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Tree of Heaven - a straggly plant that fills the air with the most gorgeous perfume during hot summer nights. It is a self-seeding weed & the birds continue the spread of this plant when they eat the berries

This post has nothing to do with trees, but I believe it is of interest in light of the fact that Marrickville LGA is about to undergo quite substantial high-rise development.

In 2002 Council decided to create a new rate of ‘rates’ to apply to large shopping centres like Marrickville Metro.  It charged Marrickville Metro the new ‘rate,’ higher than the rate that applies to homes & smaller businesses.

The company paid the new rate each year, but in 2008 objected & took the case to the Land & Environment Court. The court ruled in Marrickville Council’s favour.  The company appealed to the NSW Court of Appeal.  It argued the new rate should be overruled on a raft of grounds such as: Council had failed to comply with various sections of the Local Government Act, the rate was unfair, the rate was targeting only one site (Marrickville Metro), the 2002 & subsequent decisions about the new rate were manifestly unreasonable, the rate was imposed for improper purpose, the rate was discriminatory, some Councillors who voted in favour of the rate were biased.

On 24th June 2010, the 3 judges of the NSW Court of Appeal dismissed every ground of the company’s appeal. At paragraph 198 of the judgment Justice John Basten put it beautifully & succinctly, where he wrote:  In many respects the company’s submissions “were simply untenable” & its arguments “were largely misconceived.”

The General Manager’s report in 2002 that examined the rationale for the higher ‘rate’ said:

Council may wish to consider the following factors:

  • Larger shopping centres may attract additional traffic to the LGA & may concentrate traffic emanating from within the LGA placing a proportionately greater pressure on existing road & footpath infrastructure than other shopping configurations.
  • Larger shopping centres attract larger retailers who are more likely to draw from a wider employment pool than that available within the LGA. Small shops along shopping strips & local businesses may be more likely to employ local staff enhancing local employment & local economic prosperity.
  • Council may determine that the rate to be applied to shopping strips should be proportionately less than that applying to larger shopping areas to promote the survival of shopping strips. Apart from the more obvious issue of maintaining the economic vitality of local businesses, this action would support the following Council initiatives:

– Mainstreet strategies to promote local business

– Streetscape works designed to enhance the look & feel of shopping areas

– Community Safety objectives which are enhanced when people are attracted to prosperous, pleasant, well lit, local shopping areas

– Access for the elderly to shopping facilities particularly where car transport is not available.

  • Enhancing the economic viability of suburban businesses may assist in maintaining the individual character of shopping & business zones within the Marrickville LGA. This would reflect the cultural, social & economic needs of the diverse range of residents within these areas & may help promote the unique characteristics of the Marrickville Council area from a tourist perspective.”

This is a landmark decision. Well done Marrickville Council.  Businesses & developments are getting bigger & bigger, bringing increasing pressure on public infrastructure & impacts on the community that Council ultimately needs to pay for. It would be nice if the JRPP keep the above points in the General Manager’s report  at the forefront of their mind when considering applications for new large developments.

Yesterday I saw Marrickville workers planting street trees outside the small shopping strip in Illawarra Road Marrickville, opposite the Greek Bakery.

I was surprised because I had been told that Council doesn’t plant trees in summer.  Not only were the Council workers planting trees on the footpath, but also the whole footpath had been repaved with good-looking tiles.  This previously rundown area now looks improved & the shopkeepers are very happy having told me this themselves.  It will also be a nicer view for the café patrons across the road.

The trees themselves have been planted into large holes covered with good-looking grates.  I have not seen this type of grate before.

New-style grate covers with sapling on Illawarra Road

The Council workers told me they have recently planted other street trees along Illawarra Road, up towards the lights at Warren Road & the other small shopping strip next door to Woolworths.  Give it a few years & this drab, unimaginative, tired-looking section might look leafy & inviting.  Much depends on whether the trees are allowed to develop a canopy or are kept stunted.

As Illawarra Road is used as a through-road, these new works & street trees may give passers-by a more favourable impression of Marrickville.  I have heard this section of Illawarra Road be described as the ‘gateway to Marrickville,’ especially as this is what you see when you leave the railway station.

For those of you who have wondered what lies underneath...

I also have to eat Humble Pie because when, looking around at the tiles, kerb, concrete & bitumen that surrounded the new trees, I asked the Council workers how they will get water, they told me that the Council will water them until they get established.  After that, they are on their own.  “How will Council water them?” I asked, imagining a man carrying a watering can.  Well, Council has a water truck.  Another surprise.

I have mentioned the lack of this water truck a number times on this site wishing that Marrickville Council would invest in one.  So munch, munch, I’m eating humble-pie, but happily so.  There are two questions I get asked often about trees in this LGA & one of them is “why doesn’t Council water the trees?”  Well, I am pleased to report that they do.

Happy New Year to you all & to everyone at Marrickville Council.  May 2010 be a good year for all of you all.   J

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