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Prepare for big changes in Marrickville because this is just the start of high-rise

1.    The Environment Department has done aerial seeding of 1 million trees across nearly 6,000 hectares of exposed lakebeds in South Australia to ease soil acidification. “It is hoped the plants will stop a spread of toxic dust & add vital organic material to the soil, in a region which faced prolonged drought.” http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2010/06/28/2938871.htm

2.   Clarence Valley Council has done something amazing for the environment. Funded by the Department of Environment Climate Change & Water, they planted 300 rainforest trees for flying-fox habitat over an area of about 3,400 square metres in McLean to manage the bat population. Terrific & compassionate program, far better than the usual to just chuck the bats out or simply cut down the trees. Loud applause. http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/media/DecMedia10061801.htm

3.   Yesterday I posted about Goondiwindi Regional Council chopping down Fig trees despite community opposition. Now the Council is going to spend $96,000 on floating footpaths made out of more than 80,000 recycled milk bottle caps. Using this type of footpath means they won’t have to cut the roots of trees or even worse, remove healthy trees because of roots affecting footpaths.  They said they were prepared to send this kind of money because they, “understand how important these trees are to residents.” http://www.goondiwindiargus.com.au/news/local/news/general/tree-choppers-are-really-tree-huggers/1872430.aspx

4.   Nine 150-year-old trees in Burdekin Park near Singleton are to be chopped down because bats classified as threatened species have destroyed them. Singleton Council has arranged to have a qualified bat handler assess & stay with the bats during the nights when their homes are being removed. http://www.theherald.com.au/news/local/news/general/singleton-trees-cut-but-bats-guarded/1873363.aspx

5.   In NSW a research team from the science & research division of Industry & Investment NSW has managed to record thousands of calls of the Microbat for the first time, making it easier for scientists to identify & protect their habitats. Microbats consume up to 1.5 times their own body weight in one night & are a vital part of our ecosystem. They, like many other of our wildlife are threatened due to loss of habitat because of development. http://www.smh.com.au/environment/conservation/bat-man-bugs-hungry-wee-beasties-to-save-them-20100626-zavf.html

6.   Bats are thought of very differently in Italy where people have purchased more than 12,000 bat boxes at £25 each since April 2010 to combat the tiger mosquito that has infected hundreds with Chikungunya Fever. Each bat eats around 10,000 insects a night so they are a non-chemical organic approach to mosquito control. Everyone wins, except the mosquito. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/italians-recruit-bats-to-take-sting-out-of-summer-2006124.html

7.   Hornsby has a new community action group called Stop 20 who are opposed to Hornsby Council’s draft housing strategy, which includes 20-storey housing developments. http://cumberland-courier.whereilive.com.au/news/story/stakes-are-high-for-new-action-group-stop-20/

8.    On 28 June at the Commonwealth Forestry Conference in Edinburgh UK, the Commonwealth Secretary-General said, “We need to show, financially, that trees are worth more alive than dead. Forests, we know, represent almost three-quarters of the world’s terrestrial carbon. Cut them down, & they are responsible for almost a quarter of man-made CO2 emissions. Tackle deforestation, & we go a long way towards tacking climate change.” He also said in 20 years time 80% of the forests that covered the earth in 1947 will be gone.   As well as the loss of thousands of species, this will also “accelerate the climate changes that destroy our other natural environments, our glaciers, grassland & coral reefs.” http://www.thecommonwealth.org/news/34580/34581/225538/280610forests.htm

9.   Chen Maoguo, a very brave man sat up in a Euclyptus tree in China for more than 3 months to protest the planned demolition of his home for the building of a shopping mall.  Mr Chen is being tried for disturbing public order. I hope he doesn’t get a gaol sentence. http://www.dailytelegraph.com.au/news/breaking-news/bird-man-faces-charges-in-china-for-sitting-in-a-tree/story-e6freuyi-1225885245007?from=public_rss

10.    A number of communities in the state of Massachusetts USA have lost hundreds of thousands of dollars of street trees that have died as a result of underground gas leaks in degrading pipes in the National Grid. http://www.boston.com/yourtown/news/quincy/2010/06/gas_leaks_are_killing_trees_in.html

11.   The Migratory Bird Conservation Commission in the US has approved $35.7 million for 6 million acres of wetlands & bird refuges across the US &  Canada. http://www.humanitariannews.org/20100617/wetlands-migratory-birds-get-357-conservation-grant-government

12.   Pavlovsk experimental station Russia, one of the world’s oldest seed banks is soon to be demolished to make way for housing.  The seed bank holds more than 4000 varieties of fruits & berries from which most modern commercially grown varieties are derived. http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg20627663.500-vital-fruit-and-berry-collection-set-for-destruction.html

13.   8 turbines are to be put under the bridges crossing the river Seine in Paris to raise energy from the rivers currents. There is already an underwater turbine under the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. This article also mentions that Paris has a free bicycle scheme. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/jun/28/paris-power-turbines-seine

14.   Chicago is going to do a census on its trees after doing one 17 years ago.  http://ht.ly/21Ht3

Watching the documentary Greatest Cities of the World on Tuesday night I learnt the finest honey in France is from a beehive on the roof of the Paris Opera House.  Not illegal, just using available good quality space.

lovely old tree in Dulwich Hill

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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.

Driving down Renwick Street Marrickville South yesterday afternoon I saw to my horror a pile of greenery lying at the base & along the gutter underneath the Hills Figs near the corner of Carrington Road.  These trees have been mutilated AGAIN!  I last posted about this group of trees on 5th January 2010 – https://savingourtrees.wordpress.com/2010/01/05/5th-january-2010-saved-by-the-land-environment-court-maimed-by-trucks/

I have watched these trees since 1996.  These magnificent Hills Figs stood sentinel to the old PYE factory. For some years an electrical company used a part of the site & the rest was a busy timber yard and then an also busy scaffolding supplier. Large trucks used to go in & out the property 6 days a week & nothing happened to the Fig trees except people used to treat them as a dumping ground for all sorts of household rubbish & for the sake of neatness, they were compelled to put this at the base of their trunks.

Then the property was sold & a DA was lodged with Marrickville Council around 2007.  My awareness of these Fig trees heightened because part of the DA was to remove a perfectly healthy magnificent Hills Fig on the Warren Road side of the development & a couple of others on Carrington Rd & Renwick Street for driveways & public visibility of the complex itself.  The community fought this DA for a year ending up in the Land & Environment Court.  The outcome concerning the trees was that only one tree would be removed to construct a driveway at a different place at the front of the development. The community’s fight managed to keep the loss down to one tree.

Over the past 2-3 years, I have watched all sorts of massive damage occur to these trees.  No one knows who is doing it, though we surmise it is done by parking trucks because the damage is done high up in the branches on the road side of the tree.

Renwick Street Marrickville South showing the actual path drivers take & how much room & clearance there is regarding the row of Hills Fig trees

The Fig trees on Carrington Road are literally cleaved out after trucks parking there tore off branches. It’s unlikely that passing trucks did the damage as Marrickville Council has pruned these trees to ensure they are not an obstacle to traffic.  Both Carrington Road & Renwick Street are wide enough for trucks to pass easily & safely.  However, Council seems to not be able to do anything about drivers who decide to park close to the kerb & ram their way through branches.  The only solution is to prohibit trucks parking there.

Do the drivers come in so fast they are unable to brake?  Or do they find the branches a pest & deliberately ram into them?

These trees are very much loved by the community.  They are a landmark in the area &, as there are not many large street trees in this area, we would like to keep them for as long as possible.

I have asked people how they feel about these trees & the response is always one of fervent approval immediately followed by concern that something is going to happen to them.  Recently people have approached me to talk about the state of the Hills Figs on Carrington Road.  In conversations there is an air of pessimism about these trees.

The Tree Strategies Issues Paper which was before Council earlier this year recommended that 59% of the trees in Marrickville LGA be removed.  Council were recommending targeting the mature trees which were labelled ‘senescent,’ meaning ‘approaching an advanced age.’  This block of Hills Figs are senescent.  I would guess they are around 80 years old.

Am I alone in thinking that older, mature trees look fabulous in the main?  It is their size & height that I find particularly attractive & trees need years to grow large.  I don’t understand the need to chop trees down when they are mature, though it has been explained to me that urban trees find it difficult to grow to their full life span because of the difficulties inherent in an urban environment – soil compaction, injury, lack of water, lack of nutrients, disease.  Why can’t Council take special care of our older special trees when they are senescent?  Why is the answer to chop them?  I need to say here that Marrickville Council has not suggested removing these particular trees.

Considering all the adversity these trees are suffering because of human activity, I fear that Council will look at these trees in a year or two & say, “Too damaged.  They need to be removed.”  Chop!  There goes another link to the area’s history & another major loss of beauty that we sorely need.  Not to mention the CO2 sequestration they achieve.

It would be preferable if Council could do something to prevent trucks parking there because the drivers can’t be trusted to not damage the trees.  I know that City of Sydney Council would not tolerate such vandalism done to their trees.  They consider trees the city’s assets & I think they exercise more power over roads because of being the city of Sydney.

I also believe that if Marrickville Council did have a Significant Tree Register, this would go some way in helping implement strategies to protect these trees from drivers.

This week’s damage destroyed yet another large branch.  The photos below tell the remainder of the story.

The yellow arrows indicate damage spots to two of the trees

Large branch sheared off Fig tree

There is a 3 sided block surrounded by large mature Hills Figs in Marrickville South.  One Fig trees is situated on Warren Road, the others along Renwick Street & Carrington Road.  I think there are around 13 Fig trees in total.  These trees would be eligible to be included in a Significant Tree Register, if we had one.  They are a landmark in the area.  Combined with the row of Palms probably planted in the same era (around 80-90 years ago) when the factories along Carrington Road were built, these trees make Carrington Road look far nicer than it would without them.

Two industries used the land for decades, cohabiting comfortably with the trees with large trucks driving in & out.  Unfortunately over the last 15 years the trees have suffered much trauma from severe pruning for the sake of electricity wires. Energy Australia deny pruning these trees & say they were pruned for a loading zone. However, there is a great big long hole through the canopy where the wires travel. (see Energy Australia letters)

Size 9 feet to show dimensions

A DA for the block of land was taken to the Land & Environment Court back in 2008 for a number of reasons, one of which was the proposed removal of 2 of these Fig trees to make way for entrance driveways.  On this issue, Marrickville Council & the community were successful in having the application refused.

Thanks to the Court ruling, these beautiful trees got to live on, with the next threat to their existence being the actual development of the site, which may or may not affect their root system.

This is major damage to this Fig tree

Two months ago, a truck crashed into one of the trees leaving multiple deep gashes in its trunk & causing the loss of one major branch.  A month ago a truck tore off half a tree.  Council had to cut what remained back to the trunk leaving a Fig tree with one branch.  How long before they say this tree is unstable, looks ugly & has to be removed?

Yesterday, I drove by & saw another major branch of one of these trees lying in the gutter.  I can safely assume a truck it ripped off because the area of damage is high off the road.  Council has cut this branch into 3 to make it easier to take away.  I assume they will also have to do work on the tree where the branch was sheared off.

I feel aghast at what is happening to these trees.  There are many trucks that use these streets & their presence is causing a lot of damage. I am sure this is a common story in other areas of Marrickville LGA.

You can see trucks have repeatedly gashed this branch

It is nothing less than vandalism & truck drivers should be required to take more care of street trees & other infrastructure if they are to use these streets.

I blame also the businesses that require the drivers to use extremely large trucks to cut down on the amount of deliveries as a way of increasing profit margin.  While they make money, they are destroying the area.

This was a thriving Fig tree not too long ago. How can this be okay?

If a truck has to drive over a footpath to take a corner, it is too big to be using these narrow streets.  If the driver sees a tree canopy overhead, they can take measures to ensure they do not take branches with them. Council certainly makes sure that the branches of our street trees are high off the ground.  I suspect it wasn’t a passing truck which caused this latest damage.  Many trucks use this area to park overnight.  Seems trying to park a high truck near the kerb brought the vehicle within reach of the canopy and brought the branch down.

It also needs to be said that Carrington Road is a very wide road, certainly big enough for trucks to use & the tree canopy does not restrict passage.

Other news – on 10th December 09 I wrote about a Perth man who was sitting in a street tree to prevent its removal. (see post This is Commitment)  Well, he is still there.

His name is Richard Pennicuik & he lives in the Perth suburb of Thornlie.  He is protesting the proposed removal of 2 mature native street trees outside his property by the City of Gosnell Council.  Apparently, the Council has chopped down 20 other mature street trees in his street & plans to remove the remaining trees. Richard Pennicuik is refusing to come down from the tree until Council reverse their decision to remove these street trees.

Gosnell Council wrote to Mr Pennicuik saying they would not remove the trees for 3 months if he would come down from the tree & discuss the issue with them.  They have also said they will plant native tree species instead of their original intention to plant exotics.  He says this is insufficient & will not be coming down.  He believes the Council will remove the trees if he does.

Imagine spending 4 weeks up a tree & having so much commitment & love for trees to be willing to stay as long as necessary to save these trees.  Many of the comments on the net have been very derogatory towards Mr Pennicuik, but most of these comments have come from people who also chose to write less than positive comments about trees.  I respect Mr Pennicuik & wish him success.  He believes that the earth needs all its mature trees because of global warming & says he is also protesting for his children’s future.

Richard in the Gum tree he is trying to save - photo courtesy of Channel 7

Richard in the Gum tree he is trying to save - photo courtesy of Channel 10

This evening I came inside & glanced at the TV as I was walking past.  My attention was immediately grabbed because I saw a man sitting in a tree protesting street tree removal.  I just managed to hear his name before the show ended.  I was able to find the clip of the TV show on the net, but nothing more than this.  I imagine this will change after receiving prime time media coverage.

Apparently an unnamed Council in Perth has earmarked 22 tall street trees for removal & a man called Richard has been sitting in one of these street trees for the past 5 days.

Richard said he didn’t care about all of the trees, saying that “the others (residents) could look after them,” but he was trying to save 3 Gum trees outside his & his neighbours’ houses.

Asked how he manages to go to the toilet, he said he pees in a bottle & drops it down on the ground “when no-one is around” for his kids to take away & poos in a bucket, which he lowers down for his “long-suffering” wife to collect.  He said he has “never been a ‘greenie’ & will stay there until Council notices him.”  Richard said he “will not let the trees be removed.”

This was all the information I could find, though I expect it will not be too long before he gets more media attention.  I think his action is to be commended & I wish there was more of it.  I’ll write again about how he is going if I can find more information about his protest.

You can watch the television clip  from The 7PM Project at the following link –http://7pmproject.com.au/video.htm?channel=7PM+Catch+Up&clipid=2689_7pm-seg3-091209&bitrate=300&format=flash

For something completely different, Energy Australia are back in the area, but for a different reason this time.  They are surveying certain streets in the LGA to put in underground cables.

I became excited thinking they are going to remove the overhead wires, but alas no, there is just a need for more cables & the area above is full.  I asked about the tree roots & he informed me that he was surveying the position of the trees & that EA would probably dig up the road.  He couldn’t tell me what type of cables they will install.  You heard it here first.

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