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Showing a part of Harrow Road Stanmore. Marrickville Council has recommended removing 24 (or 27) street trees & replacing with exotics that have no benefit to wildlife.

This was the Council Meeting. Absent: Clrs Phillips, Peters & Iskandar.  The following is how I understood the meeting & all mistakes are mine.  Note: MC = Marrickville Council.  People have requested that I identify which ward each Councillor is in & whether they are Labor, Green or Independent. To keep the size of the post as short as I can I will write this at the top of these posts.

LABOR:  Iskandar/Central, Wright//North, Tsardoulias/West, O’Sullivan/South.  GREENS:  Phillips/Central, Peters/North, Byrnes/North, Kontellis/West, Olive/South.  INDEPENDENT:  Macri/Central, Thanos/West, Hanna/South.

Item 5:  Resident petition to remove & replace Norfolk Island Hibiscus street trees in Harrow Road Stanmore – Council staff recommending removal & replacement of 24 street trees in 2 stages, 5 years apart & to replace with a single species of exotic deciduous trees.  [There are actually 27 of this species of tree in Harrow Road].

One resident spoke: Said she had a 50 ft high Jacaranda & Fig in neighbour’s gardens that drop litter in her yard all year round. MC got their count wrong; actually 27 trees.  23 households signed, but 70 households in Harrow Road. Spoke to a resident in Harrow Road who was not aware of this & was very distressed. Asked that all the residents be notified & have a meeting with Council staff.  We all need to care for the environment & MC recently adopted their Biodiversity Strategy.  I saw only 5 trees with bugs & saw parrots & 2 other bird species. The trees probably provide food for flying foxes & micro-bats.  There had only been a handful of complaints in 10 years with most only asking MC to prune & sweep the footpath. We don’t know what the petition says.  My mother used to tell me not to touch prickly seeds, caterpillars, bugs or walk on bindi-eye & then walk in the house with my shoes on. [The list was long & I didn’t not manage to write all the examples down]. No medical evidence or evidence about the house was provided in the report.  I saw no bugs on letterboxes or bins, only on some of the trees [5]. Is this a reason to take out 27 trees?  Leaf litter is the responsibility of MC, not to chop down all the trees.  I’ve asked the media to report on this to inform the community of this outrageous proposal. [She spoke about a decision from the Land & Environment Court that said residents have a responsibility to clean up & dispose of litter themselves]. MC has the responsibility to prune trees. I don’t think there is a case to remove these trees. The trees outside house numbers 40,42 & 46 look like they have been poisoned.  Look in the forks of the trees & see if there are drill holes. One has a huge drill hole at the base. This is outrageous. These trees belong to us; the whole community. MC shouldn’t be removing street trees because of these issues.

Clr Thanos: Moved the recommendation. MC’s responsibility is to clean litter on streets, not in front gardens. This is a public health problem because of skin irritations. I’d hate to see a child die as a result. Staff are moving to prevent this. The excessive litter is a massive impost on the residents. If we want to manage the trees we will have to nuke because of the bugs.

Clr Olive: Foreshadowed motion: MC to write to residents asking if they would like their tree replaced. The trees taken out in stages doesn’t seem to relate to the complainants. It’s better to go to the complainants & ask them. We should replace with Jacarandas & not take out these trees unnecessarily from residents who may not be bothered.  There are plenty of this species across the LGA. This tree does not have a history of causing medical reactions to people.

Clr O’Sullivan: I would support Clr Olive’s suggestion.  These trees are quite prolific across Marrickville LGA. They are medium-sized trees appropriate for under overhead wires & attract large amounts of nectar-feeding birds.  MC just endorsed the Biodiversity Plan, so should keep this in mind.  I am also aware of the Land & Environment Court who laid down principles in relation to removal of trees because of leaf litter & fruit.  Clr Olive’s suggestion is practical & cautious.  The replacement trees should fit in with our biodiversity strategy & we should plant native trees.  Jacarandas shed large amounts of flowers & leaves. It is worthwhile for our MC experts to do some hard thinking about this; trees that will allow sunlight through, but not necessarily deciduous.

Clr Kontellis: Not supporting Clr Thanos’s motion. This has a history of one complaint a year. This sets a dangerous precedent if we do start down this road.  Every time we get a complaint our action is to cut down the trees. I think this is wrong & we should condemn the poisoning & damage of trees.  [She spoke about the mature Hills Fig trees in Margaret Street Dulwich Hill that were recently poisoned & said one had been improving. See – https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2011/07/08/poisoned-fig-trees-in-dulwich-hill/ One tree [in Margaret Street] has been poisoned again.  That the trees outside number 40 have been poisoned

Showing what appears to be a large drill hole in the base of a street tree in Harrow Road Stanmore

is a real concern. It’s illegal & we should use the law.  If our building was smashed we would call the police.  I’d have some discomfort supporting Clr Olive’s foreshadowed motion, asking whether they want to remove their trees.  These are not their trees.

Clr Macri: I support the motion & support the staff.  It’s not just about bugs, it’s about their quality of life if people have a fear or paranoia about bugs falling on them. A deciduous tree would offer more amenity & the new trees will be looked after the community instead poisoning them.  This is their street, part of their life. Replace with suitable trees. We are running out of suitable places to plant trees.  We are scratching our heads where to plant trees. Staff are trying to find place to plant the 500 trees each year. Trees are being planted on top each other. Consultation will happen once we vote.  The recommendation is passed, the proposal is to remove the trees.  We need to allow the process to continue. It’s not about sweeping up leaves.

Clr Olive:  Ask house numbers 4, 10, 40, 54, 56 & 64 if they want their trees replaced.

Mayor Hanna: I don’t have the petition in front of me. If any residents want the trees removed, no one is here. I want to consult with the community. I will vote for Clr Olive’s motion just for consultation with the residents. If the residents really want it, I will vote for removal.

2 families of Cotton Harlequin Bugs outside 4 Harrow Road Stanmore. Only a small number of trees had visible bugs (5 trees were counted on the days I visited). In my last post I showed a photo of a tree in Harrow Road with a large number of bugs on the trunk. This was unusual in this street. Most of the trees with bugs looked like this. Click to enlarge.

Clr Thanos: MC will have to spray [the trees] yearly for the [Cotton Harlequin] bugs with chemicals that pose a health risk.  What is more important, the health of the residents or the trees?  I’m disgusted that MC will put the residents at risk. These trees pose a health risk. We can’t delay. We should be consulting with the residents at least on today’s proposal. MC is removing the trees, but will be consulting with the residents. If the residents feel that strongly that the trees should be kept, then MC will reverse the decision. The Act is clear – when the tree is a nuisance, we should remove the trees.

Vote Clr Thanos’s motion: For – Clrs Thanos, Tsardoulias & Macri. Against: Clrs Wright, O’Sullivan, Olive, Kontellis & Byrne. Lost.

Clr Olive: Mine is a sensible low-impact way. [He mentioned once living with this species of tree in his garden.] I’ve never had any bug problems. They also have needles. I just decided not to rub them into my skin.  Clr O’Sullivan:  We need to target specific people in the street. We have thousands of these trees in the LGA & if we start to act on their alleged health risk, we are opening up a can of worms.  We are opening up to community hysteria. Let’s look at the specific people & if they want their trees removed, fine. Amendment: Replacement trees should be natives consistent with MC’s Biodiversity Strategy. This was absorbed into Clr Olive’s motion.

Clr Kontellis: I am against chopping down 27 trees.  I’d like to write to people & mention we condemn poisoning & that we will be prosecuting. We should be increasing the street cleaning for Harrow Road. Removing the trees should be the last & I include Clr O’Sullivan’s native trees. We need to say that removing trees is the absolute last option.   Staff: Regarding street cleaning in Harrow Road – We sweep every 3 weeks in summer, every 8 weeks in winter.  We struggle to reach this.  [He said something about doing more street sweeping here will take this service away from other streets].

Clr Olive: I didn’t absorb Clr Kontellis’s foreshadowed motion because it broadens to all residents in the street, whereas mine concerns those who want their trees removed. I lament chopping down these mature trees.

Vote Clr Kontellis’s motion: For: Clrs Kontellis & Byrne.  Against: Clrs Olive, Tsardoulias, Wright, O’Sullivan, Hanna & Macri.  Lost.

Vote for Clr Olive’s motion: Against Clr Thanos. For: Clrs Olive, Tsardoulias, Wright, O’Sullivan, Kontellis, Byrne, Macri & Hanna. Carried.

I last wrote about this issue here – https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2011/12/03/public-tree-removals-in-stanmore/   Here ends part 1.

In last week's Inner West Courier newspaper, Council published this information about increased street cleaning for Marrickville LGA. Click to enlarge.

Agenda item Number 5 for next week’s Marrickville Council Meeting 6th December 2011 recommends –

1.   “Council undertake to remove & replace the 24 Norfolk Island Hibiscus Street trees in Harrow Road Stanmore (My count is 27 trees)

2.   the removal & replacements be phased to occur in 2 stages approximately 5 years apart,

3.   the first stage of removals comprise the 11 trees located between numbers 2-30 Harrow Road,

4.   the second stage of removals comprise the 13 trees located between numbers 40-64 Harrow Road, &

5.   the replacement trees be comprised of a single appropriate deciduous species so as to afford winter solar access & summer shade benefits to south west facing dwellings.”

“The approximate cost of required works is as follows –

  • Removal –

–       Phase 1: $9,000

–        Phase 2: $13,000 (including escalation)

  • Replacement (contract planting of 100L size trees with 12 weeks maintenance period) –

–       Phase 1: $28,000

–       Phase 2: $39,000 (including escalation)”

  • TOTAL:  $89,000

A petition of 27 residents has been sent to Marrickville Council asking that the street trees be removed.  Council states that they have received a total of 11 complaints about the street trees from Harrow Street residents since 1999.  In brief –

–        7 of these were about ‘seasonal infestation’ by Cotton Harlequin Bugs with 1 resident also writing about Rosella nests & possible bird lice.

–        2 were about flower litter with 1 resident adding that the seedpods produce ‘glass-like’ hairs causing skin irritations & get stuck in their feet.

–        2 households complained in February 2011 about the ‘glass-like’ hairs getting stuck in their feet & causing skin irritations to their children, babies, pets, fruit litter & possible damage to their property by roots of the trees. See report for more details – Item 5: 6th December 2011 – http://www.marrickville.nsw.gov.au/council/meetings/businesspapers.html?s=438169853

The 11 residents who wrote to Council have legitimate complaints, but what a nightmare.  The community will lose 24 (or 27?) street trees, an average of 8-metres tall.  Apart from the issue of climate change & tree loss, urban wildlife will be the biggest losers. These trees are habitat for Cotton Harlequin Bugs, a harmless jewel-like bug with many different patterns. They are well known for their maternal care as they guard the eggs & nymphs until they are old enough to fend for themselves & fly off to live out their lives.  Even though they feed by sucking the sap of the tree, they do not harm the tree. For great photos & more information see – http://www.brisbaneinsects.com/brisbane_stinkbugs/Harlequin.htm

This street tree in Harrow Road was unique for having so many Cotton Harlequin Bugs on its trunk. Not all the street trees had visible bug families & some had one or two small clusters of bugs sitting on the trunk. This tree was one of the 3 trees that had bead branches at the base or on the trunk.

Many bird species are all through these trees, eating nectar & feasting on insects.  With the amount of birds that I witnessed during 2 visits, thought really needs to be given that any new planting will produce food for the birds.  Council has recently started planting a new variety of Bottle Brush that looks spectacular, but flowers for a maximum of 3 weeks & interestingly, the birds don’t pay the flowers much attention. The flowers are probably all colour & pizzazz, but low producers of nectar.

The Norfolk Island Hibiscus has recently been added to the list of ‘exempt from protection’ trees in the Marrickville Development Control Plan 2011.  However, their Draft DCP 2010 (the only one I could find) says Council may refuse to grant consent to remove trees if, The tree is part of a wildlife corridor or provides habitat for wildlife; and/or the reason for removal is substantively aesthetics/emotive & relates to leaf, flower, seed &/or twig drop.” I would say that these trees in Harrow Street fulfill all these criteria.  Norfolk Island Hibiscus trees are on many Australian councils lists of recommended street trees.

Council is recommending the following deciduous trees as replacements –

1.   Trident Maple (Acer buergeranum) – A native of China, that grows to 5-20 metres high with a canopy of 6-7 metres & produces yellow flowers in spring. The seeds are known colloquially as ‘whirly-gigs’ because they have papery ‘wings’ & can fly long distances in the wind.

2.   Claret Ash (Fraxinusangustifolia ‘raywood’) – A cultivar of the Ash tree predominantly found in Europe, Asia & North America & grows to 15-20 metres. The dark green leaves turn claret red in autumn. It’s described as having invasive roots.  The WA Water Corporation recommends planting no less that 6-metres from a sewerage pipe.

3.   Jacaranda  (Jacaranda mimosifolia) – A native of South America that grows 12-15 metres high x 8 metres wide & produces lavender bell-like flowers during spring. Jacarandas drop a large amount of leaf & flower debris as well as tough seed pods 5-7.5 cm in diameter.  It’s described as having invasive roots. The WA Water Corporation recommends planting no less than 6-metres from a sewerage pipe.

4.   Golden Rain Tree (Koelreutaria paniculata) – A native of China & Korea that grows 10-metres high & 10-metres wide.  Produces yellow flowers in autumn 5-8 mm diameter seeds that look like Chinese paper lanterns.

5.   Leopard Tree (Caesalpinia ferrea) – A native of Brazil that grows 10-12 metres high x 5 metres wide & produces yellow flowers. It sheds bark in large flakes, leaving a patchy grey & white effect on the trunk. It’s described as having invasive roots. The WA Water Corporation recommends planting no less that 6-metres from a sewerage pipe. The Australian website ‘Save Our Waterways Now’ says of the Leopard tree, This is a weed to be expected” because it grows where the seeds land.  In November 2008, Brisbane City Council said, “Leopard trees will no longer be planted on Brisbane footpaths as the city takes stock of dangerous & nuisance trees ….”  See – http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/queensland/death-knell-for-dangerous-brisbane-trees-20091108-i3d7.html

As the petitioners do not like flower, leaf & seed litter & one resident thinks the tree roots may be damaging their property, I suspect the choices for replacement trees will also cause them concern.

I am not a subscriber to planting only native trees, as I believe that many non-natives can be very useful to wildlife & I actually like the trees suggested.  However, in this case none of the replacement trees offer any value to Australian wildlife that I am aware of.  On 15th November 2011 Council approved its Biodiversity Strategy. 3 weeks later they are recommending that Councillors vote to remove a whole street of trees of high habitat value & replace with street trees of no habitat value whatsoever.

We spoke to 2 residents. One appeared angry with me taking photos of the trees & shouted, “I love these trees.”  The other had no notice of a push to have the trees removed.  The first thing they said was, “But the Cotton Harlequins live in them.” They were very distressed & said they would write to Council.

The residents who have put in the petition know, but the remaining residents in the street do not seem to know & I think this is important.

Council should be sending a letter to every household in Harrow Road informing of the petition & hold a public meeting at a good time on the weekend to speak to the residents about this.  Leaf, flower & seed debris & Cotton Harlequin Bugs are not issues of concern to every Harrow Road resident.

To my mind there is already a problem with Marrickville Council’s processes in that the removal of so many street trees is decided without community consultation.  To remove the trees & then give the community a choice from 5 tree species isn’t real community consultation.  It’s the leftovers. Harrow Road is a long road with many more than 27 residents.  They deserve a say.

Lastly, 1 tree has a large drill hole at the base of its trunk & appears to have been poisoned & 2 other trees next to it also show multiple dead branches at the base & on the trunk & perhaps this is also a sign of poisoning.

I have made a short video of the trees here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mhP1AgavpjA

Harrow Street Stanmore - all these street trees & more are recommended for removal

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