are recommended for removal & will not be replaced. Crepe myrtle trees will be planted in the grassed area. The Crepe myrtle here is indicated by the red dot at the base of its trunk.

Marrickville Council is planning an overhaul of historic Petersham Park in Petersham.  I’ve done my best to translate the plans. There is a Legend on the side of the plans offering a range of symbols in various shades of green & one has to scroll around the map trying to find the symbols.  It would be so much easier if there was list of what will be removed, replaced etc & any trees to be removed coloured red.  Perhaps that would look too imposing, especially on this map.  I apologize in advance if I have made a mistake translating the plans.

The Petersham Park Masterplan recommends –

  • removing 8 of the 26 large Camphor laurel trees from the magnificent memorial avenue of trees that make the Brighton Street entrance.
  • removing 4 of the 10 large Camphor laurels along Wentworth Street.
  • removing 5 of the 7 large trees near the entry to the Fanny Durak Pool & the playground.  That will mean another shadecloth structure. Council are removing these trees because the soil is compacted. Soil compaction can be treated without removing trees. Axing these trees is simply the most expedient option.
  • removing 4 of the 12 large trees along Station Street.
  • removing  2 other large trees inside the park.
  • removing  7 of the 14 large trees from the boundary of West Street.  Apart from

    In January 2011 the last of 31 trees were removed from the St Vincent de Paul Society complex. For many decades these trees matched the trees across the road at Petersham Park on the right of this photo. Now Council wants to remove 7 of the 14 trees along here

    1 tree with significant dieback, I cannot see why these trees need to be removed.  They have been badly pruned, but so have the majority of the trees in the park.  Most look like champagne glasses because of Council’s long-standing policy of pruning all side branches.  The plans recommend not replacing trees along West Street to offer unrestricted visual access into the park. Unrestricted for who? The third storey across the road?  Whether on foot or in a car you can easily see into Petersham Park.  No substantial trees will also ensure that the traffic noise from ultra-busy West Street would fully infiltrate the park.

  • If I understand the Legend correctly, the ultimate recommendation is to remove all the trees along West Street. If that is correct, the remaining side of the once glorious avenue of trees will be lost.  (Last January 2011 St Vincent de Paul Society completed the removal of 31 trees that formed the other side of the avenue of trees. See – )
  • All up 30 very large trees are to be removed.
  • 38 new trees are to be planted. Sounds great, except they will be small stature ornamental Crepe myrtle & Cape Chestnut trees.  Many new tree plantings fail so even whether these 38 trees survive remains to be seen.  Figs & large Eucalypts have been suggested for the Brighton & Wentworth Street as replacement for the trees removed in these sections.
  • Cape Chestnuts & Crepe Myrtles are to be planted in the space between West Street & the oval to offer colour.  I am rather horrified that Crepe myrtle trees are popping up across Marrickville LGA when there are many better choices of small native trees that offer colour as well as food for wildlife.
  • Very small spaces will be planted with groundcover for Bandicoot habitat where trees have been removed on West Street. Although habitat for the critically endangered Long-nosed Bandicoot is of paramount importance, especially now that their habitat across the road at St Vincent de Paul Society has been destroyed, the size of the proposed habitat is tokenistic at best & keeps the Bandicoots near the very busy road.
  • Council also plans to upgrade the playground, repair the stonework, repair the paths, add some lighting, add some garden beds, replant the existing garden beds & add a decorative picket fence to part of the Brighton Street entry – all good.

Magnificent trees are recommended for removal, yet this & others like it will stay

There are many wonderful things about Petersham Park.  It is remarkably different from most parks in Marrickville LGA in that it has many very large trees as well as large shade-producing trees throughout the park itself, not just around the perimeter.  Removing so many large trees at one time would be devastating. To remove half of the trees on West Street only to replace with groundcover & add some Crepe myrtles further in would to my mind, reduce this side of the park to ‘ordinary.’

I know parks have to be maintained & Petersham Park, even for its beauty is showing signs of neglect, but in my opinion, the bulk of the large mature trees are doing well.  The paths, the playground & the garden beds are what needs work & yes, some trees need to be removed, but I wonder about the choices of trees.  The Prunus looks scraggly & a couple of Fig trees look quite weird & unhealthy.  I could have removed 20 trees, however, only 1 of those trees matched the trees Council is recommending for removal.

4 out of 10 trees here are recommended for removal

It’s obvious that some trees are to be removed simply because they are mature or that removing the trees will allow for the new fashion of having clear unobstructed views deep into parks.  To me, that’s not a good enough reason to remove healthy mature trees which are doing great work in sequestering large amounts of CO2, removing particulate matter, improving air quality as well as providing shade & beauty to the area.  Mature doesn’t mean dying.

There are dead street trees all over Marrickville LGA, some that have been sitting there for 18 months or more.  Then there is the borer infestation of Mahoney Reserve & the 6 dead

8 out of the 26 trees along the avenue are recommended for removal

Poplar trees that are still standing.  These things make me wonder why so much money will be spent removing so many trees in Petersham Park when very few of them are showing obvious signs of deterioration.  They are mature trees & for that very reason, quite spectacular.  I’d rather the dead & dying trees elsewhere be removed than 30 mature beautiful trees from the one park. Council needs to start to grow replacement trees (further in the park if they are to be Fig trees to allow for the canopy) & when they have grown to a decent size, only then do a graduated removal of the other trees.

I recognize that Marrickville Council wants to do the best thing for the park & it is good that community consultation was offered. However, the plans for Petersham Park remind me of the intention in the draft tree strategy policy that was so poorly received by Councillors in early 2010 & which has been redrafted. That report spoke negatively about mature trees & proposed cutting down 1,000 trees per year for 5 years. Is Council still pursuing this kind of goal?

Any written feedback to Marrickville Council from the community is due by 28th February 2011.  The plan can be downloaded here (5MB) –

I made a video of Petersham Park here –

The red dots indicate several Prunus & 1 Fig that looks sick. These insubstantial, scraggly 'trees' are to remain while 30 large mature trees are to be removed.




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