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I have found a product that could radically transform Marrickville LGA.

It will do the following:

  • Allow any ground surface to be permeable to water.
  • Allow ordinary traffic to use the lane, including vehicles up to 90,718.474kgs  (100 US tons)
  • Capture stormwater before it hits the gutters & goes down the drain
  • Adapt to the contours of the landscape without downgrading its ability to capture stormwater
  • Will not form ruts or tracks from wheels
  • Prevent soil erosion
  • Maintain its performance even during wet weather
  • Fully sustainable & made from recycled material
  • Virtually no maintenance
  • Never needs replacement
  • Looks great & can be made to be invisible.

Laneway in Newtown

The product is PermaTurf. An American company makes it, but there must be suppliers in Australia.  It is a system of large sheets of interlocking cells made out of recycled plastic that can be filled with dirt & planted with grass or filled with mulch, pebbles or similar. It can also be cut to size.

Imagine if Marrickville Council dug up the bitumen & concrete & covered our laneways with this product.  The photos on the company’s website show seamless grass, but using grass may be unsuitable for Council as the bill for mowing is already around $2 million a year. Pea pebbles can be used instead of grass.

This means that the lanes deemed unsuitable to be made into green laneways because the garbage trucks use them can also be transformed.

Undoubtedly this product will be expensive. However, the cost for paving the footpath outside 8 shops is around $60,000 & it only looks good for a short while. It is soon covered with chewing gum spots.  Surely this product is comparable in price & the benefits in terms of stormwater management & lowering the heat island effect has to make it worth thinking about.  The suppliers say it is easy & quick to install so there won’t be any specialist installation costs.

Every 1mm of rain that falls on every sq metre of roof equals 1 litre of water.  The formula is 1m x 1m x 1mm = 1 litre. So for a 160sq metre roof & 5mm of rain, 800 litres of stormwater is generated from that one roof.  A 250sq metre roof & 15mm rain will produce 3,750 litres of stormwater.

A section of the Cooks River showing the mainly plastic garbage that has collected along the banks. Pockets of this garbage are everywhere along the banks & bottles can be seen floating down the river. They mainly come from stormwater drains. Mudcrabs, a community group of volunteers collects the garbage regularly. Their contact details are in the blogroll in the left-hand column

At this stage, having rain tanks fitted to collect rainwater from roofs is not the norm.  Most of the rainwater from the thousands of roofs in Marrickville LGA flows down onto hard surfaces like driveways, car parks, lanes, roads & footpaths.  Very little of this rainwater is caught by gardens & verge gardens. Most of it ends up in the drains & eventually into the Cooks River. Around 85% of rainwater that falls on a typical large city will flow into stormwater drains.

You don’t have to drive far in Marrickville LGA to find roads & footpaths that flood during a brief downpour because the 100 plus year old drains can’t cope.  Covering our lanes with a product like this will capture millions of litres of rainwater. This water will refill the ground water, stabilize our buildings that are mostly built on clay & prevent our old drains from overflowing & stop a great deal of ground surface pollution ending up in the Cooks River.

The edges of lanes & other places could have plants growing along them because you only put this product where you want it.  The possibilities are almost endless.  You could have wall to wall PermaTurf in lanes where there is high traffic & for less frequented lanes or use it in conjunction with garden space along the edges.  See –

Laneway in Enmore

Apart from using this product to transform laneways, it is a very suitable alternative to a stamped concrete driveway.  The cells can be planted with grass seeds so the driveway actually becomes hidden. If you are worried about driving on the ordinary lawn, you could plant small ornamental plants to show the edges of the driveway.  The driveway can be mowed the same as the lawn.

The more you concrete your property, the more you affect the ground water & the clay soil.  The Inner West is built predominantly on sandstone & clay soil. When clay soils dry up, they shrink & cause movement & cracking of the structure, so a permeable driveway does much to prevent this.

I think it would be great if Marrickville Council could seriously look into this & other products like it to make our laneways permeable to stormwater. It’s the first step to making laneways green.

PS – The company that sells PermaTurf is NOT owned by any of my family, friends, colleagues or acquaintances. Nor am I or anyone I know receiving any payment or benefit for writing about their product.  I found them on the internet. More about the product & some photos at –


A section of the Greenway at Dulwich Hill

It’s the time of festivals for Marrickville LGA with the Greenway Festival happening from this Sunday 10th – 17th October 2010.

There will be 23 free events during the Festival week happening at Newtown, Stanmore, Marrickville, Dulwich Hill, Sydenham, Summer Hill, Leichhardt, Haberfield & Hurlstone Park, so there should be something of interest happening close to you.

The GreenWay is a long strip of land along the goods line rail corridor & the Hawthorn Canal connecting the Cooks River to Iron Cove at Haberfield. It is a precious area of habitat for urban wildlife, including the endangered Long-nosed Bandicoot, birds, flying foxes, possums & frogs, lizards & a range of insects.  The Greenway is cared for by volunteers & is always looking for new members who want to join others in bush regeneration works.

To see a full program & to find out more about the Greenway –


This was the Development Assessment Committee Meeting. Absent: Clrs Peters & Wright. Mayor Iskandar & Clr Hanna were both very ill & I hope they get better quickly.  The following is my understanding of the meeting & all mistakes are mine.

The Gallery was full mostly with the community who came for Item 8 – the Marrickville Metro expansion.  This was dealt with first & I did not remain for the other agenda items that were DAs for individual houses.

Part 3A Redevelopment of Marrickville Metro Shopping Centre – Clrs Hanna, Macri & Thanos declared a pecuniary interest because they own shops in Dulwich Hill & Marickville & left the chamber.  Clr Hanna is also the President of Marrickville Chamber of Commerce.

Marrickville Metro want to buy Smidmore Street. Every bit of green is a tree at risk of removal.

4 people spoke, 1 for the expansion & 3 against.  The person who spoke for the expansion worked as a taxi driver & said his previous work as an engineer made him have much concern for various aspects of the plan.  He said that the Metro plan has 3 taxi spots which is not enough as Marrickville Rank is the main place to get jobs in the area.  He had assessed the roads around Marrickville Metro & thought the levels suggested in the Drainage Report were insufficient & needed to be lowered 1.5 metres. The parking also needed to be lowered with standard barrier kerbs.  He thought that as Murray Street was the major access for trucks, when they back into ramps they will block traffic substantially.  He reminded Council that Marrickville Council IS the Roads Authority & the sale is not part of the plan.

He said heavy-duty pavement was needed at bus stops & bi-pass traffic hasn’t been discussed. He wanted a deferred commencement until stormwater & overflow issues for Murray Street, Edinburgh Road were addressed.  He said he presumed Council will sell Smidmore Street & therefore didn’t include the issues of this street.  He said the roads sit high while drainage sits under concrete ramps. He finished off with saying at least $1.5 million for road construction is needed before the Metro expansion goes ahead.

Three speakers spoke against the Marrickville Metro expansion. Some of the issues they raised were:

  • the high level of disturbances, noise & litter that will only worsen should the Marrickville Metro expansion go ahead,
  • it was a grossly inappropriately & high development not near a main road & surrounded on 3 sides by residential heritage houses,
  • the expansion will affect our community indelibly in the future,
  • AMP Capital have had a long-term lobbying campaign & that they are doubling the height, size & impact, not ‘revitalizing’ Metro,
  • traffic will significantly increase in surrounding areas,
  • although 2 of the speakers live opposite Metro, they have had no community consultation, nor have their neighbours,
  • their Traffic Management Plan is inadequate & will take away parking,
  • the loss of employment across Marrickville LGA would be massive as 50% of the money local shops currently earn will be lost,
  • an Arborist needs to look at the trees surrounding Metro  as these trees will be lost for the convenience of the developer,
  • the laneway access near Edinburgh & Victoria Roads gives access to 18 garages & it is already difficult to exit this laneway.  This area is a cross road, not a t-intersection & if the Marrickville Metro expansion goes ahead they may have to ask for traffic lights,
  • there are many road accidents in the area & frequent road rage that can be realistically expected to get worse,
  • delivery trucks to Marrickville Metro already break curfew & Metro intend to have 24 hour delivery hours,
  • there is no guarantee Marrickville Metro will not charge for parking as happens at Broadway Shopping Centre which will further increase the competition for parking,
  • They commended Council’s Report.

All these trees are at risk of removal as well - all up 142 trees are at risk of removal should the Metro expansion go ahead

Clr Tsardoulias said Marrickville Council doesn’t want the Marrickville Metro expansion to go ahead. Clr Byrne said Council will not consent to sell Smidmore Street & that a Marrickville Metro expansion will have a detrimental impact on both Marrickville & the broader community.  She said it was blindingly obvious it was a bad idea, that the plans are flawed & she was surprised it has got this far. She thought the loss of employment & the loss of trees are issues that need to be included in Council’s Report & reminded the community that the Minister for Planning is the final decision maker.

Clr O’Sullivan spoke about the devastation to shops on Glebe Point Road because of the Broadway Shopping Centre & Double Bay shops because of Westfield. She said the concept plan was amorphous & slippery & conducive to concealment. She also said IKEA will not be renewing its lease at Rhodes so Edgeware Road will become an artery.

Clr Phillips spoke about Marrickville Metro’s glossy PR shots which are deceptive & don’t show all the empty shops around the LGA. He thought their survey saying that most people want an expansion is also quite deceptive. He said Council doesn’t want the Town Centre at Metro & he didn’t support the sale of Smidmore Street.  He said AMP Capitol want a voluntary agreement of $800,000 to allow for community infrastructure in Metro, but we already have our own libraries & this is private space.  He mentioned 1,000 extra cars/hour on Saturdays & 500 extra/hour on Thursday nights.  He said if it wasn’t a Part 3A, it wouldn’t have a hope of being approved through Council.

If you stand on the current massive car park of Marrickville Metro, everywhere you look you see this beautiful canopy of Hills Fig trees that surround the perimeter

Clr Olive said that 13-55 Edinburgh was prohibited for reuse & that Marrickville Council’s Urban Strategy has never endorsed this kind of development. He said if the Minister approves it, he will be going against what the NSW state government has been telling Council for many years is not permitted. It should not go ahead & will be a detriment to the community.  Mayor Iskandar said we will fight the Metro expansion & we will win.  Clr Kontellis said Metro has been working on this for many years, that they asked for rezoning & it was given. She said 95% of Part 3A applications are approved & she felt cynical.

Clr Tsardoulias asked that the airspace in Smidmore Street be included in

This is a seriously big Fig with a girth of many metres. It stands near the front entrance of Marrickville Metro on Victoria Road.

Council’s Report & that Anthony Albanese had told him earlier that in excess of 500 submissions against the Marrickville Metro expansion have been received from the community. He said if the expansion goes ahead, local shops will have to drop staff & stay open longer to make up the difference.

One major aspect of Council’s Report is a recommendation to take Metro’s application to an Independent Hearing & Assessment panel (IHAP). This will allow the community another opportunity to speak about their objections to the plan.  The motion that Council make a submission along the lines of the report prepared by staff was carried unanimously.

Just a reminder that the deadline for submissions opposing the Marrickville Metro expansion is this Friday 10th September 2010. To read more about the issues see –

Recently we visited Leamington Avenue Newtown & as we drove there we saw something fantastic.  Either NSW Rail Corp or City of Sydney Council has erected a concrete wall between the raised section of the railway line and the nearby houses, presumably as a sound barrier for the neighbourhood.  What makes this so fantastic is, it is not just a concrete wall or a decorated concrete wall, it’s a green wall.

Green wall along the rail line behind Leamington Avenue Newtown

At regular intervals, steel mesh going up 5-6 meters high has been attached along the wall & Chinese Jasmine is growing.  Not only does this make the wall look good, but the vines are designed to cut down the Heat Island Effect created by the sun bouncing off the concrete.  When the Chinese Jasmine flowers around Christmas it will look spectacular & smell great as well.

This is such a simple & cheap intervention, which begs the question, why this isn’t done elsewhere as the norm?

On 26th August 2010 a letter written by Clr Marcri was published in the Inner West Courier.  In this letter he said he wanted “to set the record straight in regard to my role in the approvals process for the Marrickville RSL site development.”

He went on to say “I think it is a landmark development that shows confidence in the future of Marrickville.” He said the development was approved both by Marrickville Council & the JRPP. He also said “Design is subjective,” going on to say that the development was designed by an award-winning architect.

Andrew Woodhouse, President of the Australian Heritage Institute wrote a reply that was published in the Inner West Courier on 2nd September 2010.  Mr Woodhouse wrote “It’s about time Clr Macri was told. He tries to sweep away design objections to the proposed bulbous Marrickville RSL saying design is of course subjective as though anyone’s views are valid but no-one’s view counts. He is wrong.”

Mr Woodhouse then wrote about various factors of measurable design excellence & said, “On all accounts this mega-project fails.” I agree.  My impression was that all those who spoke against the project at the JRPP Meeting were against the design aspects of this building & judging by the applause after every speaker so were the large group of local residents who attended. Why would the JRPP listen to the community when the development had been endorsed by Marrickville Council?

Marrickville ex-Councilor Colin Hesse, who attended the JRPP meeting was the first to write to the Inner West Courier about this development.  The letter was titled, ‘7 Storey Disaster.” He wrote “The approval of the massive 7 storey development of the old Marrickville RSL club has set a shocking precedent for Marrickville ..” He also mentioned “..genuine community participation  & is based on sustainability.”

It’s not my aim to go on about the development on the old Marrickville RSL site because it is going to happen & there is nothing we can do to prevent this.  What I do want to discuss is the information Clr Macri’s letter gave the community.

He said Marrickville Council approved this development & that “this building under the new LEP will be an underdevelopment. …“ Add these statements to his earlier statement of “… it is a landmark development that shows confidence in the future of Marrickville.” & it tells me that Marrickville Council fully intends to give the okay to many more developments that not only look like the development for the old Marrickville RSL site, but are as high, as dense & bulky as this is.  I am worried.

Clr Marcri also gives notice that the new Draft LEP about to be released for public consultation will not be making green buildings or green design mandatory.  I think this is very important when you consider that Marrickville, Illawarra & Petersham Roads will become between 6-9 storeys high with 13 storeys recommended for the old Marrickville Hospital site.

We have known Marrickville is going to change as well as other areas around the LGA, but designs that are compatible with the old pre-climate change/ pre-global warming paradigm is not something I am happy about.  When I see green walls for a railway line wall, yet the newest residential building declared a landmark & most likely used as a benchmark for future development has 180 air-conditioned units, not counting the retail space & 4 street trees along the Illawarra Road frontage & none for Byrnes Road I feel a little …..  When I remember the dismissive attitude to solar panels & a green roof during the JRPP meeting my blood starts to boil.

Another view of the green wall along the railway line in Newtown. It has made a back lane that was probably full of graffiti tags & rubbish look lovely

I’m a realist. I know Sydney as a whole is going to change. I read last year that the NSW state government wanted the industrial area next to Marrickville Metro to hold around 9,000 plus residences. Don’t quote me on this. I didn’t save the article & I cannot find anything about it now, though I know I didn’t dream it as I have spoken to a couple of others who also knew of this plan.

I was told that a recent application to have the area rezoned residential was unsuccessful.  I’ll predict here that this area will be rezoned residential one day in the not-too-distant future & I bet AMP Capital anticipate this, like the M6 planed someday for Edgeware Road just 1 block away.

High-rise residential is coming to Marrickville LGA & it will be dense & tall. Now that the world is talking about global warming & climate change wouldn’t you think that both the Council & the architects would make the shift to the new paradigm when designing new buildings meant to last the next 60-100 years?  If not, why not?  Why has Marrickville Council said any development for the old Marrickville Hospital site has to be a 6-star sustainability rating & yet they have not required this for any other high-rise residential building across the LGA.  I’m baffled.

The signage for the development at the old Marrickville RSL is, “The Revolution Begins.” We need our Council to ensure that the ‘Revolution’ follows the climate change paradigm that insists future developers create a true revolution by designing green buildings.

Green walls are not rocket science, yet their benefits are outstanding. Heat is not reflected thereby lowering the Heat Island Effect. They lengthen the life of concrete, they look good, they improve the streetscape & make ugly areas pretty, the prevent or significantly reduce graffiti & they are almost as good as trees in the benefits they bring. Psychologically they would do much to break down the oppressive feelings tall buildings can often bring.  Lastly, they are cheap to create.

You can read Clr Marci’s letter here – Opinion page 19 –

You can read Andrew Woodhouse’s letter here – page 23 –

You can read Colin Hesse’s letter here – page 17 –

The Good Weekend 21st August 2010 there was an article called The Enriched List. Michael Mobbs was first up in a list of 14 people on The Enriched List & described as a ‘Sustainability Advocate.’  I really like his work & ideas for living in an urban environment.

When I see verge gardens I always think the people who create them & look after them care very much for their neighbourhood

Michael Mobbs was given a whole page photo leaning against a bale of hay, holding a chicken with rootstock sitting on a sandstone wall behind him. First impression anyone who didn’t know of his work would have is he is a farmer, not an Inner City resident of Sydney standing in his own small terrace garden.

The article goes on to say Michael, an ex-lawyer, has had an interest in sustainable design for more than 20 years & is a consultant on sustainable food, water & energy projects for residential & commercial sectors.

Michael transformed his Inner City house 15 years ago. He uses solar power & collects rainwater from his roof to wash clothes, flush the toilet & water the garden. He keeps bees & also started a community verge garden in 2008 for food production.  His neighbours participate in this.

They have 13 compost bins out on the street that are used by locals as well as other people in nearby suburbs. The compost bins – each turn 3 tonnes of food waste a year into 1 tonne of soil (& he says, remove an estimated tonne of carbon out of the air). The public garden has had huge support from residents & has led to Sydney City Council & other local councils changing their policies to support growing food & composting in the streets.

The residents at Wilga Street Dulwich Hill have a community garden on their verges. Their compost bin collects food waste from Oz Harvest & some of the local restaurants. It hasn’t been going for long, but already there are vegetables growing & passion fruit climbing a power pole.

I am not aware of many public community gardens across Marrickville LGA though I do know one is in the process of being set up in Denison Road Dulwich Hill. Council recently said there is no room for one in Marrickville South.

Marrickville Council spends around $2 million a year mowing the verges across the LGA. Many of the verges are unkempt areas with dumped rubbish, only looking good a fortnight after the mowing.

North Sydney Council stopped mowing the verges last year hoping that the residents would take over & mow their patch outside their house.  It didn’t happen for the most part. Eight or so months later the grass was thigh-high forcing the Council to restart mowing services.  Thing is, North Sydney Council stopped mowing to save money so they could have money to put in other areas to benefit the community.

I was surprised that the residents refused to mow the verge outside their house. Marrickville Council does ours, but often enough, my neighbour will do everyone’s if it starts to look scraggly. Another neighbour of mine used to mow the verges across the road as well, but he was exceptional.

Imagine if we decided the way Michael Mobbs is going is a good thing?  Free land out on the verge, a place to grow flowers, plants & veggies. Compost bins to collect food, waste which will cut down on the weekly bin load & pay us back in free compost for our gardens.

People would meet & talk with each other on the street, friendships may occur, shopping bills are likely to be less because we are growing some of our food, our kids learn about food production & about taking pride in the neighbourhood & social responsibility.

Community gardens are fabulous spaces that benefit the community on many levels

Other benefits such as less Heat Island Effect as green & growing plants reduce the heat dramatically & with less heat, our cooling bills will drop. Less vandalism, probably less graffiti as this generally does not occur in pretty well-kept areas, activities for people to do, people deciding to walk because there are interesting things to see.

Perhaps traffic would be slower as I imagine that verge gardens would have similar effects, like street trees slow drivers down. Or maybe they will all drive at 40kpm because they want to have a look at the gardens…

This is probably not an exhaustive list of the benefits of verge gardens, but is what I was able to think up as I wrote.  If these benefits are so easy to think up, then why aren’t more of us doing it?  People do consider the space outside their house as theirs when it is convenient – my parking space, my street tree to get rid of if I choose for example, yet when it comes to taking care of it, we immediate abdicate to Council.

I’d like to think there would be many of us who would consider transforming the verge outside our house.  If growing veggies is too much of a leap, then perhaps a few plants, especially low growing natives that do not need much care, can be pruned so they do not become a visibility issue for drivers & will serve as restaurants for birds.

We have done it & the amount of people who ask us how can they get Council to do the same for them is astounding.  Everyone loves it & they think it has improved the neighbourhood. Some have said things like, “I always feel good walking past here.” Green spaces have that effect. Lawn or concrete doesn’t.

You can read the article about Michael Mobbs as well as view a 2 minute video here –

The Enriched List of 14 people can be found at –

Michael Mobb’s own website can be found at –

Oh the power of community protests.  An article in today’s Inner West Courier said Federal Labor Grayndler MP & Transport Minister Anthony Albanese has ruled out any extension of the M5 which runs through Tempe Reserve saying, “the State & Federal Governments were “united” in opposing the RTA’s plan.”

This is a huge win for the community group Tempe 2020 & a huge win for all the trees & the Tempe Wetlands that would have been destroyed had the 4-lane highway gone ahead.

I wrote about the issue & the community protest here –

A random view of the Pacific Highway, Sydney. There are just as many trees along most of its length to Hornsby.

In this post I am discussing 2 main roads: the Pacific Highway & Parramatta Road.  Travelling on either road is like travelling in different countries.  I cannot help but be astounded by the difference.

There is really no difference in the utility between the two roads except that Parramatta Road has many more shopping strips. However, I don’t see why this should mean there should be dearth of trees along its length.

The section of Parramatta Road that is under the control of Marrickville & Leichhardt Councils is ugly & getting visually worse as the years pass. The almost treeless state of Parramatta Road under the control of these 2 Councils seems to be a planning decision that was probably made decades ago & little has been done to change it.  Of course, there are other parts of this road that are just as treeless, but I am presently concerned with the section under the control of Marrickville, Leichhardt & City of Sydney Councils.

You can see the demarcation line between Marrickville & Leichhardt Councils & the City of Sydney Council by looking for the presence of street trees.  Once they start you are in City of Sydney territory. Once they stop you are in Marrickville & Leichhardt territory.

A random view of Parramatta Road at Stanmore. The Palm belongs to McDonalds car park.

Sydney City has planted quite a number of Eucalypts along their section of Parramatta Road & the trees are already looking good.  Sydney Council’s action proves it can be done.  Interestingly they planted Eucalypts, trees which some regard as dangerous because of falling branches.  Mind you, the branch die-off is a slow process & is clearly visible to the naked eye. I’d guess that Sydney City Council chose to plant Eucalypts because they grow tall & straight, grow rapidly & also flower providing food for the birds.  I’d also guess they made a decision to check on the trees occasionally & prune any branches that die off as part of general maintenance.

The Pacific Highway is filled with a variety of tall growing trees along its length, again proving that trees can exist on a main thoroughfare.  The trees don’t cause visibility problems for the traffic & they certainly help keep pedestrians safer. The trees also provide a pollution barrier to local housing by capturing particulate matter from the exhausts of passing traffic.  People who live within a block of the Pacific will have much cleaner air than those who live along or near Parramatta Road.

Parramatta Road opposite McDonalds at Stanmore looking towards the city.

It annoys me that Sydney’s Inner West of has to be exposed to more pollution, including visual pollution.   What does it take to cut out concrete & plant trees in available spaces along Parramatta Road? If Leichhardt & Marrickville Councils followed City of Sydney’s lead & planted 3-4 metre high saplings, the effect would be to instantly beautify & green the place. The trees would also have a much greater chance of survival, as they are not sitting ducks to be vandalized.  The new street trees recently planted along Glebe Point Road are proof of this.

I know money is an issue, but is losing 95% of saplings planted each season due to dying for lack of water, accidents, vandalism & the like a wise investment?  Wouldn’t it be better to plant bigger saplings which do cost more, but if watered, are more likely to survive?

Couldn’t the nearest business owner be given a complementary watering can & asked to water the tree?  Council could give them a big bright sticker to put in their window saying that they are caretakers of the street trees with much thanks from Council & the community.  Something like I am a volunteer caretaker of the street tree/s outside this business.

View of the Pacific Hwy just before Chatswood. Even in this area street trees are regularly spaced & of a tall growing species.

People notice these things.  Couldn’t community appreciation awards be given each year to those people & businesses that kept the street trees alive?  Surely this type of recognition would be good for their professional reputation because a large percentage of the community cares about green issues these days.

My dream is that once businesses catch on to the fact that shoppers spend around 11% more where there are shady trees, they will be beating down Council’s door demanding trees be planted.

Parramatta Road is also a main route south of Sydney Harbour Bridge.  Tourists travel along it daily & they will gain an impression of Sydney from this road.  As for the Princes Highway, straight out from the airport…….

The Princes is shamefully ugly.  The section from St Peters to the Cooks River always looked dreadful &, like Parramatta Road, is only getting worse.  Rockdale Council made their section look considerably better & more people-friendly by planting street trees every 3 metres along the whole length of the shopping strip.  Rockdale Council prunes & maintains these trees & although they are trees in cages, they look good.  It is the kind of care that is noticeable & makes people feel good, better connected in their communities & happier.

Trees have this extraordinary capacity to cause people to feel happier & peaceful. Research has been done regarding the effects of trees on peoples’ physical & mental health, so it is not just me banging on. 100 Tree Facts has more information regarding the benefits of trees.

Marrickville Council won’t do anything about this unless we let them know that we want more trees in areas like Parramatta Road where there is tree-poverty.  We should not need to get used to ugliness when the solution is so simple & good for us & our children. If we work or live in areas with a predominance of grey infrastructure, it will have a negative impact on our health & our quality of life.  Besides, the UN says we should be planting 14 billion trees a year across the planet if we are going to have a chance of holding back the thrust towards climate change.

People have been asking me what to plant to attract birds so in an earlier post, Trees are Restaurants, I said I would write about plants &

a gorgeous golden flower from a small Grevillea tree

trees that provide food for birds & other native animals.

This post is about the Grevillea, an Australian native. They are sometimes spelt Grevilliea.

There are about 360 varieties of Grevilleas. They range from ground covers to tallish trees. I’m no expert & others may say something different, but I think if you want birds into your garden quick smart, plant a Grevillea or 2 or 5.

Grevilleas are fast growing, look lovely, respond well to pruning by producing more flowers so they can be kept neat if that is a concern.  Many varieties flower for most of the year with peak periods in both winter & summer months.

The flowers of Grevilleas range from vibrant pinks, reds & oranges to subtle creams & yellows, so if you have a colour scheme in your garden, you can choose to suit.  The flowers themselves can be as tiny as a finger nail or 10 cm or longer & most are long lasting.  One Grevillea shrub or small tree can have a hundred or more flowers during the peak flowering period.

Because their roots are shallow they are not invasive to pipes, nor will they uplift cement or disturb kerbing.  They do not like having their roots disturbed & if this happens, they are likely to drop dead on you. I have not been able to successfully transplant a Grevillea & would recommend you choose your site well. Because their roots are shallow, they appreciate a cover of mulch to protect their roots from drying out.

Smaller Grevilleas are excellent in troughs & roof gardens where there is not too much soil. They grow well in all sorts of soils, including sandy soils, but don’t like to be too wet. They prefer an acidic soil in full sun. They are a great plant for low water requirements.

Robyn Gordon Grevillea - a small shrub

Bankstown City Council are running a program to bring the birds back by encouraging residents to plant bird-feeding plants. Grevilleas are one of those recommended.  230 different species of birds have been sighted in the Bankstown LGA. 16 of these are listed as endangered or vulnerable species in NSW, which is very sad.  Once these birds are gone, they are gone forever.  Pittwater Council has also decided that all properties should have an area at the back that is less cultivated & includes a variety of native plants to provide food sources & habitat for urban wildlife. They also recommend not removing dead trees & leaving hollow logs to provide homes.

There is no reason why we cannot do something similar, if modified somewhat to suit the higher density in some areas of Marrickville LGA. However, many of our gardens have sufficient space for planting many trees & shrubs.  One of my neighbours transformed their ¼ acre block from a lawn with a lemon tree to a spectacular haven for wildlife.  They used a mix of exotics & natives to stunning effect. Grevilleas make excellent trees or shrubs for small front gardens.

pink flowering Grevillea - small shrub

Many Grevilleas are hybrids now, which also ensures they grow well & flower prolifically. Grevilleas from Western Australia don’t do well on the east coast & visa-versa unless they are a hybrid.  Nurseries tend to stock plants that suit the local area, so unsuitability is rarely an issue.

I have read that hybrid Grevilleas are not so good for the birds as they are not used to having so much food.  I admit to ignoring this in an inner city environment, as I truly believe there is a shortage of food for wildlife rather than a glut.  They are competing with cement & plants that do not provide food. I highly doubt they will have obesity problems if we provide some more food sources for them.

I had suspected that possums eat Grevillea flowers & a Google search has confirmed my suspicion. Those who read this blog may remember that I have mentioned that a baby Ring-Tail Possum moved into a nearby street tree last year.  Well, of course he/she would.  There are palm seeds & Grevillea flowers galore at our place so he/she is probably stuffed.  The good news is there is no damage, no poo, & all our gardens are left alone.  Even the ice-berg roses (which possums apparently adore) in a front garden are untouched, proving that if there is sufficient food, the exotics are left alone.

There is only one small problem with Grevilleas that I am aware of.  Some people find the foliage irritating & bare skin contact with them makes their skin itchy. This is something to take into consideration if you have small children.

Which Grevillea to plant? Well that’s personal taste. The nursery will advise you on what grows to what height & the colour of the flowers. There is a Burke’s Backyard Factsheet that lists & describes Don Burke’s choice of the 13 best Grevilleas –

Basically, if you plant a Grevillea, the birds will come & this can only be a good thing.

golden flowering Grevillea

I received the following e-mail last night:

We have been following your site for a few months.  You are always banging on about birds & Bandicoots.  What about us?  We need trees too!  More trees for Marrickville LGA!

Dogs have needs as well. More trees for Marrickville LGA!

Eastwood Plaza-I think this is Wisteria. It is very beautiful & very welcome on a hot day

I’m a bit late with this, but I have just read Marrickville Matters.  I always like this magazine.  They have a nice article about trees on page 5.

For those of you who don’t know, Marrickville Council has launched My Place 2021 & they are asking the community to have a say about the new Community Strategic Plan. The plan covers many areas including environmental & development issues.   It hasn’t closed for comments & I’m not sure when this will happen.  Don’t let this opportunity to have your say regarding how you think Marrickville LGA should be over the next 10 years.  There have been a few comments, but not such that I would call great community involvement.  You can comment anonymously if you like.   I’ve yet to add my 2 cents worth.

The DA for the old Marrickville RSL site corner of Illawarra Road & Byrne Street is back like the gift from our Auntie that we don’t like.  According to people I have spoken with, this newer version just brims with problems, including 5 areas of non-compliance. Frankly, the community are angry that their concerns have not been taken notice of by the developer & freaked out that it will be approved by the JRPP when it goes before them.

It’s all a matter of personal taste, but having looked at the plans, I think the building is ugly & without doubt, totally out of character for the area.  It’s like the developers don‘t take the community seriously.  “You are going to get modern so live with it!”

It looks like something from Pyrmont & despite this being an issue last time, there is NO minimal GREEN SPACE.

Are the developers thinking that this will be start-up housing before people move onto better accommodation?  If so, then in my mind, they are creating a future ghetto for Marrickville.  The developer says this development fits into Council’s future vision for Marrickville.  This belief is another reason why it is important to leave your opinion on My Space 2021.  Both the Councillors & Council staff need our input when designing our future.

The old Marrickville RSL site is the building in the centre of this photo (many of us will miss the tasteful poster). The building on the left is the only 4 storey building on Illawarra Rd, so at 9 storeys, the new development will be more than double in height

There will be 3 buildings at 6, 7 & 9 storeys meaning it will tower over the neighbourhood & block city views from Schwebel Street.  It will also bounce train noise from 3 rail lines back to Schwebel Street & the housing on the hill.  The people who live here say it is already very noisy, especially during the night.  The goods line is about to commence operating 24 hours a day.

The plans intend 17 studio units (I would have thought this type of housing wouldn’t be allowed anymore), 73 one bedroom units & 90 two bedroom units, a total 180 units.   The previous plans were for 128 units.  The community thought this was too big so they have returned with a plan for 180 units.

It has parking for 171 vehicles so they expect owners will not have cars.  There is 663 sq metres of retail floor space, enough for a supermarket, so I wonder where the shoppers are going to park.

It appears they have removed the RSL from the plan because of concern having shoppers & kids able to see drinking & gambling from the shops & added another 3 metres to the overall size.

There is a petition going around with hundreds of signatures & I urge you to sign it.  Once I know where it will be I will post the locations and date/times.  If you would like a draft submission, you can send me an e-mail & I will send you the draft which was sent to me.

You can download a copy of the DA at Marrickville Council’s website – It is 12 down in the list for 359 Illawarra Road Marrickville.  You can also view in hard copy at Council’s Citizens Service Centre during business hours.

The deadline for submissions is Thursday 15th April 2010.

You will need to quote DA201000115, your reasons for objecting & provide your name & address (preferably your email address) & a contact phone number.

I sincerely hope that many people take the trouble to send in a submission.  This development is regarded by many as the test run.  If it gets through, then it signals what is okay for Marrickville LGA & we will get a lot more developments of this kind.  It won’t take long before our Inner West area is changed for the negative with ugly high-rise & masses of traffic congestion.

Everyone I have spoken with acknowledges development & housing is needed.  They just want it to blend into the neighbourhood, be greener in outlook, creative & not create towers & canyons that they feel will ruin the area.  I agree.

While I was writing this I watched the news which was outlining the proposed massive increase in population in NSW.  Isn’t it interesting how this topic has become accepted in our language in just a few months.  Everything else has followed, including the pushing of high-rise throughout Sydney’s suburbs.  From an idea, it’s become a ‘must.’



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