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This is the headline on Marrickville Council’s Tree Management webpage.  They write –

Council is seeking information regarding the following recent poisonings of public trees in the area:

  • two large Hills Fig (ficus microcarpa) street trees in Margaret Street, Dulwich Hill; &
  • one Rough-barked Apple Gum (angophora floribunda) street tree in Thornley Street, Marrickville South.

Council officers will be conducting an investigation.  Tree poisoning is a serious offence which carries a maximum penalty of $110,000 in the Local Court, & $1.1 million in the Land & Environment Court.

Anybody with information about the tree poisoning is urged to contact Marrickville Council on (02) 9335 2222

Never have I been so happy to read something on Marrickville Council’s website.  A reply email to me from Council today said that Council Rangers will be investigating the tree poisoning/ringbarking in Thornley Street & the police will be notified.  Hopefully, Council will be also notifying the police with the Margaret Street Figs that were recently poisoned as well.

I thank Marrickville Council for this action on these recent cases of tree vandalism.  Hopefully they will also spread the word far & wide across the LGA on a regular basis via their website, in community centres, the libraries, ‘Marrickville Matters,’ the media & anything else at their disposal that people will be prosecuted & fined if caught vandalizing our public trees.

Enough is enough.  The community is angry about tree vandalism & gone are the days when people turned a blind eye.

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13 street trees planted along the verge on Davis Street Dulwich Hill. 7 poisoned alongside 1 property, the remaining 6 alongside another property left to grow

I was told that 7 out of 13 new trees on Davis Street Dulwich Hill were poisoned or at least, this is the suspicion because there was a smell of petrol & the trees died very rapidly.   Great choice. Petrol kills saplings fast.

Marrickville Council tried hard here because they planted Red Flowering Gums & they planted them close together. I think this neighbourhood got really lucky to have this species of tree planted.

I admit to loving these trees because they look very beautiful & they flower profusely with gorgeous red or hot pink flowers that provide food for bats, bees, possums & all nectar-eating birds.  This species grows to a medium height & is not likely to have a negative impact on the neighbouring houses because they don’t grow invasive roots or grow higher than powerlines. If they were allowed to grow, the street would look spectacular.

I hope that Marrickville Council persists with replanting the same species despite the malicious damage & the cost involved.   We can only hope that

1 of the untouched Red Flowering Gums and 1 of the poisoned trees

residents all over Marrickville LGA come to understand that street trees have multiple benefits on their quality of life & the value of their property.  Vandalizing street trees also has a negative impact on nearby properties.

If people came to understand that property values escalate when there are good street trees out front, they may decide to take care of them & stop vandalizing them.

In today’s Inner West Courier there is a news item about a house that was sold in Concord.  The opening sentence was: Set on tree-lined Ludgate St is number 15, a four-bedroom house in Concord –

http://inner-west-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/sensation-in-concord/

I’d be interested to know of any tree vandalism happening across Marrickville LGA.  It’s one thing to be critical of Council for not increasing the overall tree canopy & another to have Council’s hard work destroyed by one or 2 people who do not care about their neighbours or the fate of urban wildlife.

The people of Davis Street are angry & they have good right to be.  As they said, “What’s to stop this happening when the next trees are planted & then what will we have, a bare treeless side of the street when it could be so different.”

Community tree preservation groups Save Our Figs Wauchope & Save Our Figs Group have a big fight on their hands with Port Macquarie-Hastings Council who intend to remove 13 Fig trees in the town centre “to prevent future damage to private property & public infrastructure.” The roots of the Fig trees are presenting a trip hazard & 3 residents have complained of damage to their property they say was caused by the trees.

These 2 massive Figs next to Marrickville Youth Resources Centre enhance the building & the area.

Thing is, the Council have just completed major works on the streets with the trees described as the centerpiece.  Importantly, 3 years ago the community fought to retain these trees & won.

Now the threat of litigation has reared its head & if history is anything to go by, a very small number of people are going to get their way & have the trees removed.  Council can’t take the risk that people will start litigation in the future.

A couple of days ago I posted that Goondiwindi Regional Council chopped down healthy Fig trees despite community opposition.  It’s the same story.  Now that the trees are gone, the Council has made the decision to spend $96,000 on floating footpaths.  They are doing this now because they, “understand how important these trees are to residents.”

Using floating footpaths means the trees can grow normally. There is no need to cut off or shave down roots, nor cover them in bitumen.  Nor will they need to chop the trees down because of a trip hazard or damage to footpaths. Seems like sensible spending to me.  Given that any large healthy tree can be worth around $100,000, spending money to keep them is a good economic decision.

This Fig is literally holding the building up. There is no visible damage to the exterior of the building

The large street trees in the centre of both these towns are what bring beauty & a sense of place. The towns use their street trees as a tourist draw card.  The Fig trees also provide a tangible history & are held dear by most of the community.

Take the trees away & you have substantially changed a place. Not only have you removed things that are worth a great deal of money & with 13 Figs we are talking in excess of a million dollars, but their loss will have an impact on spending in the shops. Researchers have concluded 11% more money is spent in shopping areas where there are big healthy shady trees.  To their credit Port Macquarie-Hastings Council plans to replace the Figs with 11 advanced Brush Box trees.

My question is why don’t Councils or organizations take pre-emptive action on their big trees when the trees are in areas that could damage property or cause trip hazards?  Ultimately it is worth the financial outlay when one considers how much these trees are worth in a monetary sense. Then there are all the other factors to take into consideration, history, place, future, community cohesion (fights like these in small towns could escalate into severe divisions), trust in the Council/organisation & stating the obvious, climate change.

These roots have infiltrated a parking area. I found it interesting is to see that the roots didn't travel far from the tree despite its size. It has been like this for years & the tree is still healthy even though cars park on the roots, proving it is unnecessary to remove a tree when this happens. It might look unsightly, but the tree itself is gorgeous.

Root barriers can be put in place.  Sewerage & water pipes can be replaced with pipes that can’t be invaded by tree roots or re-routed & be done with the problem forever. In Canada, they use a system that allows pipes to be replaced without digging, disturbing or damaging tree roots. They use a water flushing vacuum system to remove the soil from around the roots, pipes or wires, then install the new pipes & put the soil back in.

You don’t even need to put in concrete foundations near a tree when you are building anymore.  Again in Canada, they insert giant steel screw piles into the ground that are just as stable as concrete foundations & require no digging.

There is also a high-density plastic grid system that I have seen used in Sydney.  Once laid over the ground the grid disperses the weight of vehicles over a larger area. The grid also prevents soil compaction, which can damage roots.  Best of all, the grid allows rainwater to permeate the soil, reducing the need for irrigation & improves storm-water management. Ground cover or other plants can be grown in the spaces within the grid.

The grid also prevents soil erosion. I can see these grids used to support riverbanks & to create cement-free car parks. They could also be used to channel water into the ground near a street tree rather than be wasted by pouring down drains.  There is no reason why a section of the gutter cannot be a grid.

There is also porous concrete used across City of Sydney & North Sydney Councils.  Porous concrete provides a seamless surface allowing people to walk across it, but still captures any rainwater that falls on it, watering the tree.

There are quite a number of beautiful Figs in Marrickville LGA & many of them are planted near buildings. Unfortunately many of these trees live in less than perfect conditions with cement & bitumen almost to the base of their trunk. Many have cars & trucks parked right next to them. As we have seen, it is only a matter of time before branches get gouged or broken off by trucks.

Canary Island Palms line Graham Avenue Marrickville. I hope these trees are heritage protected.

The only reason why money isn’t spent on protecting trees before problems start is that trees are not held in high importance or the Council is so strapped for money that understandably, urban forest issues get moved down the list of priorities.

Many Councils do hold their trees in high esteem & look after them. They use floating footpaths & permeable rubber surfaces or permeable ‘solid’ surfaces. They put garden beds around trees to prevent or limit the amount of vehicles that can park under them. They put ‘no parking’ signs for vehicles over a certain size & weight & they do other things like prune dead branches & normal die back. They probably feed them occasionally as well.

I would do all of the above & if property damage occurred with people saying get rid of the tree/s, I would think it is the community’s & Council’s best interest to fix the damage (within reason, once proof & access has been given to Council) & put things in place to ensure the problem won’t repeat itself.  Too many people & future generations miss out for cracks to walls & pipes, both which are easily fixed without costing as high as the value of losing a tree.

Trees are the only things Councils own that increase in value each year.

I have written about clay soils & how they affect buildings at – https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/clay-soil/

You can read both stories at the following links –http://www.portnews.com.au/news/local/news/general/lastditch-figs-effort/1874281.aspx

http://www.goondiwindiargus.com.au/news/local/news/general/tree-choppers-are-really-tree-huggers/1872430.aspx

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