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Tuesday’s Council meeting was perhaps one of the most important meetings of the year as the Asset Management Strategy Policy was on the agenda.  This report was recommending to increase rates, always a hot issue when it hits the public purse.

Money was central to most of the issues on the agenda from a donation to Haiti, whether to spend money on Addison Road or on Marrickville Railway Station, to giving the Greek Orthodox Church in Marrickville financial assistance of $5,000 to quieten down their new digital bells & to the Asset Management Strategy Policy prepared by Council staff.  There may have been more, but we did not stay until the end.

Many residents are aware  that Marrickville Council doesn’t have the money to fix things as most requests from the community take a long while before they reach the top of the list of the actions council is taking.  Staff & councillors have openly said to me on a number of occasions that Council just doesn’t have the money to do certain projects.  For me, it was obvious when reading through last week’s Tree Management Issues Paper that Parks & Gardens have been functioning under-resourced & under-financed for many years.  After what I heard discussed last night, I would not be surprised if many departments in Council are experiencing the same restrictions.  Put simply, Marrickville Council finances are in trouble.

In brief, the Asset Management Strategy Policy prepared by Marrickville Council staff said:

  • Marrickville Council cannot afford to look after its infrastructure & assets & was listed as an ‘unsustainable council’ in 2009
  • Council’s financial unsustainability was not going to improve unless they improved their financial position significantly with one option being to increase rates.

A staff member said that the reason the report was before Council was because:

  • the serious condition of our assets with significant issues facing Marrickville Council 2010-2011
  • Size & scale of financial deficit is substantial.  The draft budget first cut figure is $2 million deficit having carried through Phase 1 & 2 reductions to the budget
  • There are a lot of unknowns if the issue is deferred for another year

Marrickville Council does not have enough money to repair its assets or maintain its infrastructure.  A recent & public example is the old & beautiful Coptic Church in Sydenham Green, which featured in Council in 2009 & again last week.

It will be a significant loss to our history if we lose this building

A staff member of Council explained to me that a community organisation can apply to use the church, though they would need to sign a lease for a number of years & renovate the building themselves at an estimated cost of $2.3 million, as well as look after its upkeep for the duration of the lease before it comes back into Council’s hands again.  The problem is that the community organisations or groups that council would see as suitable to use the church building are unlikely to be able to pay for the repair of this particular building which is deteriorating at a rapid rate.  The Inner West Courier published an article about this church this week – page 9 –http://digitaledition-innercity.innerwestcourier.com.au/

The Asset Management Strategy Policy was recommending that the councillors decide whether or not to apply to the minister for a rates increase (special levy).

The debate between councillors covered the history of some projects & of previous applications for rates increases, how much public works actually cost (eg $350,000 for paving in Dulwich Hill shopping strip, $15,000 for a speed hump, $35,000 for a round-about) & about the financial burden of servicing 1 billion dollars worth of infrastructure before you even build anything new.

Despite the importance of the issue & the strong views held by councillors, the meeting was polite. There was negligible need for the chair to intervene.

The flow of the discussion allowed the councillors to ask many questions to the staff & I was impressed by the extensive & considered strategic advice they offered.  They explained how these processes work, what is the financial situation of council, what could be done with any additional funds in the kitty & what might be done if council did not apply for the special levy.

Councillors expressed concern about the financial status of council.  As expected, there was divergent opinion as to the best way to manage this situation.  I am deliberately lumping comments & strategies together to keep this brief.  Apologies for any mistakes.

The Greens expressed concern that Council was in dire financial straits & if left until next year, the situation would only worsen reminding that this issue has been deferred for many years.  They believed if the community was asked whether they would pay about $1.60 per week per household or 96 cents per week for lower income households for better roads, better footpaths & better infrastructure, the majority of rate-payers would say yes.  They were also worried about Council’s ability to pay staff & ability to maintain the substantial assets we have.  They wanted the money raised to be used for priority infrastructure renewal works.  They also reminded everyone that it has been 5 years since the last rate increase. They also argued that if left until next year, councillors will be afraid to pass a rate increase because of fearing community backlash with the upcoming election.

The remaining councillors wanted to defer the decision for another year saying that while they were concerned about Council’s financial situation, they wanted to know whether there were other cost saving measures & revenue accruing avenues that could be explored before going the route of raising rates.  Some suggestions were closing some of the libraries, advertising on billboards facing the airport road at Tempe, life-cycle planning, community consultation with residents, continuing to educate council staff on safe work practices to reduce worker’s compensation payouts, looking at verge mowing & paid parking, increasing fees to use sports ovals & child-care facilities, getting rid of unnecessary programs & operations & selling off the Marrickville Hospital site (council has not made a decision about its future for some while).

The vote by Councillors Iskandar, O’Sullivan, Wright, Thanos, Hanna, Macri was to defer for 12 months.

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The Marrickville Council Tree Strategy Issues Paper was up for voting last night & what a doozey of a meeting it turned out to be.  It’s clear there are very strong & opposing views about public trees & the community cannot afford to be uninvolved when our turn comes to contribute.

Some good news before I report on this.  Council unanimously & with much enthusiasm voted in favour of the creation of a new community garden in Denison Street Dulwich Hill.  3 residents spoke in favour of setting up a community garden citing the many benefits it will provide to the community. Council then went on to say that any resident can apply to have a community garden set up in any council owned disused space or reserve in the municipality.  There is mention of this on council’s web-site.

Now back to the Trees Strategy Issues Paper (TSIP).  3 residents addressed the meeting.  While each speech addressed different issues, all of us were against the recommendation to remove 1,000 trees per year for the next 5 years.  Although the TSIP says Council intends to plant replacement trees, their own report states a significant percentage of new tree plantings fail.  Since 1972 Marrickville LGA has planted approximately 42,500 street trees.  Today we have 20,000 street trees.  The numbers speak for themselves.

Other points raised that I recall were:

  • Essential that the councillors themselves be knowledgeable about the value & benefits of public trees & tree management before voting to remove 59% of trees within Marrickville LGA.
  • The need for education, communication & consultation with the community about trees.
  • Climate change, the heat island effect, the benefits of trees, the value of mature trees, strategies to look after trees to retain them, history & continuity that mature trees bring, the streetscape & character of Marrickville LGA, supporting increasing the tree canopy, better choice & placement of street trees & the need to care for this significant asset.
  • The recommendation not to establish a Significant Tree Register was also very disappointing, as was the lack of a Tree Inventory.  It is essential the Council knew what its only appreciating asset was & an inventory would serve to keep a record of our history even if trees were removed.
  • The good points were acknowledged as was the work staff had done to prepare the TSIP.

With 3 minutes & a maximum of 6, all 3 of us felt pressed to cover everything needed in this time-frame.  You should try it at least once in your life.  Speaking at Council is much harder than I expected it to be.  You can read my speech here – Speech-MC-9_2_10

Clr Thanos seemed to take affront at the residents’ speeches saying that he was proud of Marrickville, proud of the tree planting that has happened, speaking at length about how we had misunderstood the TSIP.   Well, all 3 of us read it, the Greens understood the same message, as did Labor’s Clr O’Sullivan.  He also said we were using the issue of trees to pursue our own agenda.  For me this was true.  I am trying to save public trees inappropriately earmarked for removal, yet somehow he made my motivation sound like I was scum & he did this from the safety of ‘privilege.’

Clr Thanos needs to understand it is poor form to criticise residents after they have addressed Council suggesting they have no pride in their community & somehow want to take it down.

I will speak for myself, but I know the other speakers were taken aback with his comments.  I also know they care deeply about this issue & have spent a great deal of their leisure time over the years working to help improve this locality.

Melaleucas targeted by TSIP

Deciding to follow what is happening at Council, find documents on Council’s packed web-site, download documents that are often large, read & analyse them, devote time to preparing a speech, spending the evening at Council, the nerves associated with this & putting opinions out in the public arena, are not small things.  Public speaking is classified as the number 1 biggest fear people have, so I ask, why would we do all these things if we didn’t have pride in our LGA & if we weren’t trying to help bring improvements for the community?

Clr Thanos debated & debated.  Clr O’Sullivan added some valid points in an amendment.  She spoke of how she finds herself clinging to shade when she walks in her area because of the heat island effect.  She also spoke about how climate change has become a significant issue & that there have been advancements in tree care & approaches to public trees since this report was last submitted in 2007.  She cited other Councils & suggested that experts be brought in to educate about current trends.

Eucalypts targeted as well

Clr Hanna reasonably suggested that residents be consulted about what tree species to plant outside their houses & said if they had a choice in the matter they would more likely care for the tree.

The Greens spoke about their tree policy, done with consultation with some members of the community, but this was lost in the ensuing melee, which was again disappointing.  Clr Peters reminded us that it has been 17 years since Council has reviewed its Tree Policy saying this current TSIP was not productive.  Clr Olive & other members of the Greens tried many times to discuss certain points of the TSIP, but this was stopped by Clr Thanos with Clr Tsardoulias in the Chair ordering the Greens to stop for points of order.

The Greens suggested their amendment & Clr O’Sullivan’s amendment were really saying the same thing.  Eventually, this was passed.  1,000 trees get to live for another 6 months while a working party of councillors work on this TSIP.

It was unpleasant to be in the Gallery due to obstructionism from Clr Thanos & Clr Tsardoulias.  I gather this is accepted as the culture of this kind of workplace.  Just last week a Strathfield Council made the news due to a Councillor arguing with residents in the Gallery.  Eventually, this argument was continued out in the street. To read the Inner West Courier article – http://inner-west-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/strathfield-council-in-chaos/

Yesterday I received an e-mail from Voren, a local resident which included a bunch of photos of mutilated street trees on Riverside Crescent Dulwich Hill.  These photos are a perfect example of how the streetscape can be ruined by pruning for electricity cables.  I was extremely happy to receive these & welcome any photos or addresses of public trees you think is worth the attention of SoT.  My e-mail address can be found on the About me page.

Voren's photos of the street trees in Riverside Crescent Dulwich Hill

On 26th January 2010 the Cumberland Courier ran another street tree article titled Tears for mutilated trees.  This time the residents of Lalor Park were distressed at the state Integral Energy left their 50-year-old street trees after pruning for overhead wires.  Terms such as “hacked,” “massacred,” “mutilated” & “butchered” were used to describe the aftermath.

Back in October 2009 Blacktown City Council put Integral Energy on notice about their pruning practices after they had pruned the trees in Riverstone & surrounding suburbs.

When they saw what happened to the street trees in Lalor Park, Blacktown Council stepped in & suspended Integral Energy’s powerline clearance pruning work.

Integral Energy apologised & now has to work under the supervision of Blacktown Council, review their tree pruning practices & fulfil a range of other requirements.

Hallelujah!  Finally a municipal council stepping in to ensure the street trees are not mutilated to the point where it is questionable whether they will survive, where the streetscape is marred for many years, where once beautiful trees are ruined forever & where people have to lose an essential part of what makes a street a desirable place to live as well as the negative impact on property values.  It may be that a council has stepped in before, but apart from Mosman Council doing so many years ago, I am unaware of this.

There is more of this tree on the ground than what is left on the tree

The Lalor Park residents say they no longer have shade on the street or footpath.  I can attest to that as my own street lost the shade from the street trees after recent pruning by Energy Australia.  When the sun is overhead we now have the long shadow of the electricity & pay TV cables instead of shade from street trees.  Frankly it looks weird & of course it is hot.

You can’t stand under a street tree having a chat to your neighbours anymore.  You have to look for shade & move to it, either on private property or walk across the road where the street trees were only slightly pruned.  This apparently small thing will have an impact on community relations over time.

This is a great article from the Cumberland Courier with much more information than I have reported.  You can read it by clicking on the following link – http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/tears-for-mutilated-trees/ I thank the Cumberland Courier as they have been reporting on trees frequently of late.

Friends of the Urban Forest in San Francisco USA recently posted a call for help on their web-site asking residents to alert them to public trees which have been illegally pruned.

Friends of the Urban Forest & the Bureau of Urban Forestry (don’t you love these names) have planted 10,928 new street trees in San Francisco since 2003.

About street trees they say, “The small, younger trees currently provide very little environmental benefit…” meaning that if older more mature trees are removed due to heavy pruning which weakens them or makes them way too ugly, then replacing them is not as good as a solution as it seems on the surface.  Personally I am worried that in our LGA we will reach the stage where we will have more young trees with thin trunks than we will have older trees.

Older trees sequester greater amounts of CO2, filter more particulate matter & other pollutants (though you need leaves to do this & there are plenty of trees with thick trunks, but with relatively few branches & leaves after pruning in Marrickville LGA), produce larger amounts of oxygen & collects more storm water runoff than does a tree with a thin trunk.

We can already see in some areas of our LGA that the skyline has few tall trees.  I think it is a shame that we can count the trees visible along the skyline.  This is not the case in many other suburbs of Sydney metropolitan area where the overall look & feel is green because their canopy is substantial.

We need to keep as many of the large stature street trees as we are able & our young trees need to be given a chance to grow up because it is then they provide the most benefit.  Severe pruning clearly demonstrated in Voren’s photographs not only makes the tree ugly & negatively impacts the streetscape & our lives, but also weakens the tree making it more susceptible to disease.  A weakened & diseased tree will be more likely to fall in a storm or some other event that places pressure upon it.

I do understand that street trees need to be pruned for the passage of overhead wires & I have never advocated that this should be stopped.  I do believe however that our electricity companies can do a much better job of pruning & Blacktown Council’s intervention has proved this.

The article by Friends of the Urban Forest is interesting reading & describes the impact of over pruning & topping.  They also have some fantastic photographs of trees that have been severely mutilated.  You can access this via the following link – http://www.fuf.net/getInvolved/topping.html

Tempe Wetlands - how will the RTA put a major arterial road over this without destroying it?

On a final note, a local community group called Tempe 2010 is holding a rally on Saturday 6th February at 11am meeting in South Street (between Hart & Fanning Streets) Tempe.  They are opposing the building of a new arterial road that is to go over the Cooks River, across the newly renovated Tempe Reserve & over the top of the lovely Tempe Wetlands ending at a t-section at Sydney Park.

SoT is interested not only because of the obvious factors of more roads, traffic, noise & pollution, but also because the Tempe Reserve is likely to be grossly affected & the damage to the wetlands is a real concern.  There is also the question of how many trees will need to be removed to build this new road.

All the details as well as how to access information from the RTA about this project & to connect with Tempe 2010 can be accessed via the Marrickville Greens web-site http://marrickvillegreens.wordpress.com/

The Greens have been in the Inner West Courier about this issue recently & have stated they are against this project as it stands.  I hope the other councillors look into the impact of the new arterial road & decide to publicly oppose it if it is indeed as environmentally destructive as it seems to be.  I say ‘seems’ because I haven’t looked into the literature as yet.

We cannot keep building cities for cars instead of people.  Four vulnerable assets; the Cooks River, Tempe Reserve, the many old park trees & the Tempe Wetlands need to be fought for & protected by both Marrickville Council & the community if this project negatively impacts on these.  One visit to these areas will show you just how much work Marrickville Council & community groups have put into improving all these sites over the years.  I think this is a worthwhile event to attend & find out what we need to know to make an informed decision.  It is also good to support a community group who is working to save quite significant assets for our benefit & for future generations.  J

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/

Councillor Cathy Peters of the Marrickville Greens put a motion before Council last night in an attempt to delay the removal of the magnificent Lemon Scented Gum street tree in Cambridge Street Stanmore until all other avenues that could save it were explored.

A resident of Cambridge Street and I spoke for saving the tree.  The residents who wanted it removed also addressed council.  The Greens voted for the motion & Labor & the Independents Cls Marci & Thanos voted against the motion.  Therefore, the motion to save this tree failed.  The tree will be chopped down shortly.

I personally think it will be a huge loss to the residents of Cambridge Street & in terms of climate change, the whole community.  By my calculations, this single tree with a trunk circumference of 2.5 meters sequesters 388.2 kg of CO2 per year.  To my mind, this alone makes the tree exceptionally valuable.  The tree itself is also very beautiful & cascades over Cambridge Street cooling & making the air smell sweet.  I could go on about this tree’s benefits, but sadly it is to be lost.

A new ‘more suitable’ tree will be planted in its place.  Cambridge Street will not be the same again, a lesson in impermanence.

The details of Mackey Park Revised Masterplan arrived.  Marrickville Council listened to the community & made a number of significant changes from their original plan for the upgrade of Mackey Park.  The new plan will cost $3.1 million, up on the original Federal grant of $2,265,000.  The revised Master Plan is as follows:

  • The 2 Hills Fig trees will be retained. 1 tree will be pruned to remove a large unsafe branch & both trees will be pruned as required to install & maintain field lighting.
  • 4 Carob trees will be removed.  1 Carob tree is in the outer area of a cricket oval.  The remaining 3 Carob’s will be removed to leave space for a potential pedestrian path (no lighting) to connect with the Cook River pathway.  Saving Our Trees did want to retain these trees, but Council thought these trees were old, not in good condition & the community seemed unconcerned about them.
  • Revegetation with floodplain forest & woodland tree species is proposed in the future for 7 areas around the perimeter of Mackey Park.
  • There will be 2 full-sized & 2 half-sized soccer fields.
  • The central pedestrian path is to be removed for a full-size cricket oval with both a junior & senior pitch.
  • The entrance to the park opposite Tempe Railway Station will be retained.
  • A pedestrian pathway with lighting will travel from the current entrance next to the clubhouse & follow the embankment along the north-east side of the park below Richardsons Crescent all the way to the current entrance opposite Tempe Railway Station.
  • A second pedestrian pathway will travel from the clubhouse alongside the playground before reaching the current entrance at the bottom of Premier Street.  This pathway will not have lighting.  It will also have 900mm fencing along 1 side to ‘reduce informal pedestrian access across the field area to the Richardsons Crescent entry.’ In other words, to prevent pedestrians walking straight through the park to & from Tempe Railway Station.  The field is to be monitored to check for a walker’s track on the turf surface, so remember to tip-toe.  If Council finds evidence that this is happening, they intend to erect more fencing & ‘other measures.’
  • A new footpath will be built outside the entrance next to the clubhouse which will head towards Carrington Road and travel to a pedestrian crossing opposite the Choice building near Cary Street.
  • The water tank will be placed in the current Sydney Water site near the playground or, if this is unsuitable in the area north of the Concordia Club.
  • Council is attempting to obtain further funding which will allow them to rebuild the Clubhouse rather than renovate.
  • Subsurface drainage & irrigation systems will be installed under the sporting fields.
  • The children’s playground will be refurbished & new shade trees will be planted.
  • The soil of the playground & 1 other pollution ‘hotspot’ of Mackey Park will be decontaminated.
  • The real surprise is the proposed establishing of a 2,200m2 wetland in the lower west side of the park between the Fig trees, around the soccer oval & almost to the tree area near the Premier Street entrance.  This will be planted with Cooks River Freshwater & Brackish Swamp & Floodplain Forest & Woodland species.  I was told that this wetland will ‘polish’ any ground pollutants before they enter into the Cooks River.  It will also provide greater biodiversity & much-needed habitat for birds, animals & insects.  Personally, I am very pleased about this.  There are however, 9 or 10 mature trees in this area.  Will they need to be removed?

All up, the new plans look fabulous.  The sporting clubs get both what they want & what they need to carry on providing top level sporting facilities to players.  If the Clubhouse is rebuilt, this will be even better.  Mackey Park will be used all year round for sports. Pedestrians will not have to walk along the very busy & to my mind, dangerous Richardsons Crescent.  The ground pollutants, which no-one knew about, will be removed helping the Cooks River immensely.  The park will be lit at night making it usable & safe for the community.  A double-decker sized water tank will not mar the entrance to Mackey Park.

Mackey Park Fig Trees

And the Figs … the 2 gorgeous 25 metre high Fig trees whose proposed removal started this whole community campaign will get to live on & provide a sense of continuity & history for the community.  The hundreds of birds & insects who call these Figs home will also be happy.  Caloo! Caloo!

–> To the community who attended the community consultation & council meetings, wrote submissions, wrote to & rang Councillors, spoke at the Council meeting, allowed their speeches to be published on this site, spoke to the media & had their photo taken, printed the petition & posters for free, letter-dropped, signed petitions, offered to put the petition in their shops, alerted me to other issues about the plans, told me their stories about the Fig trees, helped organise the Save the Mackey Park Fig Trees Party, donated paper, chalk, colouring pencils & boards for the children to draw on, donated their time & talent to entertain us at that party, came to the party (even from adjoining suburbs because they cared about these particular Figs trees), to the Councillors who attended the party, to those Councillors who wrote saying they wanted to, but work commitments prevented them from attending, to the kids who made signs & held them up at the Council meeting,  who drew pictures of the trees & asked that the trees be retained for their future & their own childrens future & to both the Inner West Courier & the Valley Times who covered the campaign from beginning to end & to the Greens Councillors who supported saving the Figs right from the start, to the Labor Councillors who listened to the community & reversed their original decision to instead support the retaining of the Figs & to the many people who wrote & approached me in person to offer your support & opinions – I thank you all.  (Phew!  Have I forgotten anyone?)

300 people came to the 'party' to save these 2 beautiful trees

Part of the 300 strong crowd who came to save the Figs

Without your involvement, these 2 beautiful & as one young girl said to me, “iconic” trees would be cut down by now & our community would be worse off for it.

It was a remarkably peaceful campaign, which was very pleasing.  I received only 1 accusatory e-mail.  It showed that the community was united in this issue & that we could support the needs of others in our endeavour to save the trees.

Thank you also to Marrickville Council & to the Councillors who listened to the community taking our objections & suggestions seriously. I was surprised whilst reading the package of the Revised Plans for Mackey Park, just how many stakeholders & advisors were involved in the process.  It is a fabulous result & now with the new plans, all sectors of the community will have a beautiful & useful park without losing community amenity.  And the trees live on!

Silky Oak ouside Merton St Petersham

Silky Oak outside 18 Merton St Petersham

Marrickville Council wants to remove another 2 exceptionally beautiful, tall street trees.  The first tree is a Silky Oak (Grevillea robusta) outside 18 Merton Street Petersham. This species is native to NSW & QLD, is considered rare & its timber is valuable.  It produces prolific flowers providing food for nectar-eating birds.

Marrickville Council gives the following reasons for its removal:  1. Residents concerns about continuing damage to private properties & underground services.  2. Residents request. 3. Tree was not planted by Council. 4. Alternative solutions have been considered but are not practical in this case.

The tree is beautiful.  Unfortunately, someone has built up the ground around the trunk & put in a garden bed burying up to 30 cm of the trunk.  Because the tree is mature, it has developed a root system where 1 root is on the surface of the ground & probably disrupted the cement footpath.  It is hard to say because the footpath has been removed.

There are a few small cracks along the bottom of the brick fence of the property near the tree.  The fence appears to me to be as old as the house, probably built in the early 1900s.  Council can adapt a new cement footpath to accommodate the exposed root or cover the lot with permeable material, routinely used by Councils on the North Shore where they do anything to save trees like this.  To say “alternative solutions are not practical in this case” is surprising.  Council can also snip off the top of this tree to prevent it from growing taller.

According to research by Trees for the Future, a 10-year-old Grevillia robusta, 45 feet tall with a trunk 6 inches (15.24 cm) in diameter would sequester & store 29.3 kg (64.6 lbs) Carbon Dioxide (CO2) per year. http://www.treesftf.org/resources/Calculating CO2 Sequestration by Trees.pdf

The trunk of the Merton Street tree measures ­107cm (42 inches). Its diameter is 34 cm (13.38 inches), which equates to approximately ­­­­64.46 kg CO2 storage per year.

The DEADLINE for submissions is 28 October 09. Council plan to cut this tree down on 8th November 09.

Lemon Scented Gum outside 138 Cambridge St Stanmore

Lemon Scented Gum outside 139 (8) Cambridge St Stanmore

The 2nd tree is located outside 139 Cambridge Street Stanmore.  It is a mature Lemon Scented Gum (Corymbia Citriodora).  Council gives the following reasons for its removal: 1. Residents concerns about continuing damage to private properties & underground services. 2. Unsuitable species for this location.

This tree is a prime example of a tree that should be on a Register of Significant Trees, except Marrickville Council doesn’t have one.   True, it does butt up against the kerb & the footpath.  It should.  It is probably about 100 years old.

Cambridge Street has numerous old & tall trees & this is reflected in high property values in the area. We went after it had been raining & the air smelt lovely. The loss of this tree will have a massive impact on the streetscape. The residents are worried about this tree & don’t want to see it chopped down.  One resident expressed fear that, once Council removes this tree, they will go after other trees in the street.

trees impact on footpath outside 138 Cambridge St Stanmore

trees impact on footpath outside 138 Cambridge St Stanmore

To their credit, Council have commissioned an independent report evaluating whether to install a root-barrier to limit & control root growth so as to protect property & infrastructure damage.  I sincerely hope they choose this option.

The trunk of the Cambridge Street tree measures 2.5 metres (100 inches).­ Its diameter is 79.5 cm & equates to approximately  388.2­­­­ kg CO2 storage per year.

The DEADLINE for submissions is 26th October 09. Council plan cut down this tree on 9th November 09.

Because these 2 trees have large trunks, all attempts should be made to keep them for the following reasons, especially in these days of climate change:

  • 452.5 kg CO2 is sequestered & stored each year by these 2 trees.
  • Almost ½ tonne of CO2 taken out of the atmosphere per year is something we should do everything possible to retain. Planting a new tree is unlikely to make any meaningful impact for many years & is very dependent on what species of tree is planted.  Marrickville Council is planting Ornamental Cherry trees (Prunus) as replacement trees for many of the large trees that have been removed. Prunus are small trees with thin trunks & branches.  They are not native & do not produce food for birds.

Both the Merton & Cambridge Street trees, being large truck trees, provide immense financial & physical benefit to the community.  Large street trees increase property values between 7-26%.  One only need look at the Cambridge Street tree to recognize its positive financial impact.  Both these trees have a major visual impact on the streetscape.

These trees will be chopped down unless the community moves to save them.  If you want to save these two trees you will need to:

  • Send a submission to Marrickville Council by e-mail or post before the submission deadline.  council@marrickville.nsw.gov.au or Citizens’ Service Centre PO Box 14 Petersham NSW 2049.  It is important to send your submission to each Councillor as well.  You can access their contact details by going to the ‘Councillor Contact’ page located in the left hand column.
  • These 2 trees are in North Ward.  It is usually beneficial to make phone contact with Councillors. The Councillors for North Ward are Deputy Mayor Fiona Byrne (s (Greens), Clr Cathy Peters (Greens) & Clr Laura Wright (ALP).
  • If you are pressed for time, you can write to me at savingourtrees@gmail.com & I will send you a submission to which you can add your name & send off or use as a base to write your own.
  • You can also write to both the Inner West Courier & The Valley Times local newspapers.  The Cambridge Street tree may interest the Sydney Morning Herald.
  • I would recommend local residents asking the local newspapers to write an article about these trees.  If you need help with this, please contact me.
  • Attend the Council Meeting when the fate of these trees will be decided.  The community can speak at these meetings.
  • Peaceful community protest can also be effective.  The Mackey Park Fig trees are a recent example.  Their story can be read on this website.

I will be posting updates regularly.  Let’s hope we can save them.  Jacqueline

You may come across a Marrickville Greens flyer advertising a public meeting about the proposed DA for the Marrickville RSL site.  I have posted a couple of times about this development application because it is the first of many such high-rise buildings which will change Marrickville as we know it forever & not for the better in my opinion.  Many residents are very upset & angry with the RSL site DA & Marrickville Council’s Draft Local Environment Plan (LEP).

I am not unhappy about the return of the RSL.  I never went to the old one, but many of my elderly neighbours went on a daily basis.  It gave them an affordable hot meal & some social activity, which benefited them on a number of levels.

View of site from railway station.  The 9 storeys will be higher than the photo allows

View of site from railway station. The 9 storeys will be higher than the photo allows

The problem with this particular development is that at 9 storeys it is too high, almost double the height of the latest developments on Marrickville Road.  It will include 128 units.  One could realistically would anticipate at least 2 people would live in each unit. This is a lot of people on such a small piece of land housed less than council’s own restriction of 30 metres from a railway line.

There will be 398 parking spaces & a supermarket twice the size of Woolworths.  The supermarket will be open from 7am – midnight Monday to Thursday & 7am -1am on Saturday through to Sunday morning & from 8am – 11.30pm on Sundays.  This supermarket will be open more hours than  closed.

5 loading docks will operate from 6am – 10pm Monday to Saturday & 7am – 9pm on Sundays.

Already imposing at 2 storeys, the development reach to the end of the street

Already imposing at 2 storeys, the development reaches to the end of the street

There will be phenomenal traffic to the supermarket, the residential units & the RSL Club.  The developer anticipates 590 vehicles an hour.  Illawarra Road & surrounds is barely coping with traffic during peak hours now.  Blind Freddy can see that large amounts of traffic will spill into surrounding streets resulting in more noise & pollution.  I know this to be true, as traffic in my street has tripled since we moved here.  Marrickville already suffers from noise from planes, trains & automobiles.  When will Council & the State Labor Government think we have reached our limit?

The Draft LEP passed by Marrickville Council last month agreed to high-rise development (7-9 storeys) along Marrickville Road in the Dulwich Hill & Marrickville shopping areas & along Illawarra Road from Marrickville Road to Warren Road.  Most of the block between Illawarra & Petersham Road will also be similar high-rise development.

Many shop owners attended the council meeting that passed the draft LEP & they definitely approved of this plan if the amount of clapping at cheering was an indication.  Apparently 38 shops along the Marrickville strip are currently empty.  I suppose they think with 4150 new residents, business will improve.  I would guess that business would be good for the supermarket at the RSL site, but unlikely elsewhere.  Smaller grocery stores will be competing with 2 big supermarkets & I am not including Banana Joes.

Development has to happen because Sydney is growing at a phenomenal pace & not everyone wants to live in the newer outer suburbs, nor should they have to.  The Labor & Independent councillors repeatedly stated during last month’s meeting that they preferred high-rise in the town centre rather than building residential units in our suburban streets.  So do I, but such comments might be interpreted as threatening the residents & manipulating the issue: Shut up or multi-storey units will go up in your quiet street.

I can’t see any green space or trees in the RSL site plans. With a development of this size it is imperative that open green space is available for the residents & their children.  The closest park is at the bottom of Byrne Street & it is small & lacking in facilities.  The DA intends to remove the pedestrian crossing to this park for greater access for their trucks.

The Marrickville Greens will be holding a Public Meeting on – Wednesday 23rd September 09 @ 7pm @ Herb Greedy Hall –79 Petersham Road, Marrickville.

Regardless of your political preferences, please attend this meeting & hear what the issues are in more detail.  Attendance will send a message to Labor & the Independents that the residents are prepared to take a stand on this, not just sitting back while their community is ruined.

PS  The lights were back on again in Mackey Park when we went for a walk a couple of nights ago.  Thanks to whoever is responsible.

Marrickville Mayor said something very interesting in the Inner West Courier 10th September 09 & I quote: “It isn’t up to us. It’s up to the community we’re consulting with, because it’s going to really affect the people of Marrickville for another 25 years.  I will be listening to the people to give me their advice.”

Mayor Iskandar was responding to questioning from journalist Marie Sansom for an article she wrote called ‘Draft plan allows high-rise’ with the subtitle ‘Heritage under threat, say Greens.’  In this article, she discusses Marrickville Council’s draft Local Environment Plan (LEP) which Labor & the Independent councillors Thanos, Marcri & Hanna passed at a Council meeting a couple of weeks ago.  I was there & witnessed most of it.  I left half way through the Greens amendment being tabled by Clr Peter Olive.  The next day I heard from other residents that all the councillors, particularly the Independents successfully argued against the Greens amendment. The feedback I was given was ‘vitriolic.’  It must have been a humdinger of a meeting.  They felt despondent, like high-rise was a ‘done deal.’

The meeting was filled with excitement from both the gallery & some of the councillors.  It started with each councillor having to declare pecuniary interest & listing the properties held by themselves or their families in the area.  This was very interesting & perhaps explained the excitement.  Then an 1880’s heritage building & Art Deco units were voted to be demolished.  A few weeks ago the Beynon & Hayward building on Livingstone Road Petersham was agreed to be demolished for a car park.  I’ll leave this for Marrickville Heritage Society to comment on, suffice to say heritage does not count for much with all but the Greens.

So the situation is the NSW State Labor Government intends for Marrickville council to add an extra 4000 dwellings in Marrickville by 2031.  First up is the old RSL site, which I posted on last month.  7 storeys with 2 storeys designated for retail – one space at 600 sq mts, perfect for a supermarket.  Traffic along Renwick Street going up to Woolworths was counted a couple of years ago at around 575 a day. The developer’s plans expect 590 cars per hour.  This is a mammoth volume.  Even if this means peak hour only, the traffic spill off on our streets is going to be horrendous.

This is a tree site, so I have said enough.  The September 10th edition of the Inner West Courier isn’t available on the net yet, but if you go to http://digitaledition-innercity.innerwestcourier.com.au/ you can view it when it is posted.  Note also the front page reporting that Planning Minister Kristina Keneally has backed down after community pressure over development at White Bay.  People power can be effective.  The recent opposition to the loss of the Figs has proven this.

Please contact Mayor Iskandar & tell him you don’t want 7 storey or above development in Marrickville.  siskandar@marrickville.nsw.gov.au 9558 7777 or 0408 210 618   If we sit back & do nothing, it will happen.  Mayor Iskandar says these changes will affect us for the next 25 years, more like forever I say.

I have just finished setting up a new page – Media.  Saving Our Trees received wonderful coverage from The Valley Times & the Inner West Courier over the course of the Mackey Figs campaign.  They can be viewed online by going to the Media page on this site & clicking on the links.  While I was doing this, I went through the Marrickville Greens web-page http://marrickvillegreens.wordpress.com/ & saw 7 articles which supported the work of Saving Our Trees.

I would like to thank Marrickville Greens for their incredible support toward Saving Our Trees (SOT) since its inception in mid June 09.  They supported saving the Eucalypt tree outside 11 Union Street Dulwich Hill & the 2 Figs in Mackey Park. I would also like to say that SOT is deliberately non-partisan because I did not want to be dismissed by some doubters as ‘another Greens party activity.’ I wanted SOT to be a another voice for trees in Marrickville LGA & those people in our community who agreed with the aims of SOT regardless of their political preference.  That Marrickville Greens have publicly supported the 2 campaigns of SOT was not something previously negotiated.  This makes their support very special to me as it is real & confirms that I am on the right path with what I am doing.

I invited all Marrickville councilors to the Saving the Mackey Park Fig Trees Party.  I genuinely wanted those councilors who voted to remove the trees to attend, believing that experiencing what it was like to stand under the mammoth canopy of these Figs would be a vastly different experience than seeing them from the road.  I hoped this experience would make them change their minds regarding their decision to remove them.  That Labor has reversed their decision to remove the Figs because of community opposition has made me & many others in this community very happy.  I just hope the 2 Figs are saved when the final decision is made, I think sometime this month.  The Mayor did not sound determined in his speech at the park that afternoon, though Councilor O’Sullivan did.

I am disappointed not to hear from Independent Councilors Macri & Thanos about the trees. They did not make even a courtesy response to the invitation to attend the party.

Carob tree - one of four going to be removed

Carob tree - one of four going to be removed

In my opinion, there are other issues that are still unresolved with the proposed upgrade of Mackey Park.  4 healthy Carob trees are to be removed: 1 for the cricket oval & 3 to make way for a circuit path.  These trees were probably planted when the park was made.  They are old, about 6 metres tall & still provide Carob for at least one local family who have been collecting from these trees each year for the past 45 years.  This family are grieving the loss of these trees.  Councilor O’Sullivan told me Council will plant other trees in their place.  She did name them, but I have forgotten what they are.  I don’t really care about what trees will replace these Carobs.  I care that 3 healthy trees are being cut down for a path that no one wants.  I think to lose them is completely unnecessary.  A path can go anywhere.

Then there is the issue of the current central path through Mackey Park, the lights along this path & the exit opposite Tempe Railway Station.  The latest plan is to have the circuit path branch into 2 paths: one towards the river & one towards the Marrickville side of Richardsons Crescent.  Why when both are dangerous & substandard options?  I think people will ignore these new paths & continue to walk across the centre of the park, even if they have to walk on the grass to do this.  I also think people will cut an opening through the fence opposite Tempe Railway.

We still have time to tell our councilors that we want to save the 4 Carob trees & to discuss the path, lights & exit.  The councilors of South Ward, which looks over Mackey Park, are Peter Olive (Greens), Mary O’Sullivan (Labor) & Morris Hanna (Independent).   I encourage you to send them an e-mail or give them a call before we lose these things.

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