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I am always stuck by how green & leafy Erskineville is, despite the narrow streets.

I am always stuck by how beautifully green & leafy Erskineville is, despite the narrow streets.  There is lots of shade on the streets & it is a very pleasant place to walk.

I was very happy to read of the City of Sydney Council’s new initiative to add more street trees into their LGA by allowing residents to not only choose the trees, but plant them as well.

Called the Neighbourwoods Program, residents can apply for a grant of up to $10,000 “to offset the time & work involved in planting shade trees.”  As I understand it, grants will be available for groups of neighbours to plant trees in their street.

The residents can choose what species of tree they wish to plant & the trees don’t have to be natives.  This may upset those who lobby for the planting of native trees only, but will please others who have a particular wish for exotics.  I imagine the council sees this as breaking down people’s resistance to street trees if they are able to choose to plant what they like.

The Arborist for City of Sydney Council, Karen Sweeney calls this approach – equal opportunity for trees.  ”People should have a love affair with their trees. Trees are like puppies; they’ll be with you for a long time.”  

I meet a lot of people who talk to me about street trees.  The overwhelming response is a dislike or even hatred towards deciduous street trees.  We have thousands of these across Marrickville LGA, so that may amount to a lot of tree hatred.  I am aware that deciduous street trees are planted to allow sunshine to get through during the winter months, but for me, street upon street of bare thin witchy branches makes for a bleak landscape.

For others, deciduous street trees make for hours of sweeping & cleaning leaves off parked cars, with many doing this daily.  When one or more residents desire a street clean of leaf litter while others don’t worry about the fallen leaves at all, this can result in simmering anger.  I have been told many times of the “lazy” neighbour who doesn’t sweep up the leaves outside their place.

Almost everyone I have spoken to who said that the tree is bad because it drops too much litter has also said that they wished the Council would remove it.  Others don’t like natives & would prefer an ornamental tree or a tree from their homeland.  Perhaps this is why we have so many street trees that have been pruned to remain short?  A tree that is kept as a shrub is much easier to manage.

I think that the City of Sydney Council’s idea to allow residents to choose their own tree species will be a hit.  The fact that some may not choose to plant native species does not worry me because Sydney Council is planning to almost double their urban forest by 2050.  I am sure that the Council will ensure that there are sufficient native food-producing species for urban wildlife & so any move from residents to plant non-native trees will balance out.

In addition to this new tree-planting program Sydney Council plans to plant trees in median strips, car parks & public spaces, as well include special trees in a Significant Tree Register.  They also plan to educate the community on the benefits of trees.

The City of Sydney Council also surveyed the amount of hard surfaces they have & plan to plant trees in these areas to lower the urban heat island effect.  I love that Sydney Council’s focus is on shade trees.  A street tree that only creates a minimal amount of shade around itself & does not shade a good part of the road will not have much of an impact in lowering the urban heat island effect.  Maybe we will see more broad-leafed trees.

The Neighbourwood program is an exciting initiative.  We all benefit from lovely tree-lined streets, even if we do not live in the area.  To read more about this see –

I discovered this gorgeous Golden penda - Xanthostemon chrysanthus -  growing in Hurlstone Park the other day.  I saw another growing as a street tree in Petersham as well.

I discovered this gorgeous Golden penda – Xanthostemon chrysanthus – growing in Hurlstone Park the other day. I saw another growing as a street tree in Petersham as well.


View of Sydney from Sydney Park. Note the masses of trees & some Grevillea flowers

About 3 kms from Sydney’s CBD is a glorious emerald jewel called Sydney Park.  If you live in the Inner West & own a dog you probably go there often because it is leash-free & offers an incredible amount of room for dogs to run themselves into happy exhaustion.  There are even water bowls for dogs to have a pit-stop drink. I knew of Sydney Park’s existence, though I had no idea just how wonderful this park is. My impression over the years was garnered by what I

What I thought Sydney Park was about

could see as I drove along Sydney Park Road in St Peters – a lot of trees near the road, the old brickworks buildings & an enormous grass hill that I didn’t feel like climbing.  Then I read an article in the Inner West Courier in 2009 about the killing of a black swan by a dog.  Black swan……in Sydney?  This enormously sad news item & the subsequent letters from the community was the prompt I needed to finally visit.

That first visit in 2010 is something I will not forget. We stood at the bottom of the park at the Harber Street entrance & surveyed an enormous park with multiple lakes, masses of normal-shaped large trees, patches of woodland & birds everywhere.  We were hooked. How had this wonderful place been unknown to us for so many years?  If you haven’t been, you must go at least once.  I doubt it will be your last visit.

Reflection in the lower lake

Okay there are hills, but most are easily walked. Many people run up them. Wide bitumen footpaths meander through the park. If a hill seems too much for today you can easily head in another direction.  The bulk of the park is wheelchair accessible though better if you have someone who can help you up those hills if needed.  Prams are a cinch.  There is an ‘all-abilities’ playground, accessible toilets & a kiosk, though I haven’t seen these yet.

The 44-hectares of Sydney Park is less than 20-years-old & was built on a former clay extraction & waste disposal site.  It is a prime example of how industrial & landfill land can be turned into something beautiful.  It was created by the City of Sydney Council who continue to manage it.  They not only have created something that is beautiful & entirely useful for the current population, but everything they are doing is creating something for our children’s children & beyond.  I don’t know how many Fig trees the City of Sydney Council have planted, but I’d guess at least 200 trees.  I’ll have to find out.  The Figs are planted reasonably close to each other to create a continuous canopy when grown & to provide shade. They are all young, but in 2-3 decades time, these Fig trees are going to provide phenomenal beauty.  Just imagine how lovely this park will look in 100-years time.

Sydney Park has tree precincts.  There is the Palm area, the Grevillea woodland, the Tea tree & Callistemon woodland, the Eucalypt woodland, the Casuarinas woodland, the Acacia woodland & so on.  We have not seen all the park as yet so there is bound to be more woodland areas. Trees within the park are used to great effect to screen neighbouring factories  & surrounding roads.  There is no philosophy of maintaining sightlines into this park.  Sydney Park is an oasis & provides refuge from busy city living.  As much as possible, the noise of busy Princes Highway & surrounding main roads has been kept out, both visually & audibly.

Wattle blooming on an island in one of the lakes

Not only is it a place of beauty, but Sydney Park also functions as a stormwater collection & filtration site.  Stormwater from surrounding suburbs comes to a large holding pool where it is filtered & sent on to the first of 5 fairly large lakes. From there it is filtered into the next lake & so on, until it finally filters through the ground into the watertable. The lakes provide 5-star habitat for a wide range of water birds, including migrating birds & Spoonbills.

There are birds everywhere in Sydney Park & they are both wary & curious of people which means you can have a good look at them, but not touch. City of Sydney Council has almost completed fencing the lakes to prevent another dog attack.  Wooden poles attached to the cyclone fencing have made the fences look beautiful & a part of the landscape as well as being functional. This is just one example of how artistic, but functional design has been used in Sydney Park. Nothing here is ordinary in my opinion.  Everything has been done with beauty in mind & to provide food & habitat to urban wildlife.

There are a number of swales that take stormwater from the park itself into the lakes.  We last visited while it was raining & it was easy to see the design that had been implemented to capture runoff down the hills.  Much had been directed into woodland & garden areas & the remainder channeled to meet up with bio-swales that took the water to the lakes. To prevent soil erosion, great long snakes of coir encased in rope were laid around garden beds or in front of vulnerable trees. Some of the pathways are permeable.

Kite flying is easy in Sydney Park

While there are areas of lawn for informal ball games, City of Sydney Council have not created yet another park that is essentially paths & lawn surrounded by trees around the periphery & a few along pathways.  They have recognized that people want & need shade & desire areas to sit where they can be in the shade.  There is not a Crepe myrtle to be seen. They have planted a range of bird-attracting trees & shrubs making this park useful to urban wildlife & there are many areas where it is difficult for people to enter allowing wildlife to have safe habitat.

Much of what has been done in Sydney Park could also be done along the Cooks River.  If it were, it’s likely that a greater range of water birds would live along the river.  Poles have even been sunk upright into one of the lakes to allow birds to perch as well as making an artistic statement for humans. Trees have side branches offering other places to perch. Few plants are ornamental only. While there are grasses around the lakes, grasses are not the main feature of any planting.  Even groundcover is of the type that produces food for small birds. There is loads of colour from flowering trees & shrubs & this will change seasonally.  The ground is healthy as there were a range of gorgeous mushrooms & toadstools growing after the rain.

I am in love with Sydney Park.  It would have been expensive for City of Sydney Council to create, but this is money well spent & the park is going to only get better as it matures.

There are other features, such as a memorial woodland, that I will post about later.  Sydney Park is a prototype of a people-friendly, dog-friendly, wildlife-friendly green space that is not ordinary in any sense & that will only improve as the decades pass.  City of Sydney Council have probably won awards for Sydney Park. If they haven’t as yet, then they should. They deserve it.

I have posted a short YouTube video – Birds at Sydney Park Wetlands & will upload more videos of various aspects of this park later –

Poles for birds & art in the newest lake. The new fencing can be seen on the right

Kendrick Park Tempe

In January 2011 I posted about Marrickville Council’s intention to remove 1 Coastal Myall (Acacia binervia) & 6 Swamp She Oak (Casuarina glauca) in Kendrick Park Tempe to allow them to construct a new section of the cycleway.  As Council did not state what species of tree they would replace these with other than to say “locally endemic Cook’s River Valley tree species,” I wrote about my dislike of Casuarinas, which are used extensively along the Cooks River.  I also wrote to Council asking that other species of tree be planted instead of Casuarinas.  See –

I am pleased to say that Marrickville Council wrote to me today as follows –

“We agree that the replacement trees would be better as shade trees, rather than more Casuarina.  Fifteen (15) Swamp Mahogany Trees (Eucalyptus robusta), planted along the foreshore, are proposed to replace those removed.  Rough-barked Apple (Angophora floribunda) trees are being considered as additional feature trees. These species were selected to provide shade & because they are indigenous to the Cooks River Flood-plain Forest community.” How wonderful is this!

Swamp Mahogany (Eucalyptus robusta) is a fast growing tree reaching a height of around 20-30 metres. It has a straight trunk up to 1 metre in diameter & a dense canopy of large dark green glossy leaves to around 5 metres.  Its bark is red-brown in colour & it produces white or cream clusters of flowers in winter & spring. It accepts wet, boggy & swampy sites. It’s great for honey-producing bees & is a food source for Koalas (pity we don’t have any in Kendrick Park).  It is also bird-attracting & recommended if you want birds in your garden.

Rough-barked apple (Angophora floribunda) is a tall growing tree reaching a height of around 25 metres & a canopy spread of around 6-15 metres.  Its trunk is interesting as it has fibrous grey bark & is often gnarled & lumpy. It produces profuse clusters of creamy white flowers through mid spring to early summer.  It is bird attracting & bees like it as well.

I thank Marrickville Council for being open to suggestions & for deciding to plant such gorgeous species of trees. It is wonderful that the trees are useful to wildlife as well & that they will provide food for birds for 9 months of the year.

To lose 6 Casuarina & 1 Coastal Myal & have them replaced with 15 Swamp Mahogany trees & the possibility of large Angophora floribunda as feature trees is something that makes me very happy. There is certainly room for these species of tree in Kendrick Park & they will add significant beauty & much needed shade.  As Kendrick Park is highly visible from the Princes Highway, a more beautiful park with tall, wide-canopy trees will only serve to give passing traffic a good impression of Tempe.

I think this is the flowers of Eucalyptus robusta

1.           This is how City of Sydney Council regards their street trees (my emphasis)


Street trees are one of the City of Sydney’s most important assets. They make our city beautiful, improve air quality & provide cooling shade. The number of trees lining our streets has increased by 4,500 over the last five years, reaching 29,000.” They are currently reviewing their  Street Tree Master Plan & feedback is being asked of the community.  City of Sydney Council are working with the Australian Museum to develop an Urban Ecology Strategic Action Plan that will be completed mid 2011. The project aims to conserve indigenous plant & animal species & to improve their habitats. “This important project recognises that biodiversity is a crucial part of the environmental, social & cultural health of a city.”

2.           Not trees, but very local. Last December, thousands of dead fish were found floating in a pond at Sydney Airport. The pond is fed by water from the Alexandra Canal & the Cooks River.

3.           Australian National University plans to cut down 33 native trees for a new a new public policy centre & car park. “More than 20 of the trees are yellow box, long-leaved box and Blakely’s red gum, all protected as critically endangered grassy box woodland remnants under federal environmental laws.”

4.           5 Weeping Lilly Pillies have been planted in King George Square Brisbane

Cone & branch

after a  public outcry over a lack of shade. The community continues to be sceptical about the benefit of 5 trees saying there needs to be more shade trees & reminding that the trees will take years to grow to any decent size where they are capable of producing shade.  “At the time tests revealed temperatures hit 56.3C in shadeless parts of the square in summer.” I predict we will see more of this.  The Sydney newspapers reported loudly about people waiting for 12 hours in the blazing sun at the Opera House Forecourt to have a good viewing place for the New Year’s Eve fireworks.

5.           The Mongarlowe Mallee, found in the Braidwood region is one of Australia’s rarest Eucalypts. The New South Wales Department of Environment & Climate Change has given the only survivor of 40 grafts to the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra. Hopefully, they can manage to grow this tree & save it from extinction.

6.           WIRES have pleaded with people to net their fruit trees carefully as many flying foxes have been caught in them, suffering gross injury such as broken bones & other injuries that require the bats to be euthanized.

7.           Myrtle Rust, a deadly plant disease that originated in South America is heading towards the tea tree plantations of Tweed on the NSW north coast. Myrtle Rust has the potential to destroy tea tree plantations & the tea tree oil industry.

8.           Kingborough Council has dealt with the vandalism of trees for water views by erecting large signs. The Tasmanian Conservation Trust supported using the signs, but Paul Harriss, an Upper House MP didn’t, saying, “the signs are confrontational & unjustified.” I wonder how he would have felt about the shipping containers used by a council in Poole, England?

9.          This is great article about the increased ground salinity in farmland across

Flowering Wattle (Acacia)

Western Australia caused by clearing the landscape for farming.  The article explains how salinity occurs & how to manage it. “…the National Land & Water Resources Audit recently indicated up to 6.3 million hectares of the state’s farmland could develop shallow, saline water tables by 2050.” Planting trees is one way to manage salinity, however, “It’s just not realistic to expect farmers to revegetate 50 – 80% of their productive cropping land with trees, because it basically becomes an unproductive block.” Salinity is a dreadful problem across many part of Australia that is seriously affecting food-production land & is expected to get far worse.

10.           The community presented Ballarat Council with a petition demanding the removal of pine plantations from the suburbs of Mount Clear & Mount Helen to prevent bushfires close to housing.

11.          Community group, ‘Avenue Preservation Group’, won its fight to save 9 commemorative elm trees in the Bacchus Marsh Avenue of Honour.  Moorabool Shire Council wanted to cut down the trees to allow for a roundabout to be built. The decision to refuse a permit to remove the trees was made by Heritage Victoria.  Moorabool Shire Mayor Pat Griffin has warned the council “will never give up” on the roundabout. Victorian Planning Minister Matthew Guy later considered overriding Heritage Victoria’s decision to refuse the permit.  As far as I know a decision has not been made.

12.          The Attorney-General is currently deciding on a list of plants to be banned in Australia & one of them is the iconic Wattle, Australia’s national floral emblem. Why? Because Dimethyltryptamine (DMT) can be extracted from Wattle bark.  DMT is “a naturally-occurring hallucinogen traditionally consumed orally for healing, ceremonial or religious uses.” Not only will the loss of the Wattle affect Australia’s natural ecology, but also those legitimate industries that produce bush tucker of which Wattle seed is a component.  It’s unthinkable that the lovely Wattle flowers won’t be seen in spring.

Filled with bees & birds

A selection of new garden beds in Robert Street Marrickville

We came across new footpath work in Robert Street Marrickville yesterday.  Marrickville Council has replaced the footpaths & created large garden beds around street trees planted on verges.   It’s happening in other streets so it appears to be a new trend.  I sincerely hope so.

The first time I saw this done was earlier this year in Ivanhoe Street Marrickville South & I was impressed.  The garden beds are twice as large in Robert Street because the footpaths are wider.

As well as the street trees on the verge, Robert Street has beautiful old Brush Box trees that were planted on the sides of the road around 80 years ago. Council has created garden beds on the verge next to many of these trees, which will allow these trees to be able to get a good drink when it rains.  These trees have suffered decades of bitumen almost to their trunks so they should respond well & live longer now they have better access to water.  Council have planted native grasses & Pig Face (I think) & in a year or so, they should look very pretty.

Unfortunately, works like these can cost many thousands of dollars (a tiled footpath outside a small group of shops can cost $60,000) so I would imagine that it would be a slow process creating these types of footpaths as the norm throughout the LGA.  However, it’s worth waiting for.

It is good that by creating these garden beds, the amount of cement coverage has lessened. Not only will the trees get more water & the streets look greener, but the street should be cooler during summer as well.

Is less cement an issue? I think it is & so do many experts.  Urban areas are much hotter than non-urban areas because cement & building surfaces can trap heat from the sun.  This is called the ‘heat island effect.’

The flying foxes that left Queensland to come & live in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens for the past 20 years or so have made their home there because the air temperature is to their liking.  The walls of the tall city buildings, roads, cement surfaces & roofs of the CBD have raised the air temperature & created a climate suitable for the bats. In the city it is called the urban canyon effect because the walls of tall buildings form canyons that capture & hold heat.

Air temperatures can be up to 12 degrees hotter in cemented areas during summer. I have read up to 50 degrees hotter, but this is probably in desert areas.  Much like a car parked in the sun with the windows closed, environments can become heat boxes keeping night temperatures warmer. A 2005 study showed urban air temperatures being up to 12 degrees warmer at night during summer than in rural areas.

Apart from the obvious increase use of power needed to cool houses & the associated costs, the heat island effect also impacts on air quality & health as it causes smog & ground level ozone. Ground level ozone causes respiratory problems like asthma, coughing & lung damage. It can also cause chest pain & heart problems.  This is why research shows that living within 500 metres of a main road can cause significant health problems.  See –

Ground level ozone is also a factor in global warming.  The heat island effect can raise the temperature so much that it causes heat events where heat waves are exacerbated. These events can cause death, particularly in children, the ill & the elderly.

There is also another issue with the heat island effect & that is storm water runoff.  If the runoff is heated by pavements, gutters & roofs, it may be very warm by the time it reaches rivers, ponds & lakes & we have a few in Marrickville LGA.  This hot water can cause death to fish & other water life as well as increase the growth of blue-green algae that sucks all oxygen out of the water causing more fish death.

This is a very basic outline of the heat island effect & I will be writing about it in more depth in a later post. However, I hope what is written so far is enough to understand why our society’s love for cement is a problem.  Cement is easier, but it comes with it’s own problems & these problems follow us into our homes.

A couple of examples in Robert Street Marrickvillewhere residents created gardens to protect street trees. To me, they look great & are far better than bitumen up to the trunk.

It is my belief that we need to plant many more trees across Marrickville LGA.  We need larger trees that create shade, both on private property & as street trees. Street trees that grow straight upwards & have a canopy of no more than 2-3 metres are not a ‘shade tree.’  We also need less cement & bitumen, more gardens & pockets of green space outside of formal parks to keep the heat down, for our mental & physical health & for the health of the planet.

Sydney is getting bigger & bigger & with this urban sprawl comes more cement, more hard surfaces & fewer trees.  My fear is that, if climate change does happen in the way the scientific experts predict (& being a prediction, it has a 50% chance of being worse than what they think will occur), that we & our governing authorities will realise just how important trees & green spaces are, but the weather will be too hot & water in short supply that whatever is planted will have trouble surviving.  Bleak I know, but I have read a lot on this subject & none of it is heartening.

So getting back on subject, what Marrickville Council is doing when they are replacing footpaths is terrific & sensible action for the future.  It will allow people to get used to less cement & hopefully encourage them to be actively involved in the garden beds outside their property.

You may have seen on the TV news last Friday that Railcorp removed 3 100-year-old heritage Fig trees on Wahroonga Railway Station.  2 more will come down in October 2010.  Railcorp says:

RailCorp will be replacing the fig trees at Wahroonga Station to resurface the platform & prevent further structural damage. The roots of the trees are threatening the structural integrity of the platform & if left in place will continue to damage the heritage-listed station building, damage sewage systems & prevent future improvements to station facilities. The Heritage Council of NSW independently came to the same conclusion, & placed upon RailCorp a number of conditions for the removal of the trees. The issue has existed for two decades & can no longer be avoided.

Not the Fig trees being discussed

The community is mighty upset about the trees removal saying there were many alternatives to removal.  Reading all the documents & news articles, it is clear the trees were removed because their surface roots made the platform surface bumpy & created a trip-hazzard. However, the trees are located at the far ends of the station & those who walked there have known about the state of the station surface for 20 years.  I was not able to find any information about complaints from the community about the tree roots & the station surface.

Railcorp argued about 2 other things which lead to the removal of these trees: the cost of pruning these trees & that in the past they caused damage to old clay sewerage pipes.  They fear the trees will invade the pipes again, but my plumber says, “This is the beauty of plastic pipes, tree roots can’t invade them.”

Railcorp intend to replace these trees with 6 Blueberry ash (Elaeocarpus reticulatus) & jazz up the station by planting 120 flax lily (Dianella caerulea “Breeze”) as a ground cover.  It should look nice when completed, but I doubt they will look as nice as those old majestic trees.

I think most of the train stations I have seen in Sydney look shocking.  Their gardens are ugly & the emphasis is on bitumen & low hedges. I would guess this is to be able to have a clear view of the platform for commuter safety & to discourage bad behaviour. Still, I can see no reason why much of the space toward the end of railway stations cannot be planted a little more creatively.

Railcorp’s intention to plant 120 flax lilies proves they can do something which has the potential to be quite stunning. By making this station pretty, they hope to improve public relations.

Not only do I wish Railcorp would landscape the railway stations in a better way, (for example, they don’t need to stick with using the garden beds which were made 100 years ago as they are poky little plots often in odd places), I also wish they would plant along the railway line on both sides & in barren spaces between the lines.  Grevillea are perfect for the smaller areas. In other areas, taller trees can be planted.

The RTA plants trees along major highways. There is no reason why Railcorp can’t do the same on their land along railway lines. Not only would it help green ugly areas, it would help minimize noise from passing trains & prevent areas looking weedy & filled with garbage.  Just an idea.

Mackey Park Figs - the Fig trees on Wahroonga Railways Station were pruned & did not have such a wide shape

To say it can’t be done because there may be a need for pruning will not work for me as I’ve seen numerous empty sites located quite a way from the train lines.  I just think it’s always been ugly along railway lines & no-one except Wendy Whiteley has ever challenged the status quo.  Time for a change even if only to help mitigate or manage climate change.

I had not heard of this issue until last week & am sad these trees have been removed. I know the feeling of anger & frustration felt by the community where it doesn’t make sense to remove such beautiful trees.  My respect also to the woman who climbed one of the trees for a while to protest about them being chopped down.

On a positive note, I am impressed at the news coverage by both TV & newspapers about this issue. The Sydney Morning Herald had an article yesterday where they said:

Among those campaigning for the trees’ preservation was NSW Opposition Leader & state member for the area Barry O’Farrell. But NSW Premier Kristina (Keneally) supported their removal, claiming the damage caused by the roots was a hazard for people pushing prams & those in wheelchairs.

The same argument was used for Orphan Creek in Forest Lodge in 2009 to justify removing all the trees for a very wide cement path, even though those who used wheelchairs & mum’s with prams came out & said not to do it.

In another article from the North Shore Times 9th June 2010, an Arborist suggested the following to retain the trees:

To encourage the roots to grow deeper, a porous asphalt system available since the late 1990s could be used. Vertical barriers could also be installed to deflect root growth away from structural elements. “In this instance, a barrier maintained flush with the asphalt pavement could be effective in preventing surface root growth & should be trialed,” he advised. The report suggested tie rods could be used to improve the structural integrity of platform walls with minimal damage to the trees. The alternative – finding a replacement planting – would be problematic, as few species would tolerate the growing conditions. “The performance of the subject trees under these conditions for nearly 100 years is remarkable,” the report said.

All up there have been 14 articles about this issue in the main papers over the last week or so.  Does this mean the community & the media are starting to care about keeping trees?  I certainly hope so.

I must say I am impressed with how much information about this issue is provided on Railcorp’s web-site.  It is well worth a look. It was also interesting to read that Railcorp said the trees were only “part way through their growing cycle” at 100 years old.  Makes me wonder at the use of the word ‘senescent’ when  I read it in Marrickville Council documents.

So, goodbye to another group of Sydney’s beautiful old trees. Perhaps in a couple of decades there won’t be any left.

Stunning trees at the Opera House end of Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens

50 years ago the Sydney Basin had extensive habitat for urban wildlife.  There were Sydney Blue Gum High Forests along the ridges from Crows Nest to Hornsby.  Today this species of tree is on the critically endangered list.  Despite being on this list, I know that 4 x 61 metre (200 foot) Sydney Blue Gums were chopped down for a development at Wahroonga last March.

The woodlands of the Cumberland Plain between Parramatta & Penrith are almost gone with the community fighting Blacktown Council unsuccessfully to prevent the removal of more 100 plus-year-old critically endangered trees for 2 football fields in Glenwood last April.  Not to be left out, Penrith City Council recently approved the removal of more than 300 hectares of the critically endangered Cumberland Plain woodland from the ADI site for a new suburb to be named Jordan Springs.  The community are protesting this too, yet 10 hectares of trees have already been removed.

There were salt marshes & fresh water swamps on the western side of Botany Bay.  Most have been filled in & developed for the airport, for golf courses & for housing.  Even our back yards have changed with a trend towards paved, concreted gardens or covered with decking.

Anyone aged 50 & over who grew up in Sydney will know just how much Sydney has changed.  I played in a natural creek in amongst thick bush where there is now a 6-lane highway.  In another family home, a horse lived 5 doors down.  Many people owned chickens & grew their own veggies.  Most ¼ acre blocks had multiple tall trees & they were not looked upon as a threat to life & property.  Admittedly, there are still suburbs where gardens are heavily treed, but I maintain the do-it-yourself renovation trend has been to remove these trees & neaten gardens.  Leaves are a problem for many people.

Our governments are pushing for massive population growth & demanding more development for housing.  As the population increased, our green areas decreased as well.  I think it is likely that these remaining green areas will also come under threat of development.  I remember reading last year that the proposed light rail through Rozelle & Leichhardt intended to use parks along the way for stations.  There was an outcry from the community & I think the parks have been left alone in the final plan.  As I write this post the TV news is talking about the loss of Sydney’s ‘green belt’ to development of high-rise units.  It’s non-negotiable despite opposition from great chunks of the community & many Councils.

Port Jackson Fig trees provide homes for possums & food for birds & bats

Housing developments are generally not built with significant green areas & space, like they are in London & New York for example.  When trees are used, they are often ornamental & of small stature.

Tree species such as Prunus & Ornamental Pear are being planted as street trees because they have a straight growth habit, have thin branches which can be easily pruned & do not have a shade canopy.  However nice they look, especially in autumn, they do not provide food or homes for birds & native animals.

Urbanisation has removed much of the food sources our wildlife depends upon to survive & has made many species of birds & animals extinct or placed them on the vulnerable, threatened or endangered species lists.  For most wild birds & animals, it is not as simple as finding somewhere else to live as each has their own territory & do not take kindly to interlopers arriving as they are a threat to the limited food sources.  Generally they fight until one either dies or leaves.

Yesterday I read an article about possums in last weekends Sunday Herald 23rd May 2010 – “There is an epidemic of possum napping as an increasing number of residents illegally trap the troublesome marsupials then dump them in city & suburban parks.” Unfortunately, because of territories, this is usually a death sentence for the possums.  People who are caught can be prosecuted under the Cruelty to Animals Act.

2 large Palms in an Inner West front garden

If a possum has set up home in your roof space, WIRES can humanely trap them for you & take them outside to an appropriate tree.  This is not something which should be attempted by anyone but trained experts.  Not only is a terrified possum quite capable of putting you in hospital for a few weeks, you may inadvertently leave possum babies behind leaving a bigger problem for you to deal with later.

The thing is, if there are decent trees for possums to live in, they are happy to do so & won’t be looking to live in your roof.  Making roof space secure against possum invasion is easy & quite cheap with the benefit that birds like Indian Mynas won’t use it either & rats & mice are also kept out. Snakes too.

Last year a very young Ring Tailed Possum moved into a street tree near us.  No one but us knows where it is & we only do because it visits us occasionally.  It causes no trouble in the neighbourhood other than eating a few petals.  There is no noise, no poop on cars, no damage to property.  The only evidence is the occasional collection of small branches.  My neighbour is pleased with what she thinks is my cleanup work.

Just today a good friend said, “Why would you want possums in the area?”  My answer was because this is their home too.  Living next to a park, he undoubtedly has many possums scampering through his garden & street at night & he sleeps through it. They make no negative impact on his life. Possums are only a problem if they set up house in your roof & this is something easily & cheaply managed.

It is my opinion that Councils should be planting street & park trees that provide food & good homes for urban wildlife.  Not always, because certainly there are some streets & roads where another type of tree is more appropriate, but on the whole, trees should be chosen for their ability to provide food & homes for our wildlife.  I don’t think Councils can rely on the residents to do so.  However, I also believe Councils have a role in encouraging residents to plant bird & wildlife supportive trees/shrubs/plants on their property via education & community programs.

Developers should not be able to have DAs passed without significant green spaces as a requirement.  It would be nice to see real creativity in new buildings. Glass & brick blocks do very little for the landscape.  Roof gardens, gardens on different levels, buildings which are set back from the street so there can be green space in front where cafes/restaurants can set up tables or where shoppers can meet, have a rest etc.  Research has shown shoppers spend an average of 11% more in green leafy shopping strips, so this change in design has a real potential to make significant money for businesses.

Corner of Marrickville & Victoria Roads

I digress. Suffice to say, there is going to be a lot more development, especially high-rise residential.  As this will decide what the city will look like for the next 100 years, now is the time to say no to the ugly blocks, the cold modern glass. We should demand apartment buildings that provide a good lifestyle.  We also have a responsibility to design developments with urban wildlife in mind. It doesn’t take much.  Plant the right trees, ensure they flower & plant so that something is in flower for each season.  Plant undergrowth at different levels, use both shrubs & native grasses & dispose of the wall-to-wall, corner-to-corner cement.

Unfortunately, none of this is likely to happen unless the community make it really clear this is what they want.  In time, I believe we will all want it because global warming & the Heat Island Effect is going to bring this to the forefront of the mind of the majority.  Essentially, it’s going to get very hot. Then we will notice that most of our street trees give little shade & there is a proliferation of cement.

glorious Fig standing sentinel on Lilyfield Road Rozelle

ABC’s Stateline has another fantastic news item with a 2.25 minute video. The NSW Housing Department has given $30 million for a tree planting program in tree-poor housing estates across Sydney. Boys Town residents will be trained in planting the semi-mature trees & caring for them for the first 12 months.  After that, it is hoped the community will take over the care for the trees.

15,000 semi-mature trees (looked to be 4-6 metre) will be planted along 150 kilometres of urban & regional arterial roads, parks & streetscapes. The emphasis is on shade trees that have significant canopies to lessen the heat, help pedestrians & improve the look of bleak areas by creating avenues of trees. The video is interesting viewing. The program is truly remarkable.

Since April 2010 the community has been protesting development by Delfin Lend Lease at the ADI site Cranebrook. One protester said “Native wildlife gone, native bushland gone, everything is slowly disappearing in front of our eyes.”

Canberra has lost more than 20,000 public trees over the last 7 years. The removal of a further 1719, mostly Eucalypts commenced this week.  For the first time since 2003, trees will be replaced on nature strip. Replacement of street trees stopped due to the drought.

Disturbing news for Adelaide’s trees as new rules will make it easier for councils & developers to cut down established trees, raising concerns it will lead to fewer trees in Adelaide’s suburbs. Currently trees with a trunk circumference of 2m, measured at 1m above the natural ground level, are protected as significant. The conservation group, People for Trees is concerned about the implications saying “councils should do more to preserve their trees. They are just leaving trees to just rot, then something happens & they say `we’ll just chop down the tree.” First to go is a River red Gum because fallen branches damaged a car. I ask, why not prune the dying branches before they fall?

However Councillors in Adelaide’s San Antonio City Council bucked the trend by voting in favor of stricter environmental ordinances, preventing developers from bulldozing trees, preserving current trees & planting trees.

The NSW Minister for Climate Change & the Environment, Frank Sartor, has launched a new website to provide information on the proposed changes to River Red Gum forests, wetlands & woodlands. This is a great move. You can read about the launch & more about the web-site & the forests at –

A lovely article from the University of Richmond in the USA where they are building Robins Stadium, but preserving what is thought to be the oldest tree on campus. The college employed a Tree Surgeon to supervise with digging during construction to ensure no harm came to the tree.

Casurinas near Mackey park

In NSW, there are stories every week of old & heritage trees in school playgrounds being removed for the building of new halls as part of the Federal government’s stimulus program.  Old news being November 2009, but a great example is the loss of 14 mature Box trees planted in 1956 in Lathlain Primary School Perth for construction of classrooms & car parks. There was strong protest from students & parents.

One of the mothers said 
that a spokesman for the education department turned up and said ‘these trees are going down & there is nothing you can do about it’ before walking off. Then the chainsaws started. The first comment left by Kate of Lathlain provides further details. She writes “…we & our families will be left with the legacy of having to fundraise for air conditioning.” To read about the Lathlain Primary School trees – To see the photos of the trees being chopped down –

Lastly, for pure delight, a 2.54 sec YouTube video of David Attenborough presenting Australia’s unique Lyre Bird imitating the sounds of a camera shutter, a camera with a motor drive, a car alarm & quite horribly, the sound of chainsaws cutting down forest trees.

Can't talk about 'dogging' without a photo of a dog-this one is smiling because his owner loves him enough to put him in a harness while travelling

1.    In Darwen, Lancashire UK, 6,000 trees were chopped down to stop ‘dogging.’  Never heard of dogging?  Neither had I.  Dogging is sex in the bush, or woods if you are English.  This 12 hectare area must have been lovely because people went there in droves.  It was next to an expressway, so perhaps they just could not wait until they got home.  United Utilities who chopped the 6,000 trees down said the trees were dangerous.  Of course they would.

2.        In Worcester USA, around 2,400 street trees & 23,624 trees on private property throughout the city died as a result of an ice-storm in December 2008 & the subsequent infestation of the Asian Longhorned Beetle.  According to the article in The Telegram, the community is devastated by the sudden & radical change to the streetscape, which is now bare & has affected property sales.  The city intends to plant 2,400 shade trees by end of 2011 to replace the street trees that were lost.

3.        In March 2010 Indonesia launched the “One Billion Indonesian Trees for the World” program. There is world-wide concern regarding the rapid deforestation happening in Indonesia for palm oil plantations, so this program will help significantly.

4.     The Brunei Times reported that Brunei will plant 60,000 trees in ecologically degraded areas during 2010 to support biodiversity.

5.        An American arborist, Gut Sternberg successfully spearheaded an internet campaign to save an historic Osage Orange tree in Kewanee, Illinois. I find this wonderful because this man used his knowledge of trees to save a tree that the council was going to remove.  I need someone knowledgeable like this in my life.

6.       Walmart in Henderson Tennessee, America has been ordered to replace 120 of the 170 trees they topped in their parking lot.  Henderson Mayor Scott Foster said the community is “livid” & asked “how did they think they were going to get away with it?”  He would fall over if he saw some of our examples of ‘routine pruning’ by power companies.  It’s a shame because trees are the only council asset which appreciates.

7.      Detroit, once the mecca for heavy industry & car manufacturing is planning to change a space equivalent to ¼ of its city into farmland & community gardens to bring food supply closer to the city.  They will use the vast areas of empty houses & land to do this.  It is estimated that there is 33,500 empty houses & 91,000 vacant residential lots.

8.       Band Pearl Jam donated US$210,000 to Cascade Land Conservancy to plant 33 acres of native trees & plants around the Puget Sound to offset an  estimated 5,474 metric tons of CO2 created by their world tour in 2009.   Fantastic action that is getting respect from around the world.

stunningly beautiful- a residential street in Cooks Hill Newcastle-bet everyone wants to live in this street

9.       Bridgeport USA with a population of 138,000 is planting 100,000 shade trees to help cope with summer heat.  They have launched the Adopt a Tree program where the Council will spend $35,000 on planting trees on residents’      properties.

Reminds me of Blacktown City Council who gave away 77,000 trees free to residents last year.  Bridgeport Council also plans to map all trees with 6 inch diameter & above.  Mayor Finch said, “Planting a tree gives you a feeling of empowerment & you’re helping the environment.”

Don’t know what happened below.

properties.  Reminds me of Blacktown City Council who gave away 77,000 trees free to residents last year.  Bridgeport Council also plans to map all trees with 6 inch diameter & above.  Mayor Finch said, “Planting a tree gives you a feeling of empowerment & you’re helping the environment.”

properties.  Reminds me of Blacktown City Council who gave away 77,000 trees free to residents last year.  Bridgeport Council also plans to map all trees with 6 inch diameter & above.  Mayor Finch said, “Planting a tree gives you a feeling of empowerment & you’re helping the environment.”

In Kansas the energy supplier Westar wants to remove 12 trees from a city park.  Work has been delayed while city officials take a tour to see if there is another solution.  The energy company has to explain to city officials why they need to remove these mature trees.  Read this article here –

Malakoff St Marrickville

I thought this article was interesting when comparing our own energy companies in Australia who, as I understand it, have carte blanche over both private & public trees if they consider them impeding electricity cables.

I remember being astounded that the stumps of large mature Elm trees, which were chopped down by Energy Australia in Salisbury Road Camperdown mid 2009, were left for Marrickville Council to remove.  Not only had the community lost several mature & very beautiful trees, but we also had to pay for the stump removal as well.  So, for the equivalent of a municipal council in America having the power to require the manager of Customer & Community Relations to give good reason why 12 public trees needed to be cut down is very interesting & highlights the difference in community attitudes towards public trees.

I sincerely believe that, if the Australian community & elected officials seriously challenged the way street trees are pruned for cables, our power companies would make changes.  Power is no longer a monopoly & they are hungry for our business.  I know because energy providers knock on our front door several times a year to try to lock us into a contact with them.

Staying with energy providers, Tucson Electric Power in Tucson Arizona USA are offering their customers up to 4 shade trees for US$8 to help lower their energy use costs.  Recipients of the trees are given instructions as to where on their property they should plant the trees to best help save energy.  Some of the saplings are 160 cm tall.   People whose homes were built 1980 & later are allowed 2 trees while houses built earlier can get 4 trees.  That’s US$2 per tree & if it were offered for the Inner West, it would mean 4 trees for most of us. Tucson Electric Power has understood the value of trees because they started this program in 1993 (wow) & have distributed 50,000 trees to date.   It is something I think our energy providers could do well to copy & would go along way to improving their image.  To read the article click on the following –

In San Francisco USA a group called Friends of the Urban Forest have set up a program where for US$75 you can have tree planted wherever you want on the footpath provided there are no utilities underneath which would be adversely affected by digging. I don’t know whether Friends of the Urban Forest is a community group, part of council or a partnership between both.  Regardless, what a wonderful program.  The right trees get planted in the right places & all the support & education needed is provided & the community has a say. As far as I can gather, in America generally the saplings they plant are 1.8 to 3 metres tall & quite established.

Imagine if a person like myself had a million dollars to spare.  I could go crazy pointing to all the barren, cemented places along our streets & by the time I run out of money 13,333 trees would have been added to our LGA with US$25 left over to spend on whatever. It’s a pleasant dream.  To read about this wonderful program, click on the following link –

click here to follow Saving Our Trees on Twitter

  • Chainsaw! I should count how many times I hear them in my neighbourhood over the period of a year. #trees 1 day ago



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