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Planted in about 1860, this is a very important tree for Sydney.  I am pleased Metro kept new infrastructure away from this tree.

Looking at the front entrance from the side.

The new entrance to Marrickville Metro from the front.

Last post I said I would post some photos of the landscaping work being done at the Victoria Road entrance of Marrickville Metro.

I love that infrastructure was kept away from the magnificent heritage fig tree planted around 1860.  It is an extremely important tree for Marrickville & for Sydney.

I also love that the bench seats do not include a bar to prevent people from lying down.  I loathe defensive architecture & the negative message it sends.

Facing Mill house, on the right there is now a lovely small school vegetable garden for local St Pius’ Catholic Primary School & also what appears to be an outdoor classroom area.  From memory this area contained a few trees, so to me it looks entirely different.  However, it is a nice & useful green space.

I do like that extensive verge gardens have been created down Victoria Street & more gardens behind the temporary fence.

Metro has obviously tried.  It is just a pity that the main entrance area is so visually harsh & is also a heat sink.  I think they may come to regret this in the years to come.

The fence is temporary. What concerns me is that lack of shade for dogs.

The dog tie-up area in this location is connecting all dogs to the one pole & although water bowls have been kindly provided, I think the dogs will bake if left here for more than the shortest time.  I also think there is a high risk they will get tangled up with each other, which may cause conflict with some dogs who feel anxious or who have a need for personal space.

It is interesting to notice how the community feel a sense of ownership of what is essentially private property.  My guess is Metro want the community to feel connected to this shopping centre, which is why they have the community library.   Something else that is important is that Metro is a place visited weekly by a large chunk of the community, so how it looks has an impact on how we feel & for many, whether we return or not.

There is the well-known research that found that spending increased by a whopping 11% in leafy shopping strips, so it behoves shop keepers & shopping malls to retain trees & lobby for more trees & greenery outside their shops & in public spaces within the shopping strip.   People like trees & tend to linger in green spaces.  If they linger, they tend to spend more.

The area outside the main entrance has been the focus of much conversation on Facebook & many people have initiated conversation with me wanting to talk about what has been done here.  No-one mentioned the school garden, the chess area, the verge gardens or the tree removal, so I was surprised to see all the other work.  Unfortunately, I do not know how many mature trees were removed.  What people talked to me about concerned the entrance area & their emotions were strongly on the negative side.

Having looked at the work I think Metro did not succeed with the front entrance, but have done well in the other sections.    For me I remember when Metro wanted to remove many of the Figs & other street trees surrounding the centre.  I am so glad this has not happened & think it is a major boon for both the community & the wildlife.

Despite that this is a large shopping mall, the streetscape around the centre is quite unique for Marrickville.  I personally enjoy walking here & find the trees beautiful.  Metro could have so easily made the whole periphery look like the front entrance.

I do think Metro realises the community’s love for the leafy outlook of the shopping centre & their love for the trees.  They had a mission to rejuvenate this area & they incorporated aspects that were inclusive to the local school & to anyone in the community who wants to play chess & sit in the shade of the Fig tree.  There are good points & not so good points.  I have included quite a few photos so you can make up your own mind & so that the good work they have done is not overshadowed by the front entrance.

I think the black block is to become a water feature.  The shade is from the veteran Fig tree.

Giant chess.  What I do like is that not everything in this area is concrete.  Paths are permeable or are raised wooden paths.

St Pius’ Catholic Primary School’s vegetable garden.

Outdoor classroom behind the vegetable garden.

New gardens behind the temporary fence.  I may be wrong, but I think there were mature trees here.

New verge gardens are a nice addition to the streetscape.  Maybe they will stop trolley dumping.

 

A lot of money was spent preventing the little fairy martins from building their nests here. No nest - no breeding.

A lot of money was spent preventing the little fairy martins from building their nests here.

We cycled through Tempe Reserve yesterday & saw something that made us both feel very disappointed.

Both kiosks have had what appears to be deterrents attached to prevent fairy martins from building their mud nests.  Chicken wire has been neatly & firmly attached to every part of the kiosk roof where the birds might try to build a nest.  I mean meters & metres of the stuff.  The Inner West Council – Marrickville invested a lot of ratepayers’ money to produce a neat & solid outcome.

I checked on google & yes, chicken wire is used in place of plastic netting to prevent birds from building mud nests.

For years, the fairy martins have built their nests on the underside of the concrete roof of the kiosks.   Unfortunately, the some of the public did not approve & broke their nests –

  • for fun,
  • for eggs to add to soup so I was told (nothing like wildlife to add to your diet) or
  • simply because they just didn’t like the look of the “spooky nests.”

I was happy in 2013 when Council fenced off the kiosks to allow the birds to breed.  Unfortunately, someone demolished the fences in an overt display of human superior power & their right to dominate a kiosk at the park to the exclusion of the birds.  See – http://bit.ly/2l5MsWH

I was even happier when in 2015, Council built two small structures for the Fairy martins in the middle of the saltwater wetland where people usually don’t go.  Having reread this post, I felt stunned at the incredible turnaround by council this year.  See – http://bit.ly/1HVotuV

I have not seen any reports that the birds are using the purpose-built structures in the wetland.  I looked late last year & there was no sign of mud nests, but this may take time anyway.

This year Council has confirmed that humans have exclusive rights over the wildlife in open parklands by ensuring the fairy martins cannot build their nests at the kiosks.  I feel sad about this & think it was a poor decision by Council.

These nests are a perfect opportunity to educate the public about wildlife.  The mud nests are interesting in themselves & offer us a look at something quite lovely that is happening in the park.  I had not seen these birds up close until I saw one sitting in a mud nest.  Indeed, that was the first time I had seen a mud nest.    Not surprising as these tiny birds are the only Australian bird to build bottle-shaped nests out of mud.

Instead of blocking off the kiosk in a better way this year & that includes adding bollards to prevent cars from entering into the park so they cannot be used by selfish vandals to pull down fences, Council has elected to oust the birds.

Even today there was a car near the wetland. The driver was having problems because of the drilling by the WestConnex Authority happening that was blocking his ability to drive down the shared pathway, but I digress.

Instead of talking with local schools & having onsite education with school children about fairy martins & the importance of biodiversity, council has decided to oust the birds.

Instead of deciding to educate the general community on the importance of biodiversity, council has decided to oust the birds.

Instead of having a Ranger around for the nesting period, council has decided to oust the birds.

This is an example where biodiversity is important on paper, but not in real life.

Vandalised fairy martin mud nests in the same kiosk.

Vandalised fairy martin mud nests in the same kiosk. Photo 2013.

Ausgrid pruning of street trees in Fotheringham Street Enmore last week.   Photo by Catherine Bakker‎ and used with thanks.

Ausgrid pruning of street trees in Fotheringham Street Enmore last week. Photo by Catherine Bakker‎ and used with thanks.

More Ausgrid pruning of street trees in Fotheringham Street Enmore last week.  Photo by Catherine Bakker‎ and used with thanks.

More Ausgrid pruning of street trees in Fotheringham Street Enmore last week. Photo by Catherine Bakker‎ and used with thanks.

The Inner West Council said in a press release dated 18th January 2017 that they are negotiating with power company Ausgrid to pay the costs of removing trees damaged by Ausgrid’s pruning & the planting of replacement trees.

The press release says  –

  • Council are “targeting the replanting of trees damaged by tree trimming in many inner west streets.”
  • “Council officers have been working with Ausgrid officers to nominate selected trees that should be replaced.”
  • “Ausgrid has agreed to assess and mostly likely approve the removal of these trees.”

While I am glad that Council are negotiating to have Ausgrid pay for the removal & replacement of the trees they have decimated by their pruning, I have some trepidation wondering just how many of our street trees will need to be removed.   If you look at the state of the street trees around the former Marrickville municipality, you will see that the numbers will not be insignificant.

Ausgrid have created an unnecessary loss of the urban forest & one which will have an negative impact on the community in terms of heat, pollution, stormwater management & the mental/physical health of the community, not to mention the cost to wildlife who possibly lose their homes & food source.

There has been a lot of research published recently that found that street trees provide numerous benefits to human health.  The lack of a good urban forest causes problems such as increased obesity, more respiratory & heart disease, more fatal heart attacks & the latest, more incidence of dementia.  Also, a poor urban forest is known to increase unhappiness & depression in the community & poorer learning in children.

Therefore, it is not a small impact to the community by Ausgrid when they pruned our street trees to such a degree that council thinks the trees will never recover & need to be removed.  It takes years for trees to grow to a point where they are providing viable benefits to the community, so all the health problems listed above are another impact caused by Ausgrid.

There are other tree losses that are not covered by this negotiation with Ausgrid by Council.  Just in my block one mature tree in a front garden was removed because Ausgrid removed one whole side of the tree leaving an unsightly half a tree behind. It is not only street trees that have been negatively impacted.

I applaud the Inner West Council for pursuing this action with Ausgrid.
Council is also looking at an aerial bundle cabling program, which is wonderful.  Take a look at the streets in the Botany area to see what the difference can mean to street trees.  Ausgrid will not need to prune so harshly if there is aerial bundle cabling installed.  It is a much better option than ordinary powerlines, though not as good as installing powerlines underground.  The last option is more expensive, but should be a condition for all new developments in my opinion.

Council in lobbying Ausgrid to develop an Inner West Guideline for tree pruning “sympathetic to our urban metropolitan environment – an area that is not fire prone.”

This is also a great move by Council.
Further in the press release – “The recent discussions with Ausgrid comes after Council late last year received a commitment from Ausgrid that their tree trimming contractors will continue to reduce the cutback they carry out on local street trees to achieve a safe clearance from power lines.  New contractors are now being directed to cut a reduced clearance of just 1 metre from low voltage wires, plus up to 0.5 metre for regrowth for a maximum of 1.5 metres in total resulting in a much improved result for local street trees than previous more radical pruning.”

Then why are Ausgrid, just in the last week, pruning way below the telecommunications cable?  The photos I posted in this post of trees in Fotherington Street Enmore & Renwick Street Marrickville are January 2017 examples of the new improved pruning from Ausgrid.  Sorry, but this was not the norm when Energy Australia did the street tree pruning.

The street trees in Renwick Street Marrickville were pruned last week.

The street trees in Renwick Street Marrickville were pruned by Ausgrid last week.  This is not “trimming.”

More examples of street tree pruning by Ausgrid in street trees in Renwick Street Marrickville

More examples of street tree pruning by Ausgrid in street trees in Renwick Street Marrickville.  

View of the now scaffolded historic sewer vent in Premier Street Marrickville South.

View of the now scaffolded historic sewer vent in Premier Street Marrickville South as seen from the supermarket car park.

To me this is beautiful.

To me this is beautiful & historically important.

I read in the latest issue of the Marrickville Heritage Society (http://marrickville-heritage.blogspot.com.au) Newsletter that the historic sewer vent in Premier Street Marrickville South will be remodified for safety reasons.  From memory Sydney Water did not feel confident that the vent would survive a one in 100 year storm.  Therefore, they intend to reduce the stack to half its current height.  There has been scaffolding around the vent for the last week or two.

While I appreciate Sydney Water’s reasons, I feel sad that this very significant landmark is going to be changed forever.  If it were a perfect world, I would like Sydney Water to spend the money to fortify the vent so it could be retained.

Incremental loss of our local history is happening at an alarming rate – from houses being demolished for new modern high-rise apartments to smaller things like the quiet removal of the street light that used to be suspended over the traffic island at the corner of Renwick Street & Excelsior Parade Marrickville.

The sewer vent in Premier Street is a local landmark & can be seen from many places across the locality.  For me, I look one way to see the Petersham Water Tower & the other to see the Cooks Pine & the Premier Street Sewer vent.  If I have been wandering aimlessly on my bicycle & need to focus on where I am, I can find these landmarks easily & orientate myself towards home.

I believe many in our community love these local landmarks as much as I do. These things make up the character of our suburb & some like this one, are definitely worth preserving.

If we continue to lose these things, we will end up with a homogenized & monocultural architectural environment.  Why can’t we follow London’s example?  They manage to keep their architectural heritage for many hundreds of years, while still morphing into a modern city. 

The front of the stack is dated 1898.  Part of the construction is a pair Queen Anne Revival worker’s cottages, that frankly look gorgeous.

Sydney Water has a great website page that covers the history & significance of the Premier Street sewer vent.  It is good to see this done so anyone can have access to information about our history.   I have pinched a few interesting tidbits, but you can read all the information here –http://bit.ly/2hh2LuS

“The Premier Street Sewer Vent and Cottages is an item of significance for the State of NSW for the following reasons:

  • The excellent aesthetic and technical qualities of the masons’ craft of the classicist late-Victorian vent stack, the likes of which are not likely to be produced again.
  • The technical aspect of significance of the item is strongly emphasized by the ongoing operational use of the sewer vent and two cottages in their original function.
  • As a rare architectural composition in NSW consisting of a special sewer vent and a pair of cottages built by the Water Board for accommodation of maintenance staff.  For its role in an important stage of development of the sewerage services to the Inner Western Sydney suburbs area.
  • The aesthetically appealing historic vent stack and associated pair of cottages contribute significantly to the understanding of the development of design of special sewer ventshafts in Sydney and NSW. The item demonstrates historic circumstances of its creation, including the once common practice of the Water Board to create a cottage purposely built for accommodation of the maintenance staff on important sites.
  • The Premier Street ventshaft is also of significance as a prominent local area landmark, identifiable from a further distance and a notable element of the Marrickville landscape.”

Plus they say that the sewer vent is “substantially intact.”

If Sydney Water’s words do not support my argument to spend the money needed to retain this important local landmark, I don’t know what does.

Showing the top of the vent.  The vent already has has reinforcing rings.

Showing the top of the vent. The vent already has has reinforcing rings.

The new children's playground with barbecue area.

The new children’s playground with barbecue area.

The new moving exercise equipment area.

The new moving exercise equipment area.

The new World War II Memorial

The new World War II Memorial

New path and garden

New path and garden

Swale in Marrickville Park

New swale in Marrickville Park with new concrete paths.

We went to have a look at Marrickville Park today.  Inner West Council has recently finished an upgrade of this historic park.  It looks good, though there is a lot of concrete where there was once grass.   I concede that concrete paths do improve accessibility, so now there are more paths for people to walk & this is probably a good thing.

The south entrance off Livingstone Road takes you to a new exercise area with moving equipment.  It is good to see that Marrickville is getting the same quality of equipment as other areas of the old Marrickville municipality.    The ground surface is made of what appears to be synthetic material that is super soft & bouncy.

I noticed one of the two new drinking fountains has a bowl that allows both dogs & birds to access fresh water, which is wonderful.  I’ve been noticing these as a norm in many parks, but not at the southern suburbs of the old Marrickville municipality.  It is a shame that both bubblers don’t have this extra water bowl, but having one is a great improvement.    Both bubblers have drainage at the base to take water away instead of creating muddy puddles.

Beside the exercise area is a large swale, which I presume will collect any rainwater & allow it to soak into the ground purifying it of pollutants before it reaches the Cooks River.  I love swales & think the more we have the better.

This swale evolves into a long wide garden area that travels all the way to the original path lined with historic palm trees.  The garden area is covered with geotextile to stop the weeds & keep in moisture.  It has been planted out with bottle brush, pig face, native grasses & 8 new advanced-sized Melaleuca trees.  These trees will provide food for the wildlife.  They look great now, but when mature they will look fantastic, as these trees generally develop beautiful canopies when they do not have to suffer severe pruning for power lines.

There is new lighting.  They look good, are unobtrusive & have been placed on the opposite side of the path & of newly planted trees, which means that trees will not need to be pruned to accommodate the lights.

I was pleased to see that all the trees have had the grass removed from around their trunk & this area mulched.  This is much better for the trees.  It protects them from mower & whipper-snipper damage & also keeps the ground moist & cool for the roots.  It is standard practice these days, so it is great to see our trees get this treatment, especially the historic trees.  I thank Council for this.

At intervals along the new pathway are metal circles engraved with a local sports person’s name & their sport.  This is a nice way to commemorate local sporting greats without making it look like a cemetery, as I have seen elsewhere.

A new war memorial has been created to remember those residents of Marrickville, Newtown, St Peters, Petersham & Camperdown who died in World War II.    The garden bed has been planted with Rosemary.

Next to the new children’s playground is the new barbeque area.  Two wooden tables with wooden bench seats have been placed next to the electric barbeque & there are garbage bins close by.  Two new trees have been planted to eventually provide natural shade.  I suspect this may be a popular place on summer evenings.

The children’s playground is exciting.  Even I had a bounce on one of the three in-ground trampolines.  The surface area here is as soft as around the exercise equipment.  The playground is covered by two shade cloths, while new trees have been planted that will eventually create natural shade.   There is climbing equipment, a tunnel slide, swings of different kinds, benches to sit on & a cubby house.

It looks fun & the kids that were there were obviously enjoying themselves.  It appears we have passed the era of sad-looking playgrounds.  This playground is an entertainment centre in itself.  Here children have all kinds of opportunities to exercise & learn new skills while enjoying themselves.  The adults also have comfortable places to sit.

From the central path with the palm trees to the Croquet Club are 26 new trees.  That is a boon!   One species is the Oriental Plane (Platanus orientalis) – a deciduous tree native to south eastern Europe to west Asia.  It is a fast growing tree with horizontal branching that can grow to 20-30 metres tall.   Fossil specimens of this tree from over 100 million years ago in the earlier Cretaceous period have been found.

Another is Pin oak (Quercus palustris) – a deciduous tree native to the USA & Canada. Can grow to 15-metres with a canopy spread of around 8-metres. It develops deep bronze to red leaves in autumn.  The Little corellas like to eat the small acorns, so even though not native to Australia, it does provide food for wildlife.  A fig tree has been planted & also a couple of Firewheel trees, which is wonderful.

A new white picket fence (in keeping with tradition) has been erected around the oval & it looks nice.

I have two areas of concern.  One is that a mature Brushbox tree that was near the entrance on the south side off Livingstone Road died 2-3 years ago & unfortunately was not replaced by Council.  The tree was there for decades.  Now there is a triangle of concrete pathways with nothing but grass & one bench.  There is lots of space to replace this tree without taking away from any of the new activities or plantings here.  The space looks empty to my mind & I would like to see this tree replaced to fill what is now a visual hole.

The second issue that concerns me is Council’s plan not to replace any of the Brushbox trees that are growing on the hill surrounding half of the oval.  This appears to be a matter of personal taste with the designer because it does not make sense to me.   Trees have been growing here successfully for many decades, perhaps 80-100 years.  Growing on raised ground means that these trees are higher than usual & therefore more visible.  To me this is a good thing in a suburb where roofs are generally more visible than trees.

Of major importance though, is people sit under these trees to watch the games.  They also sit in the shade to have picnics, read books or just chill.  There are 10 mature Brushbox trees here & while we were walking around, 5 of the trees had people sitting or lying underneath them.  Where else are you going to do this in the shade if these trees go?    People are unlikely to place a blanket under the lovely Brushbox trees growing next to busy Livingstone Road & Frazier Street because sitting or lying next to traffic is not conducive to feeling relaxed.

From memory all but one of the new trees are planted next to the pathway or next to the children’s playground.  The other 8 new trees are planted inside a garden area, again next to the path.  My bet is people won’t want to lay a blanket next to a path.  It is not the same as the area on the hill under those beautiful trees.   Shade was much needed this afternoon as it is a hot day.

For Council not to replace trees at this location removes not only beauty, but also a place for people to sit safely in the shade to watch games or to relax.  We need Council to plant trees wherever there is an opportunity, not decide not to replace trees where they have historically been.

I would like Council to replace these trees as they die or need to be removed & replace them with the same species. Brushbox are good for wildlife & they have a most beautiful canopy, especially from beneath.  It would be nice to carry on some of the historical plantings into the next hundred years for people to enjoy like we have.

Finally, I like that the rose garden has been retained.  It is one of those old worldly characteristics that gives this park its unique character.

Council have done good work in this upgrade.  The park has become popular for exercise groups, so the moving exercise equipment will be appreciated.  New trees & gardens are always wonderful & the children’s playground is a big improvement on what was there before.  All up, it looks great.

A Brushbox tree stood here for decades.  When it was removed it was not replaced leaving a gaping hole.  I think this area would be much improved if the tree was replaced with the same species.

A Brushbox tree stood here for decades. When it was removed it was not replaced leaving a gaping hole. I think this area would be much improved if the tree was replaced with the same species to match the row of Brushbox trees on the right.

People making use of the shade provided by the trees on the hill.  Trees are needed and appropriate in this area.

People making use of the shade provided by the trees on the hill. Trees are needed and appropriate in this area.  Note that no-one is sitting in the sun.

Three groups of people under three trees on this hill.  It is unthinkable that these trees will not be replaced when they die or need to be removed.

Three groups of people under three trees on this hill. It is unthinkable that these trees will not be replaced when they die or need to be removed.

Spectators under another Brushbox on the hill.

Spectators under another Brushbox on the hill.

 

 

 

People gathered hear talks about the project under the beautiful fig tree that was saved from death by brackish water & erosion.

People gathered hear talks about the project under the beautiful fig tree that was saved from death by brackish water & erosion.

Here is a 2014 photo of the same tree showing the erosion and exposed roots.

Here is a photo I took in 2014 of the same tree showing the erosion and exposed roots.

Looking at the saved Fig tree, the habitat area and up the Alexandra Canal

Looking at the saved Fig tree, the habitat area and up the Alexandra Canal from the lookout area.  On the far right is a great model that shows how stormwater travels along hard surfaces.  

A close-up of the restored bank. Plants have been placed in slots and below the current tide line, intertidal block pools have been created.  These all offer habitat for a range of creatures.

A close-up of the restored bank. Plants have been placed in slots and below the current tide line, intertidal block pools have been created. These all offer habitat for a range of creatures.  The sandstone blocks have been left in the river to continue their work offering habitat.

This morning I went to the Community Open Day celebrating the newly upgraded Alexandra Canal & other works beside Tempe Recreation Reserve.

The event was opened by an indigenous man who said the area was near enough to the meeting point of three indigenous tribes.  After a short speech about the Cooks River, he welcomed us to Country.

Then representatives from Sydney Water & the contractor Total Earth Care each gave short talks explaining what they had done with the river bank.  They appeared very happy with the outcome & so they should be.  It looks excellent.

I asked how long the work on the banks should last & was told it will see us all out.  I think it is wonderful that this restoration work will be long-lasting.  I am used to seeing work all around the place last a decade if that.

I had other commitments, so was not able to stay for the full program.  Unfortunately, I missed what promised to be a very interesting talk about the indigenous history of the area, plus actual exhibits.  I also missed a talk & showing of a variety of animals & insects that Taronga Zoo brought to the park, though I did get to see a gorgeous echidna before their talk.  It was very windy, so the echidna wanted to burrow in hay & get out of the wind, but I was lucky enough to get a photo of him.

So what is the restoration like & why all the fuss about a river/canal bank?  Firstly, the lovely & significant Fig tree that was badly affected by erosion & had many roots submerged in brackish water every time the tide came in is now sitting pretty in thickly mulched soil as it should be.  It is now one happy tree.

Had the erosion continued, it is highly likely we would have lost this tree.  It has a beautiful bowl-shaped canopy that reaches all the way to the ground – something we don’t see much in this area anymore.

The area between this tree & another large old fig tree on the point has been made into a garden habitat area & lookout with signage that explains the work done, the ecological significance & also the history of this area.   I think the signage is excellent, as it may change the culture of many who use this park by encouraging them to respect the park & the river.

I’ve noticed minimal vandalism & littering at Cup & Saucer Creek Wetland & also the bank restoration work in the same area – both major restoration works by Sydney Water.  People read the signage & learn how important to the river & the wildlife this work is.   The outcome has been negligible rubbish left behind & signs, structures, seating & re-vegetated areas have been mostly left alone & not destroyed or graffitied.  I hope the same level of respect happens here in Tempe Recreation Reserve.

From the lookout area you can see right along the curve of the bank with all the new sandstone & slots that hold plants.  It looks fabulous.

I had a chat with the contractor & was told that they used 1,742 slabs of sandstone to complete the work.  Each slab was hand-cut into eight pieces.  These were then laid to form the wall.  Each slot in the wall was also hand-cut.  To me this is a significant feat.   Some of the slots create intertidal block pools – places for small fish, seaweeds, snails, shellfish & small crabs to live.  Block pools have also been created above the tideline to cater for any future sea level rise.

When you look at the wall, each slab has its own unique markings.  It’s quite attractive. The slope of the wall also allows birds to perch safely away from people.  Crabs will benefit too.

The work is much more than saving a significant tree, restoring the bank & building a lookout area.  Sydney Water has done re-vegetation work all the way to the bridge over the Alexandra Canal.  They created curved garden habitat areas that swing around & encapsulate the fig trees, surrounding them with mulch & plants, therefore protecting them from people.  I like this very much.

Many of the trees have repeatedly had bark gouged out by people of all ages intent on engraving their initials.  This is a relatively new pastime, starting only a couple of years ago.  I’ve seen kids standing at the tree using kitchen knives to cut into the trunk while adults looked on.

Damaging the bark is a very quick was to introduce disease into trees & can bring about their early death, so I am very pleased that the tree trunks are now protected by plantings all around them.  The tree canopies are big enough to provide shade on the lawn areas outside of the garden areas, so picnicking people will still be able to access much needed shade.

A range of native plants have been planted & a good number too.    It is not stingy planting.   It looks good now, so will look terrific once grown.

The work makes this area look maintained & cared for, which also may change the culture of some who use this park for recreation.  I imagine it will be harder to leave lots of garbage behind when it is obvious that a lot of work & money has gone into making this a beautiful place.  Here is hoping anyway.  It would be nice to be able to spend time in this park without feeling upset at the amount of garbage left around or blowing into the river.

All the fences along the canal have been replaced & they are attractive to look at.  Fences are needed here to keep people safe because the bank is steep & the drop is dangerous.  Fences will also stop people from driving their car to the bank & launching their speedboats into the river at this location.

All in all, Sydney Water & contractor Total Earth Care should feel proud of what they achieved.  The community has benefited by this major improvement to our park & the wildlife now have additions that will help improve their life.

Beauty always lifts the spirit, so this work will make people feel happier after time spent here.  I also think the work will educate people as to the importance of the river & its ecology.  Hopefully, this will spinoff into respectful behavior toward the river & the park environment.

Lastly, Tempe Recreation Reserve is highly visible from the Airport Drive.  I am sure many thousands of people look & wonder about this park every day.  Now when they are driving past they will get an excellent look at the bank restoration work & instead of seeing a rundown eroded area filled with weeds & junk, they will see beauty.  The benefits will flow on further than just the users of the park.  To me this is priceless.

A massive thank you to Sydney Water & contractor Total Earth Care from me.  You give me hope that one day the Cooks River & the Alexandra Canal will be restored & we will have a healthy river system once again.  All work here is worth it many times over.

A section of the educational signage that shows the sandstone riverbank.  I was amazed to read that dugong bones with butcher marks had been excavated when the Alexandra Canal was constructed. Dugongs lived here about 5,500-years-ago.

A section of the educational signage that shows the sandstone riverbank. I was amazed to read that dugong bones with butcher marks had been excavated when the Alexandra Canal was constructed.  Dugongs lived here about 5,500-years-ago.

Lots of exhibits were bought along for the talk on the indigenous history of the area.  I was amazed to read that dugong bones with butcher marks had been excavated when the Alexandra Canal was constructed.  Dugongs lived here about 5,500-years-ago.

Lots of exhibits were bought along for the talk on the indigenous history of the area. 

The lookout area is surrounded by seating height sandstone blocks, which I imagine will be really popular.

The lookout area is surrounded by seating height sandstone blocks, which I imagine will be really popular.

Two more sandstone seats were installed further along the Canal.  They look great.

Two more sandstone seats were installed further along the Canal. They look great.  You can see the garden area curve around the fig tree.

Looking down at the new sandstone river bank at the lookout area.  I think this looks very attractive.

Looking down at the new sandstone river bank at the lookout area. I think this looks very attractive.  

More habitat areas alongside the Alexandra Canal.  This will look amazing in a few months time.  It travels all the way to the bridge over the Canal.  The bitumen road has been painted rusty red with signage saying that it is a shared zone.  It looks cared for.

More habitat areas alongside the Alexandra Canal. This will look amazing once it all grows. The habitat area travels all the way to the bridge over the Canal. The bitumen road has been painted rusty red with signage saying that it is a shared zone. The whole area now looks cared for.

Lastly, an echidna who came for a visit from Taronga Zoo.

Lastly, an echidna who came for a visit from Taronga Zoo.  This is only the second echidna I have seen, so quite a treat.

Eastern great egret at the Cooks River

Eastern great egret at the Cooks River

The community asked for it, but repeatedly Marrickville Councillors voted not to have live video streaming of Council Meetings.

Much to my delight I read a press release from the Inner West Council of 6th October 2016 saying, “live streaming of Inner Council meetings via YouTube will start this year in a move to make it easier for many more in the community to follow meetings and hear about issues that interest them.”  Yes!

The first live streaming is expected to start with the December Ordinary Meeting.  It will be real time & also accessible later.

However, the Council did not say for how long the video of the council meeting will be accessible on YouTube.  Will it be removed after 30-days or another period of time?  I hope not.

Council should allow the videos to remain on YouTube forever.  This will be especially good resource for researchers & anyone with an avid interest in Council.  Besides, YouTube is a free service, so leaving the videos up will not cost Council anything, yet will serve greater benefits by leaving them available.

In the press release the Administrator Mr Richard Pearson said, “For the many in our community that can’t attend meetings due to issues of time or accessibility, live streaming is a practical step that will allow anyone anywhere to watch and listen to the meeting in real time. …. Increasing & expanding public access through streaming also helps us to meet open government obligations of transparency and accountability.”

I think this is fantastic & about time.  Although we do not have Councillors at the moment & won’t until after the 2017 elections, is it important that the community is able to see how our future Councillors will perform in council meetings.  It can be an eye-opener to say the least.

Live video streaming will have the added benefit of stopping any bullying behavior & long-winded diatribes that add little to the issue.  Having gone through a period of around 2.5 years where we attended council meetings most weeks, I can say with all honesty that these meetings can be very interesting.   It is also important to see how Council works under an Administrator.

I think live streaming will be embraced by the community, though it may be slow to take off.  Or maybe not.  Regardless of view numbers, I think live streaming should continue as a norm because it allows true equal access to the community.

Tuesday evenings is not a good time for most families to attend council meetings.  People with health issues also find it difficult.  By having live streaming available for the community to watch/listen when they have the time offers excellent transparency to the operations of council & the decisions of the Administraor & of the future Councillors.  I also think the community will become more engaged when they learn of the issues dealt with by Council.

I have only two concerns.  The first is how long the videos will remain accessible to the community on YouTube.  The second concerns privacy.

The Administrator Mr Richard Pearson said, “all speakers addressing Council will be advised that the meeting will be broadcast before the start of each meeting.”   The press release does not address privacy more than this statement.

The Council’s published statement does not leave room for informed consent. It is a dictatorial notice that if you speak, your image will be shared with the whole world whether you like it or not.   No room for exceptions – at least in the press release.

I think it is important for speakers from the community to be able to elect not to be filmed.  It is easy to not have the camera pointing towards them while they address the Councillors or if multiple cameras are used, have the camera that films the community speaker turned off for the 3-6 minutes that they are given to address Council.  Not having vision of the person speaking will not detract from the transparency principle, as their voice & therefore their message, will be recorded.  The same goes for a speaker’s address.

All the time we attended meetings at the Council, there was not requirement for a speaker to specifically state their home address. There was and still is good reason for that.  It adds nothing to the issue discussed or the transparency of the decision making process if the whole world knows exactly where a speaker lives.  It is the message that matters.

The same applies to a speaker’s image, unless the speaker freely consents to their image being broadcast around the world and maybe copied by others later.

It is the same as the issue of consenting to having a video or photos taken of you to be posted onto the internet to go who knows where if you attend library events.

Part of Council’s statement for attending library events is as follows, “….you should be aware that any information published on the internet is accessible to millions of users from all over the world, that it will be indexed by search engines and that it may be copied and used by any web user.”  See – http://bit.ly/2dCOKHd

YouTube content poses exactly the same issues.  It is very easy to take a screenshot from a video posted on the internet. 

An even greater threat is the easy way in which cheap technology these days does facial recognition matching. Anyone with a couple of hundred spare dollars and/or companies anywhere with an interest to collate a “digital dossier” on you can use your image from council’s meetings as part of stitching together your whole life story. Maybe some people do not mind.  But maybe some do.

It may be that most people coming to address Council will not care about being videoed, but there will be some, myself included, who will not want their image on the internet.  The community should have the right to have the privacy of their image respected.

I have spoken at Council Meetings about issues concerning the urban forest on a number of occasions, but I will never address the Councillors again if I have to be filmed.   Unfortunately, a lack of speakers is often interpreted as a lack of community interest in the issue, which is far from reality as far as I am concerned.

If filming a citizen’s face is mandatory, then Council effectively prevents some members of the community from exercising their democratic rights whilst retaining ownership of their own image.  This is not equal access to me.    Council locks us out without knowing the reasons why we choose not to have our image posted on the internet.  Neither should they know.  This is the private right of all citizens & should not require explanation.

With video streaming, the speakers’ image will be exposed to the world with the risk of being misappropriated by an uncontrollable number of individuals & more importantly, for an unpredictable range of purposes not connected with the issue of the council meeting.

There are valid & important reasons to have exceptions to filming, as there are many groups of people who may not wish to have their image shared with the world or copied from screens.  Victims of domestic violence have very good reasons why they would not want anyone to see their image connected with a particular location.  It simply may lead to perpetrators locating them and start harassing them again.  It is the same with Silent Voters.  Young people are always at a special risk.  Then there are the people who may wish to speak about a contentious issue, especially about development applications.  It is not necessary for their image to be displayed & adds to any risk towards them.  This issue was clearly identified by the City of Sydney, whose discussion of live steaming included:

“STREAMING OF COUNCIL AND COMMITTEE MEETINGS.  Privacy & legal risks:  A key risk is disclosure of personal information without consent in breach of the Privacy & Personal Information Protection Act 1198.  Personal information is often disclosed during the course of discussions or submissions at Committee meetings (especially during the Planning and Development Committee).  The city would need to either not record input from members of the public or ensure that public consent to broadcasting was obtained from attendees (including parental consent for minors).”  From Corporate, Finance, Properties and Tenders Committee 8th September 2014.

There is also no mention in the press release whether the people sitting in the Gallery will be filmed either.  

Remember, anyone who attends a Council Meeting is prohibited from taking photos, recording or filming the council meeting.  If you want to do any of that you are at the absolutely discretionary whim of Council to give you permission, plus you have to give your details & provide reasons why you want to take photos, record or video proceedings.   Whether or not you get permission is debated & voted upon by the Councillors at the start of the meeting & they can refuse to allow this.

While I think it is excellent that the Inner West Council is going to get with the times & live stream council meetings, the public announcement lacks any proper analysis of privacy risks.  If privacy risks were considered by Council, as opposed to being ignored, then it was essential and in keeping with the open government and transparency principle that the announcement espouses to have also released any report that Council commissioned on privacy risks from live streaming. If the community deserve transparency as Council suggests, they deserve it before any new regime that affects one of their most fundamental rights kicks off.

Most of the canopy is on the ground.

Most of the canopy is on the ground.

Great news for our street tree & our streetscapes.  Great news also for the wildlife who have barely any habitat as it is.

A statement from the Inner West Council said Mr Trevor Armstrong, CEO of Ausgrid power company, has made a commitment to the Council & therefore the whole community, “that contractors will reduce the cutback they are carrying out on local street trees following strong advocacy from Council and the community.” See – http://bit.ly/2dq10wk

After meeting with the Inner West Council, Ausgrid has said that “the maximum trimming for regrowth in the future will be 0.5 metres.”   Ausgrid’s current guidelines are for a “clearance of 1 metre around bare low voltage powerlines.”

The Inner West Council also resolved not to retain “TreeServe, the company responsible for the excessive pruning,” on their contractors list.  Let’s hope that the next contractors do a better job pruning our street trees.

I want to thank Ausgrid for taking this issue seriously & making the changes.   I also thank the Inner West Council for taking this issue to Ausgrid & pursuing the protection of our street trees.  Our urban forest is extremely important to most in the community & the look of butchered street trees does have a negative impact on us.

Two branches left after pruning by Ausgrid in 2014.

Two branches left after pruning by Ausgrid in 2014.

All that is left is three orange safety cones.

All that is left is three orange safety cones.

From my memory three Lombardy poplar trees were planted at the front of the Revolution apartments on Illawarra Road Marrickville around 2 – 2.5 years ago, shortly after the development was completed.  The trees were growing well.  This species is fast growing, so they were noticeable on the streetscape.

Sometime in the last week all three trees were removed & replaced by orange safety cones.  I have read reports that men with a truck removed the trees, so the trees were not removed by an opportunistic vandal.

Who knows why the trees were removed or even who removed them?  There is no Notification of Removal on Inner West Councils website.   Makes me sigh.

Inner West Council have given notification that they have removed a Small-Leaved Peppermint (Eucalyptus nicholii ) outside 73 Station Street Petersham.

Council gave the following reasons for removal –

  • “Tree was in poor condition with structural root instability.
  • Active termites & advanced internal decay at base.
  • The tree posed an unacceptable level of risk to the public & property.”

They say they will replace this tree with a Spotted Gum (Corymbia maculata) in the 2017 Street Tree Planting Program.

click here to follow Saving Our Trees on Twitter

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