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I read in the May newsletter of the Marrickville Heritage Society that local resident Michael Pearce passed away on 28th April 2010 after a long illness.   I am quite sad about this.  Michael was one of the residents who addressed Marrickville Councillors on 11th August 2009 in the campaign to save the 2 magnificent Hills Fig trees in Mackey Park Marrickville South.

Mackey Park Fig Trees

Michael was very supportive of the campaign to save these trees & kindly agreed to allow me to publish his speech to Council in SoT.  This was very important to me as I desperately wanted these trees to be retained & SoT was only 2 months old at that stage.  His support meant a lot to me & I was & still am enormously grateful.

He did help save the Mackey Park Figs & I hope he felt good whenever he saw them when he visited or passed Mackey Park.  He knew the history of the park well as he had been going there since he was a young man.  It was a pleasure to know Michael. He was full of verve & integrity.  My thoughts go to his family.

Quite a few people have searched this site for Michael’s speech. This prompted me to add a more visible search box now located at the top of the left-hand column.  You can read Michael’s speech by clicking on the following link- https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2009/08/17/17th-august-09-another-residents-speech-to-council/

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This Port Jackson Fig in Enmore Park is up for removal

An old Port Jackson Fig (ficus rubiginosa) near the rocket play area in Enmore Park Enmore is up for removal. We went to have a look today. The Fig has a cavity in the trunk where it meets the soil.  It would make a perfect home for a small animal in a forest location.

Marrickville Council employed a consulting Arborist, who performed a Resistograph.  This test uses a ‘smart drill’ to record timber density, which can then be graphed onto a scale model showing how much hard wood is left in the

Port Jackson Fig Enmore Park - circled area is where decay is visible

trunk.  Unfortunately 70% of the base of this particular tree has decayed.  The hollow has also travelled 67% up the stem of the tree.  Both factors make it a high risk of falling, particularly if placed under stress like high winds.

The report does say the tree can be pruned to remove weight, but says the tree would have to be topped with the side branches lopped & kept in this condition.  Therefore, it would never regain a full tree shape again.  Erecting a fence around the tree to protect the public was also an option.  Neither of these actually would improve the look of the tree & amenity of the park, so the advice is to remove the tree.

Marrickville Council intends to replace the tree with an advanced Port Jackson Fig at the same location.

I am pleased Marrickville Council made the Tree Report freely available to the public with the Notice of Removal. The Notice of Removal on the tree had clear information about the reasons for removal.  Unfortunately, they nailed the signs to the tree, which is a bugbear of mine.  Council recently started using tape to secure the notices on the trees, but has returned to old habits.

All in all, the information provided to the community is thorough & I thank Council for this.  At the very least, it helps people like myself understand why this tree needs to be removed.  The Tree Report was also written in a way that was easily understandable & was in itself, a great learning resource.

The period for submissions is only 2 weeks & closes Friday 7th May 2010.   SoT will not be putting in a submission.

Top: Morton Bay Fig with Hills Figs in the background. The photo doesn't show, but all these trees are massive in size & height. Bottom: view of the lone Morton Bay Fig from the Salvation Army Depot Tempe

Update – IKEA Fig trees – I have been on the search for information about the Post Jackson Fig & the 2-3 massive Hills Figs on the grounds of the new IKEA development, Princes Highway Tempe.  As this was a DA, Parks & Gardens did not know what has or is intended for these trees.  They gave me the contact details for an officer in Planning who told me that the only tree which was referred to in the DA requirements was the Morton Bay Fig tree.  This tree is to be relocated outside the staff recreation room.  This explains why the tree is sitting perched up on the original soil with the surrounding areas outside the tree line excavated.

As to what happened to the 2 or 3 massive Hill’s Figs, no one knows.  I would presume they fell victim to the chainsaw, which makes me very sad.  Judging by the amount of birds that roost in the 2 Mackey Park Hills Figs, these trees would have also been the homes for thousands of birds.  Now, they are most likely lost to concrete & bricks & mortar.  I guess it depends on one’s priorities, but I don’t think trees feature highly in development.  Trees get in the way.  It’s as simple as that.

I will try to contact Marrickville Council’s heritage expert to see if I can find out more about these trees.  Marrickville Heritage Society is also concerned about the Morton bay Fig, but was unaware of the presence of the Hills Figs.  Most of us were similarly unaware, because they were hidden behind 2 storey buildings for decades.

Update: Bandicoot habitat Lewisham – The trees that were due to be removed as part of renovations at the St Vincent’s de Paul Head Office in West Street Lewisham are still standing.  I did read in the Inner West Courier about 1 month back that they were working with local WIRES to help keep the Bandicoot habitat.  It’s excellent to see an organisation making an effort in response to the community’s concerns with regards to threatened species.

Marrickville Council approved their DA & they could have legally gone ahead with the destruction of this little group of Bandicoots’ habitat.

Top: bank of large mature trees on this property. Bottom: the same trees visible from the adjoining property

We had a look today & saw other church properties that are filled with large trees.  It made me realise just how important these old established grounds are in built-up urban areas.  Over the years, we have lost so many large trees from front & back gardens, from streets, from properties that have been knocked down & rebuilt & from areas that were once vacant space. While suburban environments have changed, places like the grounds of St Vincent’s de Paul still function as a green oasis in what is becoming predominately bitumen, cement, bricks, glass & steel.

Callan Park in Leichhardt LGA is also a prime example as the grounds are still as they were 50 years ago, except the trees have grown to become magnificent.  To lose these green places will be devastating in more ways that one & not just to the urban wildlife.

Last week residents of Wilga Avenue Dulwich Hill were given a grant of $1,000.   See Report from the Gallery – 20th April 2010.  Photo below.

The largest of the current 6 or 7 verge gardens in Wilga Avenue Dulwich Hill with 2 others visible in the background

This Hills Fig will have the large branch located on the far right removed - it is approximately 12 metres in length

One of the Hills Figs in Mackey Park that the community fought successfully to save  last year will be pruned by Marrickville Council some time after 27th April 2010.  An Arborist has identified that one large branch is “unstable & susceptible to failure.”  We knew this was the case last year, so have been expecting it.  It should make more room for the light-pole Council wants to put to light the new soccer field.   The branch itself is a big one, about a good-sized tree, so don’t be surprised if the tree on the right (if you are on the river-side of the trees) will look smaller & different.  It is much better that the tree is pruned rather than losing it.

The branch to be removed is the one with the sign tied to it-you can clearly see how the branch is liable to break off by the way it is attached to the branch next to it

Thank you to Marrickville Council for notifying the community about this.  I was not aware that Council did notify the community about tree pruning.  I think this is a good thing, especially when pruning will result in a significant  change in the way a tree looks.  I was also very happy to see that the notification sign had been carefully tied around the branch instead of using nails.  Thank you for doing this as well.

If you are feeling low or tired & would like to feel good for free, I would recommend that you take a walk & stand underneath these Fig trees at dusk.  I guarantee you will feel an instant lift in your mood.  These two Figs are veritable bird cities.  The noise from chirping birds is fantastic & very, very loud.  It is just as well the trees are located away from houses. You can hear the birds in these trees all the way to Carrington Road.  It is interesting that none of the other trees from Carrington Road through Mackey Park to the Cooks River seem to have roosting birds.  Maybe some are there, but they are very quiet.  All the local birds seem to have moved into the 2 Hills Fig trees making saving these trees an even more wonderful thing.  They are certainly very significant to the biodiversity in the area.

Something I read this morning which I thought was terrific:  Friends of the Trees in Portland USA, a grass roots community group has planted 16,764 trees & shrubs over a 12 month period.  Of these, 4,526 were large trees.  They were planted in parklands & on streets in neighbourhoods.  Wouldn’t it be lovely if we had such a group in Marrickville LGA.

To finish off on a nice note, below is a photo of tonight’s sunset over the Cooks River.

Marrickville Riviera

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

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

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

This magnificent street tree is gone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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