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This is the special Fig tree that has been saved from tidal erosion & deep roots exposed to brackish water.

This is the beautiful Fig tree that has been saved from tidal erosion & deep roots exposed to brackish water.  The work is definitely worth it.

Showing the tree that was saved, the new garden area and the new viewing area.

Showing the tree that was saved, the new garden area and the new viewing area.

I am happy to see the beautiful work done by Sydney Water at the point in Tempe Recreation Reserve to restore the river bank & save one of the special fig trees growing here.  Deep roots of the fig tree have been exposed to the air & water due to tidal erosion.  My fear was that brackish water would have eventually killed the tree.

I first wrote about this tree in September 2013. See – http://bit.ly/1ZjG1xt

The riverbank area along what is the beginning of the Alexandria Canal has been fenced off for a few months now.  The exposed tree roots were cut & the area filled with soil.  The bank has been capped with a smooth sandstone wall that slopes to the water.  Slots have been left in the sandstone wall for riparian zone plants.  Some have been planted & look good already.

The area in front of the Fig tree has been fenced to prevent access to the water & I presume to prevent the launching of speed boats from this location.  It appears that a new fence will be erected right to the pedestrian bridge over the Alexandria Canal.

A fairly large garden area of what was once lawn has been created to the left of the Fig tree & planted with native grasses.  A compressed clay path leads between the garden area to a new viewing area where one can stand or sit on the wall & watch the river.   All the trees have been mulched.

I think the riverbank & viewing area look great.  It is a huge improvement on the eroded area & crumbing wall that was there before. The completion date is mid 2016, so we should see the finished outcome soon.  It is wonderful to see work done to save this tree & to enhance the beauty of this park.  Thank you Sydney Water.

New fencing, new sloped sandstone riverbank wall and slots for plants.

New fencing, new sloped sandstone riverbank wall and slots for plants.

My guess is this is around 100-metres of bank restoration.  The new work looks so much better than the crumbing neglected rubbish filled area that was before.

My guess is that Sydney Water have done around 100-metres of bank restoration. The new work looks so much better than the crumbing neglected rubbish filled area that was before.

 

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A Jacaranda has soil from around it removed & its roots cut & left exposed.  The arrows show two of the roots.

A Jacaranda has soil from around it removed & its roots cut & left exposed. The arrows show two of the roots.  Photo supplied by local resident with thanks. 

Much to the extreme disappointment of the community, the beginning of the destruction of the Jacaranda trees at Arlington Recreation Reserve has started & that’s before the project of laying synthetic turf is completed.

The community has repeatedly drawn Council’s attention to these much loved trees believing they have been placed at risk.  Despite all assurances, the trees have been sitting in puddles from daily washing of the trucks on site.  On the 17th June 2014 photos were taken of the smallest Jacaranda.   A significant amount of soil had been removed from around the tree & some roots had been cut & left exposed.  I doubt this will do the tree much good.

 

The Jacarandas in bloom 2011. Photo provided by local resident with thanks.

The Jacarandas in bloom 2011. Photo provided by local resident with thanks.

The same trees in 2014.

The same trees in 2014 after pruning.  The gravel is supposed to cause less impact to the tree roots by the trucks & other machinery.

 

I have dithered writing this post for weeks because there are so many issues that have concerned residents. Because I have not been involved, tend to feel scrambled when I try to write about them.

A view from the other end taken by a local resident in 2011.  Many thanks for allowing me to use this photo.

A view of the Jacarandas from the other end taken by a local resident in 2011. Many thanks for allowing me to use this photo.

The main issue is the old & very beautiful Jacaranda trees at Arlington Oval that line the border between the oval & Laxton Reserve.  Local residents are extremely concerned about these much-loved trees.  Almost everyone I speak to who lives near Arlington Oval mentions two things: the Jacaranda trees & the synthetic turf that is being installed at a cost of $1.7 million, up from a previous estimate of $950,000 & it is not finished yet.

The community campaign against the installation of synthetic turf at Arlington Oval has been a long one starting in 2009 & ending with a vote by Marrickville Councillors to install artificial turf in 2013.

Excerpt from the community blog ‘Save Arlington Reserve’ on 6th June 2013 –

1503 people, mostly Marrickville LGA residents, signed a petition in December 2012 saying No to artificial turf on Arlington.”

According to figures published today in Marrickville Council’s business papers for the next Council meeting …… a total of 750 submissions rejecting artificial turf on Arlington Reserve have been received by the 27/5 closing date.

Of the approximately 70 unique ‘non form-letter’ submissions made regarding Council’s 2013/14 budget, all but 5 were regarding Arlington, and all but 5 of those were against artificial turf.

This is in stark contrast to the pro-artificial turf lobby who submitted 123 petitions and only 12% of them residing in the Marrickville LGA, and 5 ‘unique’ submissions.”

This blog is very interesting to read. You can see why residents feel angry & let down by Marrickville Council. For a comprehensive history of the campaign see – http://savearlingtonreserve.com

Showing the almost filled in trench near the Jacaranda trees

Showing the almost filled in trench near the Jacaranda trees

I met with some residents who wanted to talk to me about the trees. They were stressed, angry & worried. We met in Laxton Park & the noise was deafening, but what would one expect with development happening. It was a surprise to me that I could still hear the machinery from a friend’s place in New Canterbury Road.   This cannot be helped, but I mention it to provide a thorough outline of what this community is going through.

One of the first things that happened was that the beautiful old Jacarandas were pruned. The branches used to form a very attractive umbrella-like canopy over the edge of the grass playing field.  The canopy a major feature of Arlington Oval.  It’s hard to tell how much the canopy was cut back, but it appears to be significant.

The pruning of these trees was not expected & according to Marrickvile Council, was done to allow the trucks unimpeded movement in & out of the oval.

I am told that pruning Jacarandas is not a good thing to do as all new growth grows upwards, even if a branch is spreading to the side. Not only does this look odd & detract from the beauty of the tree, these epicormic branches are fragile & once branches start falling, we all know what happens to the tree – it gets removed.

An example of the 'lake' post washing the wheels of the trucks to remove soil that contains lead.

An example of the ‘lake’ post washing the wheels of the trucks to remove soil that contains lead.  Photo by local resident, used with thanks.

Once the real grass was removed, an approximately 2.5 metre deep trench was dug approximately 4-metres from the Jacaranda trees.  This trench was below the canopy, so will have been in the root zone.   Again, this has greatly concerned the community.

I spoke to the Site Manager who told me that the ditch was to put in a stormwater drain, as well as to protect the soil & the garden bed.  Underneath this ditch is subsoil drainage.

When the work started, flexible orange plastic fencing was installed in front of the trees.

Removal of the topsoil also caused great concern. Throughout January 2014 dust was billowing over the local houses. I was told that 4,000 tonnes of soil was lifted & made into four piles. From there grass and other items were sifted from the topsoil. All this was done during a period of “howling wind.” Naturally, with toxic soil a norm in Marrickville LGA & with Arlington Oval being originally a quarry that was filled in, residents were very worried about the health effects of being exposed to so much dust.

The trucks are also washing their wheels of dust directly in front of the Jacarandas, with this water creating a lake. Much of this water entered the stormwater drain until the drains were sandbagged to prevent this from happening.

The poor Jacarandas have had to deal with pruning, trucks driving over their root systems, installation of a root barrier & stormwater trench & roots sitting in a flooded area.   You can understand why the community is worried.

I spoke to the Site Manager about the trees & synthetic grass.  He told me they will come in & groom the grass twice a year as a standard or more if needed.  He said this synthetic grass does not rot when leaves or flowers land on it, so the Jacarandas & the other trees will not be a problem.  They will not use chemicals or a vacuum to clean it, just a leaf blower.

Everyone I have spoken to believes that these trees will be removed because of the installation of synthetic turf.   We will see if they are affected by what has happened or are deemed a nuisance or threat to the synthetic turf because of leaf & flower ‘litter.’  I am personally pleased that so many care about these trees & are watching.  More later.

As Council has covered all the ground with geo-textile & the oval with synthetic turf, plus installed nylon netting under the grass next door in Laxton Reserve, one wonders where the wildlife will find food now.  Presumably Johnson Park also has nylon netting under the grass as well.

As Council has covered all the garden areas with thick geo-textile & the oval with synthetic turf, plus installed nylon netting under the grass next door in Laxton Reserve, one wonders where the ground forgaing wildlife will find food now. Presumably Johnson Park also has nylon netting under the grass as well.  I felt sad for the future of these poor Magpies.  They are one of many bird species, including Kookaburras that just cannot move on.  To do so requires a fight for territory, often to the death.  

Residents have complained on numerous occasions about toxic soil being blown into their homes.

Residents have complained on numerous occasions about toxic soil being blown into their homes.

What appears to be either Star Jasmine or Snake Vine is growing slowly.  The trees are also still alive.

What appears to be either Star Jasmine or Snake Vine is growing slowly. The trees are also still alive. The natuve grasses are doing well. 

Two Masked Lapwings sit in the area marked for the WestConnex Motorway with the crowd gathered behind.

Two Masked Lapwings sit in the area marked for the WestConnex Motorway with the crowd gathered behind.

Yesterday afternoon we joined around 300 other people at the Save Ashfield Park rally organized by the Save Ashfield Park residents group.

There were speakers from the community & local members Charles Casuscelli (Liberal) & Jamie Parker (Greens), Mathew Hounsell President of NoW (NoWestconnex) Public Transport, Robert Borsak Member of the Upper House & Shooters Party, Lucille McKenna Mayor of Ashfield Council & Jo Alley of Save Ashfield Park group.

Mature trees in this heritage-registered park that will be chopped down had yellow ribbons tied around their trunks & the area of the park that will be claimed by the motorway was marked out.  Four percent of the park will be lost.  I counted 38 trees that will need to be removed.  There is also serious concern & a lot of conflicting messages that the park will be used as a depot for anywhere from six to seven years.

Other issues that trouble residents are traffic volumes, loss of people’s homes, pollution, multiple 12-storey towers for housing & unfiltered smoke stacks through the suburbs along the route.

The deadline for submissions regarding this section of WestConnex is 17th February 2014.  http://www.westconnex.com.au

You can watch an edited version of the speeches here –  http://bit.ly/1iDRcsm

Looking towards the speaker's tent

Looking towards the speaker’s tent

View of the rally from the footpath on Paramatta Road.  The box hedge sign that has been here for as long as I can remember says 'Ashfield Park.'

View of the rally from the footpath on Paramatta Road. The box hedge sign that has been here for as long as I can remember says ‘Ashfield Park.’

 

A couple of weeks ago a friend & I tackled 4 streets in Petersham that had many trees proposed for removal as a result of the Tree Inventory.   As the streets were close together, they seemed a good choice.  The streets were John, Albert, Denning & Marshall.  The following photos are the trees on the removal list in John Street Petersham.  I will do the other streets in later posts.

The trees up for removal in John Street were outside numbers: 17, 19, 21 (x 2 trees), 23, 29 (x 2 trees), 46-48, 49, 59 & 251 (x 2 trees) – total 12 trees.   We could not find the 2 trees at the address 251 John Street as there was no such street number.  The photos of the trees up for removal are below.

I wonder how many of these were included in the Tree Inventory.

17 John Street:  I wonder how many of these were included in the Tree Inventory.

 

19 John Street:  The proposed loss of this tree was very distressing to my friend as it is the home of a Tawny Frogmouth.  The tree leans, though I doubt that would be a reason for removal in Sydney's North Shore suburbs.  It has some dieback & unfortunately, has caused damage to the footpath.

19 John Street: The proposed loss of this tree was very distressing to my friend as it is the home of a Tawny Frogmouth. The tree leans (exaggerated with wide-angle camera lens), though I doubt that would be a reason for removal in Sydney’s North Shore suburbs as I have seen street trees with much greater lean on similar sized streets. It has some dieback & unfortunately, has caused damage to the footpath & a crack to a brick boundary fence.

21 John Street:  A Maple & a Gum tree on on the removal list.  Both trees have major dieback.

21 John Street: A Maple & a Gum tree on on the removal list. Both trees have major dieback.

23 John Street:  It has leaves, but is on the way out.

23 John Street: It has leaves, but is on the way out.  It looks better from below & my friend thought its removal would be a loss.

We couldn't find what was wrong with the tree on the left. The tree on the right was tied up & could never grow into what it should become.

We couldn’t find what was wrong with the tree on the left. The tree on the right was tied up & could never grow into what it should become. See photo below.  There are no powerlines here so there is potential for at least one large tree.

29 John Street:  We couldn't find what was wrong with the tree on the left. The tree on the right was tied up & could never grow into what it should become.

29 John Street:  This tree was tied up while it was a sapling.

46-48 John Street.  There were 3 young street trees here & 2 extra ag pipes where trees once stood. As there appears to be nothing wrong with these trees it looks like the tree has already been removed.

46-48 John Street. There were 3 young street trees here & 2 extra ag pipes where trees once stood. As there appears to be nothing wrong with these trees it looks like the tree marked on the list has already been removed.

Second tree outside 46-48 John Street

Second tree outside 46-48 John Street

Third tree outside 46-48 John Street.

Third tree outside 46-48 John Street.

No 49 John Street - I could see why this tree is on the list.  It has dieback & leans.  My friends asked why could it not have the dieback pruned & see how it responds.

49 John Street – I could see why this tree is on the list. It has dieback & leans, though my wide angle camera lens has exaggerated the lean. My friend asked why could it not be pruned & see how it responds.

No 59 John Street.  We couldn't find what was wrong with this Prunus.  There was another a couple of doors down that looked worse than this one & it is not on the removal list.

59 John Street. We couldn’t find what was wrong with this Prunus. There was one more a couple of doors down that looked worse than this one & one across the street. Neither are on the removal list.

 

 

Thanks to the local resident who kindly supplied all the photos of this glorious Gum tree that "will probably have to go."

Thank you to the local resident who kindly supplied all the photos in this post of this glorious Gum tree that “will probably have to go.”

I received an email with photos today from a local resident who, when walking along Victoria Road Marrickville, saw Council workers spraying red paint along a fence near a street tree.

“I spoke with the person from Council.  He said the roots are a problem with the wall & there is a crack in the driveway & “it [the tree] will probably have to go.”    There didn’t appear to be any pavement damage.  Can’t they just fix the ancillary problems without cutting down the tree?   It appears very healthy & the biggest of many the same on this street.  I’m hoping there will be consultation & community consensus before such a drastic measure is taken.”

Another view showing the surrounding concrete.

Another view showing the surrounding concrete.

There is nothing about this tree on Marrickville Council’s website so we are probably a bit early.

I haven’t seen the tree myself yet, but the photos are pretty clear that it is one of the great Gum trees in this street.  The damage to private property needs to be significant to warrant taking out such a beautiful & beneficial tree.

The recent heatwave is an indication of what we can look forward to with a changing climate.  Climate scientists say we should expect many more days & longer periods of extreme heat like what we experienced recently.  Even now it is hard to find shade walking along many of our streets.

With 98 street trees to be removed soon & a further 1,492 street trees up for removal after that before Council starts on the ‘over mature’ trees, our urban forest is being hit hard.  Councillors can call it renewal instead of removal, but saplings do not make an urban forest.

Friday 7th December 2012 – Good news to report.  Clr Phillips wrote on FaceBook today –

“Council staff informed me:  A request for removal of the street tree has been refused, however Council is arranging for removal of a small section of concrete footpath to check whether tree roots are damaging the adjoining fence.  There is currently no intention to remove the tree.”  Excellent.

Another view.

Another view.

Kerb-side view

Kerb-side view

The fence & the red markings sprayed by Council workers.

The fence & the red markings sprayed by Council workers.

National Tree Day 2012 at Wolli Creek

I went to a lovely National Tree Day event today organized by the Wolli Creek Preservation Society – contact link on blogroll on the left-hand column.  A large crowd of all ages divided into small groups for a guided walk through the area of Wolli Creek bushland that is at risk of being destroyed for an extension to the M5 motorway tunnel.

From the Wolli Creek Preservation Society newsletter June 2012 – “The top priority for the society at present is the threat posed to the Wolli Valley bushland by the Roads & Maritime Services proposed duplication of the M5 east motorway tunnel. Plans for a cut-and-cover tunnel east of Bexley Road would wipe out a rare stand of remnant rainforest trees, wreck the natural creek line & destroy two hectares of high-priority bushland where restoration work has proved highly successful.  Exploratory drilling could happen at any time.”

A lovely way to indicate the path, trees & places of note

Painted hands prepared by local school children marked the track & here & there in the bush some of the beautiful trees were wrapped in colourful material.  This was very successful in bringing one’s eye to the range of trees within this area.  It was a gorgeous effect & must have taken quite a while for those who prepared the site for today.  It was interesting to have the time to look at the trees that could be lost to the M5 tunnel & appreciate just how many very large trees are located in this section of Wolli Creek.

What was also nice & helpful was that plants, weeds & trees were labeled along the path allowing us to learn their names, as well as know what vegetation was good & what were weeds.

This Sydney Peppermint was massive with a girth of around 5-metres

There was also a historical section called ‘Bowen’s Camp’ showing where a couple with two children lived during the Great Depression of the 1930s.  This would not have been an easy time & though water is close, growing food must have been hard in the sandy soil.  I thought it quite lovely that the sandstone markers the Bowen family used for their paths & gardens had been preserved & not lost over time.

The walk finished at the new Bioretention Basin – see – http://bit.ly/Ms5rzR  & then went up to Johnston Avenue where a sumptuous morning tea was waiting.  A volunteer gave a number of illustrated talks about the history of this section of Wolli Creek & how the M5 motorway tunnel would literally destroy the area we just walked through.

I’ve been to a number of National Tree Day events & planted trees. This was the first event where I was given time to admire trees as well as information about an area of bushland that I knew very little about.  I enjoyed the experience & very much hope that a new route is found for the M5 motorway tunnel.

A short diversion of the M5 tunnel route would allow a very special piece of vital bushland to be retained.  This would be very good for wildlife that have very little in terms of real areas of habitat left in the inner west & also provide many ongoing & important health benefits for the community.  Wolli Creek itself & the Wolli Creek Preservation Society deserve our support to retain this precious area of remnant Sydney bushland.

The section of Wolli Creek under threat is more than trees. It is also huge sandstone rocks & all the flora, including rare orchids

Wolli Creek is full of trees just like these.

 

At their last meeting Woollahra Council endorsed a plan to chop down 3 mature, healthy Hills Figs in Yarranabee Park in New Beach Road Darling Point. These trees had the top of their canopy removed a couple of years ago to allow some residents of New Beach Road city & Harbour Bridge views.  Now the Council says the trees can be removed to allow for extra parking along New Beach Road.

Architect Dennis Rabinowitz a member of residents’ group, Rushcutters Bay Parks Enhancement Group, is pushing for a Champs-Elysee type waterside boulevard saying this, “is all about good design.  …any avenue is defined by the rhythmic passing of an element…. The removal of these trees will reinstate the rhythm.”  I can’t seem to make the connection between good design, rhythm & more parking spaces no matter how hard I try.

Cynics could be forgiven if they believed that the real reason was the million dollar views of the Sydney skyline, the Sydney Harbour Bridge & the harbour itself.  3 really tall Fig trees do tend to get in the way of this. Oh, & property values. A better view adds millions of dollars in this part of Sydney.

A rescission motion will be voted on this Monday night.  Let’s hope the Councillors see sense this time & realize that these trees are more than just the property of Woollahra Council.  Sydney Harbour belongs to all the whole community of Sydney, which is why this issue has been given such prominent & wide coverage in the media.

Trees on the harbour’s edge are what create the look & feel of Sydney Harbour. Historic & large trees such as these should never be removed for parking or for views or for Parisian style boulevards. We live in Sydney, home to the mighty Fig tree, not Paris & this is a strength, not a weakness. In my opinion the view of the south side of the harbour is of too many buildings & not enough green because of the increase in buildings & hard surfaces in recent years.

There is also the issue of ever declining food for flying foxes & these trees would provide food for bats & birds as well as habitat for a range of birds, insects & animals. This is important, as urban wildlife should be able to live in this park as well.  A city is dead without its urban wildlife.

Today, there was a community rally to protest the removal of the trees with Jack Mundey in attendance.  Let’s see what happens next. http://www.thecourier.com.au/news/national/national/environment/tree-culling-it-all-depends-on-a-point-of-view/2388176.aspx

You can see what is to gain in terms of city & harbour views if the trees are removed with this panoramic view of Yarranabbe Park. – http://www.panoramicearth.com/3046/Sydney/Yarranabbe_Park_on_Rushcutters_Bay

A local Hills Fig

One of the many well attended rallies against the removal of the Fig trees in Laman Street Newcastle. Credit: photo by Stephen Fewson with thanks.

On 1st December 2011 seven (7) Newcastle Councillors voted once again to not take up Premier Barry O’Farrell’s offer of an Arborist who is unconnected to Newcastle City Council to do an independent assessment on the Laman Street Figs trees – even though community group Save Our Figs Inc (SOF) were to pay half the costs.

Instead, the Councillors opted to ignore the community petition that has passed 13,000 signatures. They chose to ignore the large group of residents who attended the Council Meeting in support of the Figs.  They chose to ignore the almost weekly peaceful rallies held by the community either at the Town Hall or at the Figs  – or as close as they can get with the cyclone fencing & security guards who are ensuring no one can get near the trees, according to the Newcastle Herald newspaper, a cost of $6,000 per day.  They chose to ignore the numerous emails from the community pleading with them to allow the assessment because the community does not believe that the Figs are dangerous.

As is their right, the Councillors said no – as they have been saying for months, although no one has been hurt by a tree since this all started, nor has any part of a tree fallen – even through a Category 2 cyclone & other high wind weather events.  One would have to wonder why.  One would also be forgiven for wondering why people elected by the community to represent them are so intent on not listening to the community, so intent on pushing their own views through.  Some of the Councillors are quite public about this in meetings, in emails, in the newspapers & on local TV.

I have watched this community campaign with interest since it started, around 2 years ago.  Apart from the Newcastle Mayor, who after meeting with the community & after reading other opposing professional opinions, changed his mind.  He became a supporter of the Figs & a supporter of an independent assessment. He has received public abuse & ridicule for this.

Save Our Figs members have had offensive videos posted about them that in truth are slanderous & not about the trees at all.  A Councillor emailed a local business woman who is a supporter of the trees calling her a f****** scrum & invited her to come out to dinner with him & some of his friends where they will show her a good time.  The same Councillor called a SOF member another discriminating name.  This would not be tolerated in the workplace.

Comments were made in the newspaper with personally abusive characterizations about individuals in the community who are trying to save these trees.  Community opposition has been blamed for skyrocketing costs to the Council, except that the community’s message has been the same for months. They want an independent assessment & the Council doesn’t.  Somehow this becomes costs.  Mind you, the community has paid for their own campaign, their own Arborist reports & their own court costs.

The city is divided. There are some that quite reasonably want it all over. So do SOF. The only difference is that it has become personal with people thinking that the community is holding the city up for trying to save valuable resources……in a time of global warming……when what the community are asking is not unreasonable.

The Newcastle Herald reported that at the end of the Council Meeting on the 1st December one of the Councillors pushed over former Newcastle Councillor Margaret Henry who had come to support the Fig trees.  Ms Henry is aged 77-years.  The police are investigating & may be laying charges of assault. http://www.theherald.com.au/news/local/news/general/fig-debate-turns-ugly-police-called/2378564.aspx?storypage=1

There is a lesson in this.  People do care about trees & won’t sit back in apathy & let apparently healthy trees be removed without a campaign & they can do this peacefully as a united crowd.  This community has been prepared to continue the campaign even though it has been happening over many months for most, 2 years for quite a few.  The community is educated on the subject & sophisticated in their methods. They have put in the hours to know their subject well.

Unfortunately on the flip side we have learnt that a Council who perhaps feels backed into a corner won’t give in to the community’s demands, even though the demands are reasonable & have an end clause. If the independent assessment says the trees are unsafe, then the fight is over & Newcastle can go ahead & remove the trees.

The Council won’t budge even though the NSW Premier has offered assistance. Even though the Liberal MP for Newcastle is asking the Councillors to take up the Premier’s offer & even though 2 of the Councillors voting against an independent assessment are Liberal party members. We have learnt that the fight becomes personal & hurtful & that much of this is done by those hiding behind a cloak of anonymity.

The Councillors have voted not to have an independent assessment, which means that the men with chainsaws will likely start chopping down these 14 healthy trees once the injunction has ended. Whether the community will sit back is another thing entirely. The Council will blame them for more costs & around & around we go.

Yesterday’s news in the Newcastle Herald has a Councillor saying that he has lodged a motion calling for an investigation into ‘‘deliberate delays” & “surcharging councillors ‘‘in respect to culpable negligence or misconduct.”

Another Councillor has released a document named ‘The Litany of Lies’ saying, “the Save Our Figs group should be held accountable for the $1.5million fiasco.”  http://www.theherald.com.au/news/local/news/general/pay-up-for-fig-fiasco-says-buman/2386854.aspx

Newcastle Town Hall at a time when the Councillors were upstairs voting on the fate of the Laman Street Fig trees. Credit: photo by Stephen Fewson with thanks.

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.

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