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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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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.

Part of the crowd who came to save the Figs

Part of the crowd who came to save the Figs

Around 300 gathered under the Figs at Mackey Park this afternoon.  I missed most of the action because I was busy gathering signatures for the petition, but it was loud with the sound of happy children & when I looked the adults were smiling too.  Thanks to Thor Blomfield of Leapfish who entertained the kids with his magic & author Nadia Wheatley who read from her book My Place.  Greens Councillor Peter Olive spoke about the need to save the trees for future generations & articulated the Greens efforts to save these trees so far.  I didn’t hear Mayor Sam Iskander’s (Labor) whole speech, but I understand he said Labor will vote to save the Fig trees, reversing their original decision to remove these trees.  By the time I tuned in there was some disquiet from the audience about the firmness of his sentiment regarding the trees & they questioned him whether Labor would change their mind & keep the central path as well.  As far as I understood, the Mayor would not commit to saving the path, which in my mind, includes the lights & the exit opposite Tempe Railway Station.

Thor who made the kids scream with delight with his wonderful entertainment

Thor who made the kids scream with delight with his wonderful entertainment

Everyone I spoke to afterwards said it was not absolutely clear about the safety of the trees & the fight to save them is not over yet.  They also wanted to save the path, the exit opposite Tempe Station & the lights.  Many people said they were annoyed they had to fight to retain these things.  At the end of the day I spoke with Labor Councillor Mary O’Sullivan, who said her position is that the trees should be saved.

Author Nadia Wheatley captivated the audience with her reading

Author Nadia Wheatley captivated the audience with her reading

A big thank you to all the community who came in support of the Mackey Fig trees.  145 signed the petition.

A young girl came up to me at the end of the day and said; “I think the trees should be saved. They are iconic to the park.”  My sentiments exactly!  Let’s hope that when this whole process is finished, these 2 magnificent Figs will be left to provide beauty, shade & oxygen to our future generations.

Another view of the party - look at the size of these trees!

Another view of the party - look at the size of these trees!

Thanks also to the Inner West Courier & The Valley Times who sent photographers to cover the event.   Both newspapers had items regarding the Mackey Park upgrade this week.  Click the following links to read them:

http://www.torchpublishing.com.au/read/index_assets/Valley%20Times_27_08_09/Valley_Times_Page_001.jpg

http://digitaledition.innerwestcourier.com.au/?iid=28411 Letters pg 39   JY

I said I would write about the Labor & Greens amendments put up at the Technical Services meeting last Tuesday. The following are some of Labor’s amendments (in bold):

  • The proposed circuit path be replaced with path of permeable material through the park.
  • Have an exit at or near the existing one opp. Tempe Railway Station. (If the exit is not kept at the current location mature & tall trees will have to be removed)
  • If this is not feasible, widen the footpath on Richardson Crescent. (This is a very expensive option.  If the part of the road is reclaimed, the kerbing & power poles will have to be replaced.  I believe they will take the option of filling in the park embankment to reclaim land, which will mean the loss of many mature & tall trees)
  • Move the water tank to the Sydney Water site near the playground or north near the Concordia club.
  • Replace the 2 QLD Ficuus Hillius & replace with mature Port Jackson Figs. (Is this State parochialism?  How many residents care if the Figs are indigenous to QLD?  Replacing these trees with mature trees is an expensive option & will this really happen?  We need to keep the beautiful trees we already have. There is always an alternative.  Council just needs to compromise.  Thanks to David, whose comment on Outcome of TSM alerted me to look into the issue of full sized soccer fields. Jim Forrest,
 President – Football NSW has written 3 articles supporting mini fields for younger players.  They can be accessed at http://www.footballnsw.com.au/index.php?id=37 A mini field near the 2 Figs will allow everyone to be winners)

The following are some of the Greens amendments that were accepted after we left the meeting:  These were (in bold):

  • The proposed recycled water tank be relocated to the position approximately behind the existing tank & adjacent to the Sydney Water compound. (The double-decker bus sized water tank has to be removed from the entrance of the park as it is an eyesore, even if it is painted with artistic designs.  As the park will be dark at night, I doubt it will be too long before the graffiti taggers arrive)
  • Access to Mackey Park be maintained opp. Tempe Railway Station. (This is the only sensible option that will not remove an important community amenity.  Clrs Hanna & O’Sullivan said they counted no more than 17 or 18 people walking the path last Monday morning over a couple of hours.  Was everyone on a flexi?  Locals use that path throughout the day.  While I was taking pictures for the post on 24th July 09, 19 older people walked across the park to the railway station.)
Group who walked across Mackey Park 11am on 24 July while I was photographing Richardson Cres footpath

Group who walked across Mackey Park 11am on 24 July while I was photographing Richardson Cres footpath

  • If the current central pathway is removed, new pathways join the Northern & Southern arms of the new proposed pedestrian circuit.

The Greens amendment to retain the Figs was squashed with Labor & the Independents voting to remove them. It was clearly stated by a number of councilors that the community was not concerned about the Figs as they were not mentioned much in community submissions.  Removing the path & the lights from Mackey Park is a great loss to the community.  I am told that a cricket oval without practice nets is of minor help to a club because all they can use it for is official games & not practice.  With Sydenham Green undergoing a renovation, I think there is room for both a cricket oval & practice nets there with no loss to the community & giving the club what they want & need.

Council staff will do a further report by September. The proposal put on Tuesday night was “for decision” so won’t come back to the Council Meeting.  If you want to keep the trees & the path & are concerned about the location of the water tank, you will need to convince Labor & Independents Clrs Hanna & Macri.  It is exhausting being involved in a community campaign.  Writing once is often not enough.  We all need to write, phone or e-mail each of them.

If you are coming in via a link and want to view the whole web-site press the following link https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/

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