About us :) The blog about Newcastle’s mature street trees

 This blog is a diary of the struggle to save an avenue of significant and beautiful street trees – a struggle that was ultimately unsuccessful. It pitted community volunteers against a toxic council administration and a conservative elected council – and at the end, some of the media and the riot police. It still amazes me that such stupid people beat us but that’s the way of the world isn’t it?

Laman Street. The after shot.

Laman Street. The after shot.

So now the blog is for historical purposes only. Can I recommend reading The Last Word. Maybe. It turns out that the three years of focus on how dangerous the Laman Street trees were misunderstood. Or something. The Herald reacts to the shock that risk wasn’t the reason the trees were removed here.

9.9.2012: all but one of the anti-fig/anti-truth  councillors have left Council, either not standing or for re-election or standing and not being re-elected.

Toxic suckers.

Two videos to watch if you ever have the time: the filth from NCC about the why and how they got to remove the trees and an hour and a half about tree risk assessment which has both goodies and baddies in it.


The iconic Laman Street Hill’s fig trees have been voted on by Newcastle City Council over and over again. Did you think these million-dollar trees were safe? Think again.

For up-to-the-minute information on Laman Street use twitter: we’re @SaveOurFigs  and tweets can link using the hashtag #saveourfigs – and keep posting to the facebook page Save the Laman St. Fig Trees

If you want to make a financial donation – any time – it can be made to Save Our Figs Inc, PO Box 155, Islington 2296. Thanks:) or click here

This blog is a diary of the struggle to save an avenue of significant and beautiful street trees – a struggle that was ultimately unsuccessful. It pitted community volunteers against a toxic council administration and a conservative elected council – and at the end, some of the media and the riot police. It still amazes me that such stupid people beat us but that’s the way of the world isn’t it?

7.2.2012: Newcastle City Council surpassed themselves: they finally reduced a beautiful space to nothingness.

22.2.2012: the Fig Requiem will be held on Sunday 26th February between 4 and 6pm and will start in the Baptist Tabernacle in Laman Street. Some people might want to bring a plate.

Thanks to Matthew Glenn Ward for this.

6.2.2012: the last tree will be ripped out today. Might see you down there after work to bear witness.

And here’s how it used to be: Scott Cooper-Johnson made this video a few months ago. It’s just lovely. Thanks, Scott.

2.2.2012: the last tree should fall tomorrow. Come and be part of the Great Shout of Shame. Bring your sense of community and your noise-maker.

1st Feb 2012: after two years, almost $2million of ratepayers’ money and two unsuccessful goes at felling the trees, Newcastle City Council were succesful in destroying four trees yesterday with the help of 60 police, many of whom were riot police.

Today the local paper is saying we should unite and move on. The journalist is presumably bored with the story.

Thankyou NCC.

From the archive: (on the radar report)

Here’s the original radar report. And here’s the one released via FOI in March 2010.

And what’s new – a Bunch Of Reports and Opinions have been added to the page ‘Key Documents and Links’

If you want to contact us, leave a comment and we’ll get back to you.

The most recent post is in the links on the right of this page. The page you’re on is a (fast-becoming-tedious – sorry) chronology of the Laman St issue.

The latest piece of information on Laman Street is Mike Ellison’s response to Council’s disappointing take on his report. Mr Ellison is a UK arborist who developed the tree risk assessment tool, QTRA (quantified tree risk assessment). Newcastle City Council relied heavily on this risk method – until flaws in the reports done for Council were pointed out. You can read Mr Ellison’s response – click on the link on the right.

11.1.2012: Rumours are going around that the tree felling is next Tuesday. Happy for this to be wrong. In any case, if you’re looking for a peaceful community picket line, you know where to come. AND – read Dr David Lonsdale’s commentary on today’s post . He is a UK expert who wrote a textbook quoted by Newcastle City Council experts and others.

8.1.2012: Looking forward to reading Mike Ellison’s report on the Laman Street trees.

28.12.2011: the developer of quantified tree risk assessment (QTRA) is arriving in Newcastle this week to have a look at our trees.

Did you know that based on Council’s tree risk assessments there should have been  six fig tree failures since 2007 and two deaths? And how many have there been? You guessed it – none and none.

How long will Laman Street look this after the trees are destroyed? This is Tyrrell Street in 2004. Double-click to enlarge.

17.12.2011: Laman-Street-for-Dummies-with-too-much-time-on-their-hands: and just in case there are some details you missed of the Laman Street soon-to-be tragedy, here is the link to Save Our Figs Inc’s response to another of Cr Cook’s missives. 

16.12.2011: Good news: the police can’t help with the vandalism of Laman Street until after New Year. How good is that?

14.12.2011: anniversary breakfast with the birds today – see you from 5:30am onwards. PLUS we’re having a Christmas get-together in Civic Park from midday on Sunday December 18th. AND keep a look-out for those chainsaws.

8.12.2011: more hopes dashed: the ALP may have given up on their attempt to close the road. There will be some happy anti-figgers around town.

3.12.2011:COME TO  a SIPS AND NIBBLIES get-together at the corner of Darby and Laman Streets where we will be distributing voodoo dolls. Just kidding. Come and see your colleagues and fellow travellers and people who think Newcastle’s Hyde Park should not be destroyed without good reason. 4pm SUNDAY 4th Dec. SEE YOU THERE.

And here’s how the meeting finished up on Thursday. True leaders would have left the Council chamber and addressed the crowd. If they had left the chamber to walk between the people lining the hallway, and told us why they had voted the way they had and owned their actions, the night would have ended very differently.

1.12.2011: LOST. Again. Maybe for the last time.

27.11.2011: Laman Street will come back to Council at an extraordinary general meeting on December 1st, probably after 6:30. If it’s a different time I’ll let you know. And what’s new on this site? There’s a new photo gallery of an October rally and protest for the fig trees.


16.11.2011: Council adjourned any further discussion of Cr Osborne’s motion about the Laman Street trees and the Premier’s offer of an arborist until late November. We’re waiting to hear whether Judge Biscoe from the Land and Environment Court grants the injuction. The trees can still be felled from as early as 5pm on that day if the injunction is not granted. On a happy note the fundraiser at Lizotte’s this week was fantastic.

14.11.2011: off to the Land and Environment Court – our thoughts will be with the legal team.

And see you tomorrow night on the steps of Town Hall at 7pm and then inside at 8pm when Crs Osborne and Claydon will be continuing the discussion of their motions from last week.

8.11.2011: After 2.5 hours of debate and drama, the extraordinary meeting was adjourned again so the GM can seek yet more legal advice about whether Claydon’s foreshadowed motion and Osborne’s motion are lawful.

There’s a FUNDRAISING night at Lizotte’s on MONDAY 14TH NOVEMBER ; DOORS OPEN AT 6PM.

Make sure you or your table get tickets for the night: call 4956 2066 or go to LIZOTTE’S website and buy your ticket NOW.

If SOF members & supporters would like to organise a table of their family & friends it would be fabulous!

LIZOTTE’S IS THE FORMER King’s Theatre 31 Morehead Street, Lambton NSW 2299


5.11.2011: today’s post is an update about next week. On Tuesday 8.11.11 there’s a FIG RALLY on the steps of Town Hall at 4:30pm before the Council meeting: Council will discuss the Premier’s offer of an independent arborist; then the injunction will be heard the next day.

3.11.2011: the footpath on the Art Gallery side of the library was re-opened. Hallelujah. Go for a walk and hear the birds, visit by night and see the flying foxes, listen to the family of kookaburras who live there – enjoy.

2.11.2011: SAVED AGAIN: thanks to the legal team who were successful in arguing for an injunction in the Land and Environment Court until November 11th. The machinery is gone from the street and no trees can be felled until that hearing. Happy news for Newcastle. And next week the Premier’s offer of an arborist will be discussed at Council. xxx

This is the tree failure Council love to show you. Two eyewitnesses say the roots were cut on the northern side of the tree to fix the gutters: unsurprisingly the trees fell in the next storm. NCC claim one medium sized root was cut.  Sorry: I always forget this is a tree in Bruce Street, not Tyrrell St. Or is it Tyrrell??? In any case – it’s. Not. Laman. Street.

1.11.2011:Drama and outrage at council tonight – the community were let down again by Crs King, Boyd, Sharpe and Cook, with Buman a no-show again. No vote could be taken on the Premier’s offer of an independent arborist because these councillors either left the meeting when this was to happen or stayed away.

The General Manager refused to reassure a councillor that the planned vandalism in Laman Street tomorrow, with the backup of 80-100 police and dogs, would not take place.

COME AND CAMP IN CIVIC PARK TONIGHT. Come and be part of the peaceful community picket line tomorrow. It may be an early start – we hear police are coming at 4am.

31.10.2011: The special Council meeting held tonight failed to gain a quorum, so it’s been adjourned until tomorrow, to be held in conjunction with the normal council meeting.

However, the police inspected the site today so the chainsaws could come tomorrow morning despite the fact that it’s Melbourne Cup Day. See you on the picket line any time from 5:30am. The Lord Myor will be there at around 6-6:30am. Bring your breakfast.

And yes – there will be another of our famous rallies on the steps of the Town Hall at 4:30pm.

28.10.2011: Today in Laman Street started at the crack of dawn for some, waiting to see if the tree-fellers and police were going to arrive. It ended happily because we just had to greet politicians and the media. John Tate and Tim Crakanthorpe both had a go at the megaphone, to an enthusiastic crowd, and the Herald, NBN TV, Channel Ten TV and 1233 local ABC radio all came. So that felt like a party and then most of us went back to our day jobs.

SIPS AND NIBBLIES in Laman Street at 4pm Saturday 29th October – BYO everything. See you there.

26.10.2011: Is it back to the barricades for the people of Newcastle? Has there been more bad faith? The single suitable arborist out of the three chosen by council is unwilling to do the so-called independent assessment of the Laman St trees.

Instead of looking for another arborist,the General Manager has decided that later this week the tree-felling will begin again.

It will be easier for them this time because in the time given over to negotiating with SOF and making a phone call to an arborist chosen who-knows-how, they’ve doubled the fencing and increased the number of security guards.

Great times in local government.

11:15pm: there have been offers of help from various state politicians and arborists and how do you think these have been greeted by our GM? Knocked back – just like NCC knocked back the $35 000 Statewide money and the $15 000 offered by a local businessman, knocked back community arborists and community volunteer input on the Working party. A can’t do, not can do  approach from the workers running this place – and the greatest act of civic vandalism remains the answer. SOF Inc has a meeting with the GM in the morning…

24.10.2011Put up a handwritten update on the fence at the Darby Street end of Laman Street – we expect any day to hear that the Brisbane expert will take up the poisoned chalice challenge of examining the ‘risk’ of the Hill’s figs we all love.

We can’t say how much we thank and admire the General Manager of NCC for the leadership he’s shown on this issue. What a beginning to his time in Newcastle.

Meanwhile there are two new videos to watch about saving these trees.


These were made by Ed Glatfelter-Jones. Thanks Ed.

Sunday 23.10.11: Had a great ‘Ratbags and Loonies‘ picnic in Civic Park today. Susie had all the art spread out, Anna talked about plans for an exhibition after we’ve saved the trees, as has Sharon for about a year, people told positive stories about the days on the picket line and goodwill from and towards the security guards, we all praised the GM for the leadership he’s shown and we all shared food. There were kids and dogs and a musician and a coffee van. A good day.

And we have 6 working days from the time the agreement was signed for the Brisbane arborist to decide whether she can help us out.

Thursday 20th Oct 2011: Earlier today SOF signed an agreement with council to engage an arborist to conduct a review and assessment of the Laman St figs.

While this is a positive step forward it is not a clear path ahead. We must still remain ALERT so that the process is not undermined.

SOF agreed to a single expert and rejected the other two suggested arborists. We felt that the other two arborists were not suitable and had irreconcilable conflicts of interest.

We deeply appreciate your support throughout this process and will keep you updated as developments occur.

The agreement signed today is a wonderful testimony to grass roots democracy. It’s because of YOU so thankyou.


There was a meeting in Civic Park at 7:30am on 20th October to let people know the good, the bad and the ugly in the virtually non-negotiable agreement with Newcastle City Council on the Laman Street figs expert determination. Hope to see you there. Late notice – sorry. We’ll try to post here and our lovely facebook friends will post there and there may even be an update on the fence at the Darby Street end of Laman Street.

And who wants to have brunch on Sunday 23rd Oct at Civic Park to catch up? Not firmed up yet, this idea, but I’m happy to go on my own if that’s what happens. 10am. 🙂

18 October 2011

Firstly, thank you very much to everyone for coming to the figs community picket line.  It has been wonderful all the contribution of time so willingly given.

Firstly, thank you very much to everyone for coming

to the figs community picket line.  It has been wonderful

all the contribution of time so willingly given.

Save Our Figs will speak to the General Manager Phil Pearce

at Newcastle City Council tomorrow morning hoping to

ensure that agreement can be reached on expert evaluation of the trees.

Whilst our progress is looking very hopeful

and there was no action in the street today we

cannot guarantee that we may need to start up the

picket line again at short notice.

So keep alert but not alarmed.

We will post up as much information

as we can.

We have decided to post a bulletin on the fences at the Derby Street

end of Laman Street -let everyone know.

18 October 2011

SOF and Newcastle residents met in Civic Park this morning before the meeting with the GM to talk about the agreement and a couple of little issues in it, as well as the list of experts suggested by Council.

Part of me regretted h0w close we came to finishing a process of choosing experts a couple of months ago, but regrets are not helpful. A few people will be contacting Mr Pearce, the GM, in the morning to finalise the document. I’m optimistic in spite of a couple of quirky things in the agreement like its reference to procedural fairness – call me crazy with fatigue. Cheers.

17 October 2011

The General Manager has announced that he is to have talks with Save Our Figs tomorrow morning having had talks with Councillors tonight.   The General Manager has formed the view that it is not practical to implement the resolution of 19 July 2011 to remove the trees and is looking at way to move forward.

The good news is no chainsaws tomorrow and a real opportunity to try to resolve the dispute.

Likely to be a briefing at Laman street in the morning…however, not so early…



GM has called a crisis meeting.  Meeting with Councillors this afternoon.  The outcome of the meeting will be critical.

We need as many people as possible at the rally.   This is CRUNCH time.  Please attend

15 October 2011

Barry O’farrell (NSW Premier) is now the key to saving the figs.

Please contact him today, urging him to assist the Council out of the technical legal dilemma it is in, by either an Interim Heritage Order or declaring the RTA the road authority.

This would not be overriding the council, but assisting it out of a pickle and would have strong community support:

Mobile: 0459 601 230
Ph: 9228 5239

14 October 2011

Fig Update, Friday 9pm:

No tree removal work tomorrow (Saturday), according to the GM.

However, no guarantees past that (i.e., could resume on Sunday).

It will be another frenetic day of lobbying tomorrow. Please drop in to the picket line if you can.

And come along to “sips and nibblies” at 4:30pm Saturday at the Darby St end of Laman St to find out the latest.

We need another big turnout for this, to get the state government to intervene.


13.10 2011  URGENT URGENT

Newcastle City Council General Manager is now saying that the removal of the trees will continue since the 9 councillors cannot legally over-ride the earlier decision.  PLEASE urgently write to our State Politicians both Liberal and shadow asking them to intervene.  Send emails to Tim Owen (http://www.nsw.liberal.org.au/legislative-assembly/tim-owen.html),  the Minister for Roads(office@gay.minister.nsw.gov.au), the Shadow Minister for Roads Robert Furolo (lakemba@parliament.nsw.gov.au), the Minister for Local Government Don Page  ( ballina@parliament.nsw.gov.au), the Shadow Minister for Local Government Sopie Cotsis (sophie.cotsis@parliament.nsw.gov.au) the Minister for the Hunter Michael Gallacher (office@gallacher.minister.nsw.gov.au), the Shadow Minister for the Hunter (Linda Burney linda.burney@parliament.nsw.gov.au.  Ask them to ensure that  the Trees are not caught up in the deadlock now created by Newcastle City Council where the majority of Councilllors now see the sense in proceeding  with an assessment  of the trees when it has an earlier  resolution to remove the trees.  Explain how the community has responded to the plan to remove the trees and how the importance of the trees to the Newcastle community has been demonstrated by recent protests.  Explain how urgent intervention is required since the Council has immediate plans to remove the trees.

ALSO PLEASE COME TO LAMAN STREET TOMORROW MORNING at 5.30am to ensure that our voice is heard ….

13.10.2011: a reprieve thanks to 9 councillors agreeing to have a Brisbane arboricultural expert come down to assess the trees if the General manager’s legal advice says that’s OK – and thanks to the GM for halting work for another day.

See you for breakfast in 5 minutes at the Dawson St end.

10.10.2011 – 11pm: two things are on tomorrow – meeting up at about dawn ie 6am (this will happen every morning until we know these trees are safe) and meeting on the steps of the Town Hall from 4:30pm (Tuesday) on to let Councillors know this issue has not gone away. Let your families and friends know.

It’s important that we let the elected Council know that the greatest act of vandalism in the history of the city should not go ahead and that it is up to them to find a way out of this terrible bind. Perhaps the answer is in the words of the resolution itself of July 19th: ‘remove the trees as soon as practical‘.

How is it practical if it creates this much loss of faith in our elected Councillors and this much dissent and ill-feeling?

10.10.2011 am: the second community picket line against the destruction of the trees in Laman Street will start early this morning. See you there.

Yesterday the Darby Street fair was on and people queued to sign the petition, wore stickers naming the councillors whose vote secured the decision to fell the trees – which is already the second largst tabled petition in NSW. Great (ish) day.

9.10.2011: the Darby street fair is on tomorrow so there should be loads of people walking past the beautiful fig trees. It will be a peaceful day, unlike Friday when many concerned individuals came together in a spontaneous way to bear witness to the vandalism that removing these trees represents.

You can read about Friday here on the Herald’s website. There’s a chronology of events and video footage which clearly shows that the police response was way out of proportion to the behaviour of the people in the street.


8.10.2011 1:45pm: drop by and say hello to the people sitting at the Darby St end of  Laman St. You couldn’t keep people away if you tried. The Darby St fair is on tomorrow – a great time for crowds to walk past and see what it’s all about. We’ll have stickers to hand out and the councillors’ contact details. If you can spare twenty minutes or a couple of hours, we’d love to see you.

8.10.2011: yesterday was a black day in Newcastle. We gathered in the park before dawn and moved up to the street at about 6 or so and were elated to see that some protestors had quietly, quickly and efficiently gone under the barricades and locked onto poles and climbed trees.

Nothing could be done for what felt like hours until these heroes were removed by police rescue and marched off to be charged.

The rest of us set up a community picket line at each end of the street and at the Darby St end when the trucks arrived the protestors sat down and couldn’t be moved.

They were more aggressive at the Dawson St end and police did Council’s dirty work for them by pushing into the crowd and assaulting a number of people, and ignoring cries for assistance when someone was injured. At least 6 people were injured.

Then the trucks came in and immediately tree climbers went up and started to chainsaw major branches. When the first one fell it was devastating.

At 3:15 campaigners managed to get into the street and stood on the library steps which made it unsafe to keep working. So you could be forgiven for not seeing a lot of desecration today. That feels good.

TODAY and TOMORROW (Sat 8.10 and Sun 9.10): we believe the police when they tell us there will be no work in the street so we are not expecting to have to do this over the weekend. So you get to go and take some more photos and listen to those birds and bats that NCC claim aren’t there. Come Monday we will need to go back to bear witness to more of this injustice and vandalism so anyone who can come at any time would be valued. More soon.


***After 6am on Friday 7th October 2011 Newcastle City Council contractors will start felling the Laman Street trees. This will take something like 4 days.

Save Our Figs Inc has exhausted all legal and political possibilities to save these trees.

See you in Civic Park at 5am to bear witness to this appalling act of destruction.

Then we’ll be changing the name of this blog to didn’tsaveourfigs.wordpress.com. Kidding.

FRIDAY 7.10.2011: Come to Laman Street any time through the day – text and call your friends to come; look at the facebook page for updates. 12 activists are in trees or chained by the neck and arms to poles. The police rescue squad have arrived. Councillor Bob Cook was booed, and two council managers were booed by the crowd.

The initiator of the risk allegations, council’s arborist, even came to the street to have a look. Once his presence was made known to the crowd he left – or perhaps he just realised that standing around in a beautiful street looking at beautiful trees wasn’t a fair way to spend Council’s money.


For over two years Council management has  alleged the trees are a danger to traffic (can you believe that?) and the public. The community remains unconvinced by this, as this city is full of trees just like these and they survive gale after gale after gale. The community’s experts disagree the trees are as dangerous as  Council says and Save Our Figs believe that if a beautiful street like this is to be destroyed, it needs to be done based on evidence.

We’ve been calling for an independent expert assessment of all the reports that have been produced to date. A local businessman offered $15 000 to help Save Our Figs pay half the cost of this process. Council passed this resolution, to have independent assessment, on Sept 13th but a motion to rescind (reverse) was debated at October’s first Council meeting.

The effect of the vote was that independent assessment will not happen and the trees will be felled, probably sometime this week. We hear it won’t be on Thursday. Save Our Figs Inc is seeking legal advice about whether there is anything further that can be done to stop this appalling decision. Watch this space. You still need to email your councillors and tell them it’s shameful they made this monumental mistake. You need to remember your councillors’ names for when local government elections come around again. You may want to leave cards, flowers, fluffy toys, ribbons, posters on the fence at the end of Darby Street. And come and form a community picket line when the chainsaws move in. And if you see anything happen leave a comment on the blog.

Remember. That’s the most important thing you have to do. This will follow these councillors and managers all the days of their lives.(ed 6.10.2011)

5.10.2011: Council voted last night for the last possible time – the effect of the vote is that independent assessment (the process of examining Council’s and the community’s evidence) re the alleged risk of the trees is halted. This means that the Council resolution of July 19th – to fell the trees as soon as practicable –  can be enacted. We are seeking legal advice about our options. Going down the legal route is not something Save Our Figs as a community organisation wanted to do, however, given that we don’t believe the trees are anywhere near as dangerous as Council say they are, given that Council management have said they want to stop independent assessment o prevent any damage to  the reputations of management or Council consultants, given that removing the trees does not look to us to be about safety but to be about Anzac Centennial Place – or some other sterile hot repaved space – we feel that the only ethical step we can take is to look at  every avenue to save these trees for generations to come.

The councillors who voted against independent assessment are Boyd, Buman, Cook, Jackson, King, Luke and Sharpe. Page edited 5.10.2011.**************************

If this is the first time you’re reading about Newcastle’s urban forest problems, this blog is a small contribution to Newcastle’s ongoing need to be green and more beautiful. Over the last couple of years our council has been making lots of noise about wanting to get rid of an avenue of mature fig trees, the Hill’s figs in Laman Street – which is the first step in ridding us of all our mature trees.

This, the home page, has turned into a chronology of events of sorts. If you’re visiting for the first time, consider reading ‘What’s the story behind Save Our Figs?’ and ‘Key documents and links’. The images in the blogroll on the right of the page are easy too . Mark Hartley’s updated review of the Laman Street tree assessments can be read here [29.9.2011: I changed this link so it didn’t have my address on the front page. Otherwise it’s the same document]. 

30.9.2011: Come to the Council meeting on Tuesday 4th October that starts at 5:30 and make your views known when Councillors try to rescind the decision to have independent expert assessment. Meet on the steps of Town Hall from 4:30 on. Arrive late if you have to. Wear whatever you like, leave whenever you like. Go up two flights of stairs in the Town Hall if you’re arriving from King Street, then turn left. Staff are very helpful and will point you to where the meeting is if you get lost. 

Contact your councillors and tell them how important independent assessment is. If these trees are to be felled, Newcastle needs to know that this is because they are as dangerous as Council staff allege, a claim most of us find impossible to believe.

Councillors details are here  It may be easier for some people to copy and paste their addresses for one common email:

Lord Mayor John Tate <kmcpherson@ncc.nsw.gov.au>, Cr Aaron Buman <aaronbuman@smartchat.net.au>, Cr Bob Cook <bobcook@pacific.net.au>, Cr Scott Sharpe <scott.sharpe@pacific.net.au>, “Cr Dr. Graham Boyd” <graham.boyd@pacific.net.au>, Cr Mike King <mike.king@pacific.net.au>, Cr Shayne Connell <shayne.connell@pacific.net.au>, Cr Brad Luke <brad.luke@pacific.net.au>, Cr Sharon Claydon <sharon.claydon@pacific.net.au>, Cr Michael Osborne <ncc-mosborne@hunterlink.net.au>, Cr Tim Crakanthorp <tim.crakanthorp@pacific.net.au>, Cr Nuatali Nelmes <nuatali.nelmes@pacific.net.au>, Cr Mike Jackson <mike.jackson@pacific.net.au>

27.9.2011: Another Council meeting, yet another rescission motion: on October 4th Councillors will debate a rescission motion in relation to independent expert assessment.

21.9.2011: correction: at the time of writing, no rescission motion has formally been lodged (see next paragraph). In spite of people present at Council’s meeting thinking there was one, and the Herald reporting there was one – nothing has been lodged. So watch this space.

20.9.2011: Cr Bob Cook has lodged a rescission motion against the resolution for independent expert assessment. Presumably this is for the reasons he has already given: that the reputations of Council experts and staff will be called into question. The rescission motion will be heard on October 4th. *Sigh* 21.9.2011: there’s a new page on the blog: it’s a response (and correction) to Cr Cook’s YouTube video. It’s a long read but it’s a long video and needs lots of correcting.

On Tuesday 13th September 2011 Council voted on independent assessment of the Laman Street trees. Councillors voted 6-6 and  John Tate used his casting vote so that this went through – so another sigh of relief. Congratulations to councillors – this is a win-win for them: they go through a transparent process to reach the right answer. If an independent assessment show the trees are unsafe, the community will believe it.

3.9.2011: I uploaded the original version of the radar reportand come and visit the tent embassy. [No longer needed – CR 22.9.2011.]

31.8.2011:We’re calling for Council to enter into third party determination on the safety or risk of the Laman Streeet trees. This would involve a retired judge or barrister reviewing the reports produced to date by both sides, ideally in a setting where experts would be available. Save Our Figs Inc obviously believe the trees are safe but if this process found otherwise that would be the end of the matter. Ask your councillor for their support in this. If these trees have to be left as metre-high stumps for an indeterminate length of time, it needs to be based on convincing evidence.

31.8.2011: it turns out the spending on Laman Street is like something out of the Weimar republic: inflation has run riot in Newcastle. Since July, Council admin has allegedly spent over $100 000 – without a single interesting report to show for it.

Yeah, right.

29.8.2011: we had a crowd for the  community picket line in Civic Park today from  5:30am onwards. We have a last-minute reprieve: three councillors, John Tate, Sharon Claydon and Michael Osborne have been helpful by trying to ensure that procedural fairness is observed in this process.

11pm: the trees are safe until Sept 13th when they will be discussed at a Council meeting.

Since two councillors were missing from the meeting where the last crucial vote was taken and because councillors were not briefed on the process of mediation and because councillors were not fully informed about the costs of third party determination, the issue should go back to the elected council.

So the birds and bats and fluffy things are still happy in the trees, the trees still form a stunning backdrop to Civic Park and the identity of this part of town is intact.

And the frightening and ugly business of turning those healthy and stable trees into stumps didn’t happen today. More later.


Did you know that if the trees are felled they will be reduced to metre-high stumps over 4 days that will then adorn one of our most important streets until several million dollars are found for the development that Council has been talking about for a year? What vision, what creativity, what respect for this city.

Thankyou Newcastle City Council.


26.8.2011: Council management have won, aided by elected councillors.

The Laman Street trees will be felled,  after each item of business relating to the magnificent fig trees were voted down one after another last night.

Elected councillors rejected an opportunity to examine the risk evidence by a process of third party determination. They rejected the opportunity to use dynamic testing to confirm the stability or otherwise of the trees and they failed to rescind their appalling July 19th decision to fell all 14, saying they’re a traffic hazard.

The councillors who voted to remove the trees are Graham Boyd, Aaron Buman, Shayne Connell, Bob Cook, Brad Luke, Mike Jackson and Scott Sharpe. I believe several of these are rumoured to imagine they are Lord Mayor material. Amazing. Absent were Councillors King and Nelmes.

I suppose council’s arborist said it all when he told the Urban planning and design advisory committee in July that to review previous reports would call into question the reputations of the arborists who produced them. We couldn’t have that.

A job well done.


THE LATEST POST is ‘Extraordinary Council meeting’ about the rumoured meeting this Thursday.

 ‘Mediation – Joint statement 18.8.2011.’ Mr McHugh was fantastic and everyone worked really hard to reach an outcome.

What’s new on this page? You can read two assessments of the trees in Laman Street done by a company called Treelogic, first in 2008 and then this year. Dry stuff but easy to understand. Most of the trees were thought to have decades left in them in 2008; this year their useful life expectancy was zero. Double-click on each page and it will enlarge. In twitterspeak, #WTF?

On 4.8.2011: I wrote ‘Fig Tree Dispute Headed for mediation’ which is now old news – after council wrote a long letter to Mr McHugh he declined to be involved in mediation. Shame. The issues now are will he change his mind, will a new mediator be appointed or does it need to go back to Council to appoint a new person?

Laman Street went back to council this week. The result was that Save our Figs and Council were to enter into a mediation process with Justice Michael McHugh before insurance cover lapses on Laman Street.

The vote was 6-6 so the Lord Mayor used his casting vote to enable mediation. It was a night of some drama with more people attending than the chamber could hold, Cr Buman absent, Cr Sharpe bringing his six broken ribs late and staying only long enough to vote to fell these beautiful trees, Cr Connell declaring that a $6000 cost is too much to expect Council to pay, and Cr Jackson voting in favour of mediation.


Here’s a YouTube video of an interview with two very famous arborists about the management of Laman Street – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0hr80uTo0Q

The Arborists’ Conference was held in Parramatta recently. One of the highlights was the Award of Merit presented to Mark Hartley, the community-commissioned arborist who did peer reviews of the Council’s flawed reports on Laman Street.

30th July 2011: We had a a picnic in Civic Park today from 11am till 2pm. It was a lovely get-together where we gathered more petition signatures, listened to some speakers, including the Lord Mayor and Councillors Nelmes and Claydon, and watched some World War 1 re-enactors aim a pretend mortar at the Council administration building. And we enjoyed the trees for what could well be the last time. Nice coincidence that it’s National Tree day.


The fight to save these trees was lost this month when councillors voted 7-5 to remove them. Efficient Council officers prepared to fell the Laman Street trees before the vote to remove them  had even been taken.

On July 19th 7 councillors who presumably think making wrong decisions is better than making the right ones as long as they’re not seen to be thinking about anything for too long made the wrong decision tonight.

FEATURED PHOTOS: Burano is a small island off Venice. Unlike Newcastle, they don’t do beige well. It’s gorgeous.

Recent posts are about the latest Working Party meetings and the workshop held to come up with positive and creative solutions to managing the alleged risk in Laman Street. OMG. You would not believe these people.

And Council’s insurer has brought pressure to bear to fell the trees by the end of August. Bizarre haste. After all these years. And in the middle of a regime of looking after the fig trees. And in spite of no formal updated risk assessments – apart from a single documented Matheny and Clark assessment which apparently rates large street trees badly whether they’re in good or bad condition.Weird. 


We have Exciting New Black Fences in Laman Street… Oh, and one of the Councillors could not restrain himself any more: he wants to chop the trees down.

NEWS: 31.5.2011: NBN interviews Cr Cook and Save our Figs.

30.5.2011: NBN TV has a story about Cr Michael Osborne who has suggested ways to keep the street safe.

NEWS: The budget brought zip for Newcastle. Surprise, surprise.


This blog was started in response to Newcastle City Council’s plans to fell an avenue of beautiful fig trees in a street called Laman Street.  For some background read the community-commissioned arborist’s report and his response to some councillors on the page ‘Key documents and links’.


The War Memorial Cultural Centre 1957 from Council Photo Bank

11.5.2011: The Draft Street Tree Masterplan briefing was given to elected Councillors by the Council’s former arborist. This is one of the Experts who helped bring us the plan to fell the Laman Street trees.

6.5.2011: a lawyer and engineer addressed both Council (in secret confidential session) and the Laman Street Working Party in public session. It was reported, presumably based on either media release or interview that the ‘lawyers‘ said it’s too risky to take the rented ugly fences down. It’s not the message I heard him give, but whatever. At least the plan is to monitor the trees using some technology, rather than having another of the boys’ tree-felling club come and scratch his head and possibly take a wild guess.

2.5.2011: the elected Councillors will be addressed by an insurance representative tonight. Presumably that will be mostly doom and gloom, but you never know. Tomorrow the Working Party on Laman Street meets for the second time. Tree preservation measures (other than not felling them, the most significant one) are yet to begin, almost five months after Council resolved that this should be our approach.

25.4.2011: Today’s whine post is about how ridiculous it is that Honeysuckle Development Corporation is building a car park on waterfront land on the harbour. I’m taking bets on how many trees are planted in the process.

21.4.2011: the Working Party met for the first time last night. Enspec will be briefing Council in 2 weeks and I can’t wait. They’re the tree experts who are among the leaders in testing trees. The Lord Mayor tried to have the fences removed from the ‘safe’ trees but to no avail.

19.4.2011: Council discussed removing the fences. No luck there yet.

16.4.2011: the first meeting of the Working Party is on Wed 20th April 2011 between 5 and 7:30pm in the Waratah Room at the City Hall. It’s open to the public. See you there.

13.4.2011: the Working Party on the Laman Street ‘risk’ is about to meet at last – the 20th April is the first date. And Council is about to start its apparently-annual large tree inspection – great to see this gets a mention on the website. We should inundate the arborists with advice about trees that need mulch. I can think of a few.

1.4.2011: NCC has appointed the members of its working party and announced the date of its first meeting.

APRIL FOOL.  Still waiting. A friend actually said to me recently he doesn’t think the fences will ever come down in Laman Street and the working party will never meet and the idiotic risk QRAP will never go away.

Sunday 27.2.2011: Newcastle City Council has advertised for expressions of interest for the Laman Street Working Party.

Saturday 22.1.2011: A selection of some of the Very Tidy pictures of a revamped Civic Park is here. These were cobbled together done in haste in a motel room overnight by the consultants who ran the charette early in 2010. They alleged they used two architecture students to help them. They look a lot like the 2005 plan. Grassy tiered platforms, no figs, formal rows of new trees; we were never given tree species advice – the people at the charette were supposed to come up with that but there was no encouragement to come to conclusions about this.

Thursday 20.1.2011: do the Laman Street Civic Park online survey on Newcastle City Council’s website. Go to http://www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au/ hover over the ‘council’ tab – 4th from the left; then click on ‘Community consultation’ (2nd from the bottom) then click on ‘Current consultations’ http://www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au/council/community_consultation/current_consultations

Then click on ‘Complete the Laman Street survey online now’ If I give you a link to it, it won’t work because it sensibly recognises that I have done this survey. (The Islington Park survey was here as well but it’s now over – 26.1.2011. That’s a fantastic park with some absolutely fabulous trees. )The other way to do this survey is to sign up for Newcastle Voice on council’s website.

Please email me if this doesn’t work for you: lamanfigs@gmail.com (or ring the nice people at Council, of course).




10.12.2010: I won the 20 cent bet (see below) that the council officers would recommend against a pull test…

On the Laman Street figs, we’re looking forward with some anxiety to the last council meeting of the year where a report will be delivered to councillors on whether a pull test can be done to test the claims that the street trees are unsafe. Bet you 20cents it will be deemed not to be feasible. It’s hard not be cynical about when the decision was made that it wouldn’t be.

17.11.2010 am: Council will be investigating the integrity of the trees using technology. Great result from tonight’s council meeting. Thanks to the councillors who proposed this motion and supported it.

Re the court case: Legal cases are always challenging to run. The Parks and Playgrounds Movement is a community organisation with limited resources and needs assistance from the community to keep up the battle with council.

You can help by donating to or joining the Parks and Playgrounds Movement. Click here to go to Parks and Playgrounds home page. There’s a handy donate button on the right.

14.11.2010: By now most people will know that the Parks and Playgrounds Movement tried in the Land and Environment court to stop council from felling these trees. This case was lost and we are looking at an appeal. The case was not about whether the trees are safe or unsafe (the community know they are safe); it was about whether the council can use the Roads Act to chop down these trees, calling the trees a traffic hazard.

Our team of legal people are looking at the detailed judgement to help us decide whether to appeal. You can read the judgement here.

The online petition is still relevant. You can sign it here. Altogether we are at the time of writing up to about 8500 signatures.

Thursday 11.11.2010: the court found against the community today. The injunction will last another week.  More soon.

Wednesday 10th November 2010: we just heard that the court will hand down its judgement tomorrow at 4pm.I’m uncharacteristically lost for words but I am taking bets on whether the tree mulchers will be sitting in Laman Street tomorrow.The other thing that is new is that I uploaded the submission for a renaming of Laman Street to ‘Anzac Centennial Place’ which sadly seems to involve yet again moving the War Memorial Grove. You can see the pictures by clicking here or on the link ‘Anzac Centennial Place’ in the blogroll on the right on this page.

I don’t see the grove, I don’t see the  fountain and I certainly don’t see eight (or is it 9) Hill’s figs in the middle of the street; I only see 30 pretty and unrealistic European-looking trees – let me guess: they’re ornamental pear trees. They seem to be the fashion at the moment. At least, I suppose, there are some trees: in the DA for the Art Gallery extension there are no trees in Laman Street, and no parking for the gallery, just lots of car parks in Laman Street.

Show me a veteran who should have to stand in the hot sun to remember the fallen. How insensitive.

And Novocastrians will love that we are ‘reinventing’ ourselves (that’s in the submission). Presumably in the image of someone from Sydney…


We’re part of the way towards paying for our David and Goliath fight to save the Laman Street figs. What a sad concept that residents have to go to the length of going to the Land and Environment Court to change (we hope) a very unpopular decision. I’d love to see you there: Newcastle Leagues Club on Friday November 12 at 7:30pm.

Had a successful movie night a couple of weeks ago with lots of fun before and after the gorgeous movie ‘The Tree’. Poor harassed Moreton Bay fig. It was a star, along with the stunning scenery.

The trivia night is the next instalment to fund the legal efforts to stop council from clear-felling Laman Street.

Monday 4th October, 2010:only 2 days to go until the Land and Environment Court hearing which will decide whether council can use the law they have chosen to remove the Laman Street figs. A few of us had a meeting with the Lord Mayor last week about the issue, in spite of what some people have called a ‘gag order’ from the General Manager.

The Lord Mayor offered to read the evidence we had for the safety of the trees. I was a touch surprised that he hadn’t read it already, since we sent it to all the councillors as well as the media about 6 weeks ago and because this decision is just a touch on the monumental side for Newcastle. Wouldn’t you think you’d want to have already read it?

Friday 1st October 2010: less than a week to go before this issue is heard in court. The vigil keeps going: from 5pm to 7pm every night in front of the library in Laman Street. We’re collecting signatures on petitions and passing on information and enjoying the trees.

If anyone wants to be part of a phone tree, to be called if help is needed to protect these trees at the last minute, leave a comment and I can email you. You don’t have to leave your number or your name in the comment. Lots of phone calls were made the first day we had this case in court when cherry pickers and mulchers (or similar) appeared in the street three days earlier than council had warned the community. When challenged by journalists council’s spokesman said that they were just moving the barriers around.

Yeah right.

You can also tell us at the vigil if you want us to call you.

We’re also about to have a fundraiser so watch this space. It’ll be fun.

Saturday 25th September 2010: we’ve had our first bonus week of enjoying the fig trees after they should have been felled by council. There’s been a vigil in the street every night: one night there was a wedding, one night there was a beautiful meditation and a protest song written, there have been children enjoying themselves, a video shot in the street, affidavits written, poems read and soapboxes climbed on. Some great networking has been done and some lovely friendships cemented.

There are now a few videos to watch about the community’s attitude to the plan to transition our beautiful heritage trees into a QRAP landscape plan: the latest is ‘The Perilous Figs of Laman Street’. There are links to the videos and some favourite reports (they’re more fun to read than you’d think) here.

Sat 18th Sept 2010: a vigil was held in Laman Street tonight. Half the street was blocked off to make it harder for us but we had a great time anyway. It was lovely to see dogs and kids playing in the street; friends brought food; everyone met our legal team and heard about what happened in court, and the ‘compliance’ man arrived and booked the coffee van. Onya guys. Overtime pay.

There was a full-page ad in the Herald today explaining the destruction of the trees.  I presume that cost another  $20000. I wonder what we’re up to now? The senior counsel appearing on behalf of council on Friday would have been another ?$10000. Councillors don’t like waste like this, when they have so many other  important things to be doing.

Friday 17th Sept 2010: we’re off to the Land and Environment Court today to see if we can stop this tragic mistake. Wish us luck.

Thursday 16th Sept 2010: Mark Hartley is the arborist who kindly reviewed the risk assessments previously done on Laman Street. He wrote a report on these assessments and their flaws (see below). Sadly, council has somehow managed to ignore this totally, and most councillors have not even responded to us about it. A number of councillors did, however, express reservations about the report and Mr Hartley’s response to those emails is here (247.57KB): Arborist’s response to councillors Sept 10

Like his first report, it’s comprehensive and easy to understand for the non-expert.It’s worth a read. Council have added some of the other peer reviews of Mr Marsden’s report from late last year to their website since Mr Hartley’s report was delivered. No prizes for guessing what they say.

Mr Hartley has also pointed out to council that there is a test that would once and for all time determine if the trees are unstable – it is called the pull test, it could be done by an independent team and would cost a vastly smaller sum than the $1.4million that council is spending on the street.

Wed 15th Sept 2010: I’m looking forward to my appointment at the library tomorrow to give my oral history of Laman Street. I hope everyone has put their name down for this opportunity so sensitively given by imaginative council officers. By my reckoning, about eighteen people can put in their two-bob’s worth.

So the announcement was made this week that fences will go up on Monday and the chain saws will be in on Tuesday. It will be a busy three weeks for some lucky crew doing council’s dirty work. The plan – another sensitive one – is to take the canopies out first in such a way that the little bats – that council’s arborists says ‘might’ be there – will fly free and roost somewhere else. Yeah right.

Bad luck about the East-coast freetail bat and the grey-headed flying fox. Bad luck about the family of what I presume is kookaburras who used to roost above the fountain until some arborist came along and chopped their branch off, and who now live in the fourth tree up from the Darby Street corner on the northern side of the street. Bad luck about all the fig birds.

Bad luck about the pedestrians in the street for the next couple of decades who will burn in summer. I hope council is going to upgrade the air conditioning in the library and the art gallery because the street will be 8 degrees hotter in summer. Bad luck about the decreased lifespan of the bitumen – a costly little item. Bad luck about all of us who valued having a beautiful street. And bad luck for those of us who have had our eyes open to the workings of local government. Our rates at work.

I’m currently taking wagers about which infrastructure project will end up being the cause of all this devastation. Will it be an electricity cable ‘upgrade’ or will it be a water main? Bets anyone?

1st Sept 2010: the first day of spring and we have the independent arborist’s report to read and distribute to councillors. It’s available in today’s post here.

21st August 2010: Council voted on Tuesday 17th 2010 to fell the 14 Hill’s fig trees. They had proposed to replace them with Liquidambars and were ridiculed in the press so the fall-back plan is a row of Hill’s figs – a single row – down the centre of the street in vaults. This is in spite of municipal arborists in this neck of the woods seeing Hill’s figs as inappropriate as street trees. They just happen to have been growing Hill’s figs for long enough for them to reach a height of 3.5 metres. How convenient.Don’t hold your breath, though: council officers were asked by elected councillors to replace the canopy in Tyrrell Street, the forerunner of this – doesn’t history just repeat itself over and over – and they didn’t.

Apparently arborists and insurance people look at trees in a completely different way from the rest of us: ‘A wise man sees not the same tree as a fool.’

The pages on this blog that would bring you up to date with the fig stuff are ‘What’s the Story behind Save Our Figs?’ and  ‘A short version of Mr Marsden’s report’ and if you’re interested in short(ish) raves about how to assess tree risks and the implications of taking this too far have a look at ‘Risk Management Quotes’ . I adore the misuse of QTRA and personally like ‘Questioning tree risk calculation’.

1st August 2010: the most recent post is always the first in the list on the right under ‘recent posts’.

24th July 2010: I’ve started a new page, About Us part 2, to update summaries of new posts, council Stuff and urban forest Stuff because this page is getting too long and taking too long to load.

18th July 2010: Lots of fun this week starting with ‘Fig Jam’s latest protest’ : photos under the fig trees when the Governor came to the Art Gallery, ‘Tree Stuff and Other Stuff’ which has some overseas tree news and ‘Forget the big banana – we can have the Big-Celebrity-Who-Left-Newcastle about the Lord Mayor’s idea to cut the tree stumps into sculptures.

13th July 2010: This week’s posts were ‘Selling the farm’ about the state giving away non-renewable resources and depriving councils of funds, ‘How do figs cope in a pond?‘ about a row of Hill’s figs which end up knee-deep in water each time it rains and ‘Visual Pollution Rave’ about the ugliness of an industrial commute past coal-loaders and how in need of trees that drive is.

4th July 2010 The date for the briefing to councillors about the Laman Street trees has finally been announced: it’s Tuesday 27th July 2010 at 5:30pm in the Hunter Room at the Town Hall; it’s open to the public.

This week my posts were The Humble Tuckeroo about spacing of street trees and how some of them aren’t prospering as well as I’d like them to, and An Arborist Chatroom about a public forum with some scary anti-tree talk coming from arborists, as well as odds and ends of news about trees elsewhere.

27th June 2010: in a week where we changed Prime Ministers and the BP oil rig continued to discharge millions of gallons of oil into the gulf of Mexico the problems of our CBD figs seemed small – and fortunately nothing happened to them.

I still managed to go on about a few things: ‘Branding – and remember this is not about right tree right place’ is about how well known the trees are in Newcastle, as is the plan to cut the mature figs down. ‘Old and new photos’ was inspired by a book I found about the history of the conservatorium which was housed for many years in Laman Street. ‘Wauchope figs and too much other news as usual’ is about a town further north whose successful fig-saving fight inspired the moves to conserve the trees in Laman Street, but where some trees will soon go because of infrastructure damage. And the last post for the week was ‘When will Laman Street figs come back to council’ was written when council meeting agenda listings for July, a week away, consisted of an empty page.

19th June 2010: this week’s posts were about the felling of 100 year-old Hill’s figs at Wahroongah Station in Sydney,(Figs in Wahroongah gone ), comparing the transparency there with that in Newcastle (Bee in my bonnet about Wahroongah figs vs Laman Street figs ) and the problems of being a regional centre rather than the capital of a state and a safe seat to boot (Newcastle neglected again). Newcastle put in a bid for a paltry sum of money to start the extension to the Art Gallery but was unsuccessful. Such a short-sighted decision.

14th June 2010: it’s the Queen’s birthday long weekend (now there’s an anachronism – but everyone just loves a long weekend) and I’ve written two posts, found some public art I didn’t know existed and dragged the family – even the dog – on our first instalment of Walking Every Suburb in Newcastle. (The poor dog has had an ear infection, it turns out, and this manifested itself for about two months as anxiety and we couldn’t get her to walk the hundred yards to the corner shop.)

The picture here of the gutter deserves more prominence than it’s so far had, buried on a  council web page and in one of posts here. It’s the damage supposedly done to a fig by the 2007 Pasha Bulker storm and the reason three of the figs were removed. See that gap? That’s the damage. No one was squished, no car was crushed, no branch fell off,. This gap represented ‘potential instability’.

Anyway, the post ‘Day one of a long weekend’ was inspired by an article in the paper about Damage Caused By Trees And How Much This Costs  The RatepayerAnd How Can We Tar The Laman Street Trees With The Same Brush’. The second post ‘Figs in Wahroongah gone’ was my response to the unpleasant news that 80 year-old figs on a Sydney train station were removed because of uneven pavement.

11th June 2010: the Laman Street figs survived more windy weather this week.

New post today ‘Bits and pieces’ : mostly about how we should be demanding more of developers to ensure this town becomes more beautiful, not more ordinary.

8th June 2010: new post ‘Did you know bitumen can hold up trees?’ – more rants about council website spin.

On an historical (and hysterical) note, I was torturing myself by reading old council documents about Laman Street’s trees and found a briefing given in February 2009 in response to councillors’ resolution that

Council replace the two removed Hill Fig trees with an appropriate species at the eastern end of Laman St, near Newcastle Region Art Gallery (one on each side of the street) as a matter of priority.
Council receive a report on the planting options to replace trees lost in the Cultural Precinct area of Laman Street as a result of the June 2007 storm.”

Councillors resolved this on 9 September 2008. We as naive residents can’t even imagine the meetings of non-elected people that would have gone on in back rooms after this – what was supposed to happen was the two trees felled by council after the Pasha Bulker storm were to be replaced straight away.Instead we got almost two years of trying desperately to get out of this – and worse: they’re determined to take all the other trees out too.

7th June 2010: new post “Newsflash: windy weekend failed to fell figs’ is a short post on a recent page on council’s website. And it’s the beginning of the whale migration north: it started sadly with a whale washed up on Bar Beach.

19th May 2010: Last night’s council meeting received the Scape consultants’ report on the charette.

Sharon Claydon, an ALP councillor, moved that the report should ‘lie on the table’ until a briefing can be given by council officers and a public information session can be held.

This was welcomed by many in the gallery who still feel that tree maintenance measures haven’t been explored fully. It was something of a surprise that more time was granted as a member of the community had been disappointed earlier in the day when in a phone call to council it had been asserted that Mr Marsden’s report was an adequate exploration of this issue. It was pleasing to see eventuate the promised information sessions that are supposed to be part of a charette.

In the Herald the day before Councillor Nuatali Nelmes (ALP) had expressed some concern about whether it was advisable putting out a report for public comment when the funds to carry out the works suggested therein aren’t available.   More soon.

14thMay 2010: The Public Voice presentation done at council this week on behalf of the Laman Street action group was terrific.

There was a packed gallery listening to Fee Drelincourt and John de Bruyn summarise the charette and discuss the desire of the community as they see it to explore tree maintenance options as well as council’s (perhaps) preferred option of tree removal.  The gallery were politely vocal in their disagreement of council officers’ assertion to elected councillors that every option was explored at the charette that was held in March and April.

One can be hopeful, therefore, that measures to retain and care for the trees will be canvassed in the report that is to go to council next week. It was fantastic to see so many people at the meeting – see you all again next Tuesday when the report is delivered. What happens after that is that the ideas in the document will be put out there for public comment and will be voted on in August.

9th May 2010 Update

In the next couple of weeks Newcastle City Council will be receiving the report from Scape,the consultants who coordinated the community consultation process on the Laman Street Civic precinct in March and April.

Back in December 2009 Council asked to look at the issue again in May this year. At a Public Voice session of council on Tuesday 11th May speakers will address council about the community consultation process as well as about the Laman Street trees. On 18th May the report will be delivered to councillors.

At the charette the attendees were informed that the process from then on will be that the ideas that came out of the community design process will be put out for public comment and returned to council in August.

Councillors can be proud that such an inclusive process has been offered to the community in which residents can feed back to them their ideas for the future of this important precinct.

They can also be proud of the risk abatement measures they have taken in Laman Street which gives council the confidence to view the street as safe so that in the years to come we can work to maintain and improve the health of the trees and preserve the beauty of this important and well-loved part of Newcastle.

I’ve summarised the report by Mr Marsden in my latest post. It’s difficult to reduce this comprehensive document down to 1 page but not impossible.

See you at the council meeting on Tuesday.

The following is the home page as it appeared before this update (with a new picture).

When Newcastle City Council decided to rip out the Hill’s Figs in Laman Street, Newcastle residents on the whole were appalled and saddened. This is especially because of the tragedy that befell Tyrrell Street: before the removal of half the mature trees in that street it was one of the most beautiful streets in the world. The equivalent of almost 2% of the population of the Newcastle LGA signed petitions requesting the Council revisit this decision and take their opinions into account. This was in the space of three weeks.

This website is an attempt to give the community a voice.

What can you do?

Sign the petitionThis was presented to council in December 2009 but the more names the better.

Contact your councillors: their contact details are here

How the councillors voted at the rescission motion is available here – of course, even if a councillor voted to give the trees a reprieve until May does not guarantee that s/he will not change her/his mind at the next vote so letting them know how you feel is still worthwhile. Equally, if councillors who voted to remove the trees prematurely are made aware (could they be more aware?) of the depth of community feeling against the move it is remotely possible that they will change their mind.

If you see something around town that worries you eg a sign warning you that a tree is about to be cut down or a playground that is about to lose its play equipment or picnic tables or a pocket park that looks as though it’s about to be sold or developed, please contact council and tell them your thoughts or contact the media or contact us. Don’t just put up with it.

(20.4.2010) The first post was ‘And so it begins…’ back in December 09. You could start reading here or you can go to the monthly archive in the right hand bottom corner and find posts that way, and pick and choose what to read.

18th January 2010 : to find the most recent entry in this blog see under ‘Recent ‘Posts’.

: to find a comment you made go the page you were commenting on or look under ‘Recent Comments’

: double click on any photo to enlarge it.

: if you have any ideas or want to make a contribution email me at lamanfigs@gmail.com

20th January 2010 – look at ‘Some Sydney pics:do they remind you of anywhere?’

25th Jan 2010 This page needs pictures:

This plane tree at the Zoo in Paris was planted (obviously) a long time ago

French risk management for a very old tree.


30th Jan 2010 The Laman Street action group will be having its first meeting soon. Consider subscribing to the blog if you want to be made aware of the dates and anything else you need to know.

Consider sending a comment or a piece for inclusion. People would love to hear what others think.

There are huge numbers of people, indeed the majority of Newcastle people in my opinion, who support preserving Laman Street as a beautiful thoroughfare. Let your voice be heard.

31st Jan: Laman Street to be discussed at the Council meeting 2nd Feb. The plan is to have  a charade charette in March where all 40-45 Newcastle people (not including churches, the RTA, Art Gallery staff etc) will have a focus group (not called that) and be talked at by interact with ‘experts’ in all sorts of stuff…But council officers haven’t made up their mind and the trees’ removal is not a foregone conclusion…See today’s post.

10th Feb 2010; council are calling for people to nominate to attend the workshops OR to write to them about their ‘vision’ for the Laman Street precinct. It takes 60 seconds to fill in the form and about the same to email them to keep their hands off the trees. Cheers.

21st Feb 2010: On 9th Feb I put in a freedom of information request for the radar report: that’s the investigation done in December that found that the roots were better than council suspected. I phoned two arborists to get a copy of this, first in January before it was received by council and then in February after it had been received.Council insisted I could only have it via FOI. This is in spite of the fact that they claim it’s going to be released as part of the information given to Newcastle residents in or after the charette.

I’m sorry, but I think that’s sus. Why would this whole process not be transparent? Council can save $450000 if they leave the trees alone: that’s the alleged cost of removing and replacing the trees that are there. I also put in a request for correspondence between Mr Hewett, the council arborist at the time, and Mr Marsden, the external arborist, as well as a request for details of how much council paid Mr Marsden for his report.

Not long to go till we get to see the report.

28th Feb 2010: The Council have a team trenching around the roots of the trees again. They’re filling the holes with sand which cannot possibly be good for such magnificent trees. Tuesday is the last day council can either release the radar report to me or tell me to jump through more hoops to get it. Can’t wait.

12th March: I received the radar report but only after much to-ing and fro-ing.

22nd March: The charette was as much of a waste of time as I expected. A complete whitewash, dealt with trees almost not at all; I suppose it enabled a few of us to meet again, so that was useful. Memorable comments like ‘ Newcastle has moved beyond tree preservation’ and ‘The radar report was inaccurate because it was done in haste’ and ‘Plane trees are diseased – an example of this is that the trees go brown’ (in autumn!) and comments they should have made because that’s what they meant –   ‘almost every fully grown tree you see in Newcastle has 26 diseases or root rot or isn’t native and  is politically incorrect or is damaging the footpath or causing flooding or doesn’t go with the trendy new design we have thought up at a  committee meeting’ ‘ and ‘It doesn’t matter if we chop this stand of figs down that is an important food source for bats because they’re clever at finding new food sources…’ Just makes you want to throw up.

25th March: The group Fig Jam will be holding a post-charette meeting in Laman Street under the fig trees on Tuesday 30th March at 4:30pm. Everyone who wants to save these trees is welcome.The trees were discussed at the Parks and Playgrounds meeting last night and people who went to the charette had a chance to put together a submission;  Doug Lithgow from Parks and Playgrounds will be at the Fig Jam meeting next week as well.

1st April: charette post-mortem is happening 8th April 9-12. That’s a Thursday morning. It’ll be fun. Oh – that’s what I said about the charette.

9th April 2010: I’ve written some thoughts about the charette and about how the audience managed to get the message across that We Want to Keep Our Figs For As Long As Possible. It would be a mistake, however, to think that council’s plans to get rid of these figs and all the other mature trees in town have been shelved just because they (the plans to remove them) get up residents’ noses and just because they are barbaric. Watch out.

20th April 2010: media release about the plans discussed at the charette about ‘amalgamating’ the war memorials. What happens from now on about the findings at the charette is the consultants deliver a report to council officers on May 1st 2010. Council officers will deliver a summary to the charette attendees. A report is then sent to councillors on May 18th 2010; some time after this the plan will be put on public exhibition for comment then the council vote probably some time in August 2010.

7th May 2010: At next week’s council meeting, on  Tuesday 11th May there will be two speakers addressing the councillors about Laman Street in what is known as ‘Public Voice’. The meeting is held in the Council Chamber on the 2nd floor of the Town Hall. Turn to the left when you get to the second floor. Anyone can attend and you can leave when the part you’re interested is finished. People come in and out as they like. You’d be surprised how interesting it is. The report from the Sydney consultants about the charette was to have been received by council officers on May 1 and distributed to councillors as well as the attendees at the charette. I haven’t received mine yet – have you?

96 Responses to “About us :) The blog about Newcastle’s mature street trees”

  1. Your brother Rob Says:

    This is a fantastic website Caity! You should feel very proud.

    Love you Erin Brokovich!

  2. Crystal Cook Says:

    Save Fig Trees, Laman is one of the nicest streets in Newcastle. There are not many beautiful streets like Laman in Newcastle..

    Please dont destroy them..

  3. Suska Scobie Says:

    The fate of the Laman Street trees reflects the lack of environmental or sustainability intelligence within Newcastle City Council at the moment. For example, how could council officers have brought forward a re-zoning application for 505 Minmi Road to Councillors on the same night the Laman Street figs rescission motion came to council, given the record of Council supporting the green corridor concept? The decision by Councillors that night reversed 12 years of work to put together a green corridor from the Coast to the Mountains in the Hunter.

    We are working now for a rescission motion for 505 Minmi Road. This land forms part of the last remaining connection between the Blue Gum Hills Regional Park to Hexham Swamp and the Stockton to Watagans Green Corridor.

    Council has a “Green Corridors” policy that applies in all 4 wards and Councillors should request an urgent briefing.

    The questions must be asked of Newcastle Council officers, given the history of the area then why did Council officers recommend re-zoning the area in its entirety?

    The Laman Street trees form an important part of the green corridor, they not only provide much needed street shade and beauty, they provide food for our native species, food that is increasingly scarce given the propensity in our public and private spaces to grow exotics that do not provide food.

    This comment has been edited – CR

  4. Ali Says:

    where do the critters go (native & feral) if this habitat that has been encouraged, is destroyed?

  5. City4ster Says:

    Bring in the tree experts from your regional or bigger arborist association or how about teachers in arboriculture? Let them discuss ways to assess risk and ways to extend the lifespan of urban trees. As for who assessed it before… where are the reports? any good assessment includes soil, trunk, and canopy assessment using several methods. Your city arborists may feel justified with their assessment because they are giving an opinion based on priorities from bosses or due to budget constraints they can’t do whats needed to make them safe. That changes the fight to cost of protection vs cost of removal including all the environmental and social benefits. Good Luck!

  6. Suzanne Polglase Says:

    After spending an very pleasant afternoon in Civic Park yesterday with the backdrop of our wonderful fountain and Laman Street with our beloved fig trees – I find it difficult to understand how Council could even entertain the idea of having them removed. Particularly since it has been discovered that these trees have been now shown to be no threat to life and limb. This would change the face of Newcastle City for the worst – it is probably one of the few areas of inner Newcastle that still has beauty and character considering that Hunter Street is now a dilapidated, derelict and ugly space.

  7. Wendy Says:

    I suspect an ulterior motive by Newcastle City Council and those beautiful figs are in the way of yet another ‘development’.

    Sydney City Council removed some of the figs in the Domain – perhaps they were spoiling the view from Parliament House?

    We need to be planting more trees not removing well established ones – land clearing in the last couple of centuries has proved to be detrimental to the environment and most farmers are planting trees rather than removing them – maybe Council has its head buried in the sand?

  8. Stan & Judy Chen Says:

    Hi Caity – when and where will the next action group meeting be?

  9. Caity Raschke Says:

    I’ll let you know soon. Council are having another session to summarise the twaddle that happened at the charette on April 8. A charette is supposed to include large information sessions that anyone can go to but there hasn’t been any indication that that will happen. Council officers looked elected councillors in the collective eye and said that would happen but I guess that was like so much else, misleading.

  10. Suska Scobie Says:

    The ‘charette’, (read ‘charade’) was a complete waste of time and skewed to the Council’s administrative agenda to chop down the Laman Street trees. Where was the alternative Arborist report on the Laman Street trees? This is particularly important as there was an alternative Arborist opinion provided to Council at the December meeting, I was there I heard it.

    If even a quarter of the opinions and suggestions are adopted for Civic Park, then pity all the trees and the park. Council has an agenda and it does not include the community.

  11. Ali Says:

    Community consult?
    Community insult!

  12. ArtzyAudz Says:

    The Charette Charade was upstages by the loudly honking Charade (CAR) in the street below the farcical “meeting” _ WELL DONE & THANK YOU to all who dared to blow their horn!! =] PS how do we get copies of the photo’s taken in the street by the guy from the Cgharette from Sydney, proclaiming his photography was “part of the process”??

  13. Caity Raschke Says:

    Amazing how that wasn’t available at the charade. Ian Mackenzie said very positive stuff about the benefits of these trees to balance against the risk and where was that info and Adrian Swain agreed with him about the risk management of the trees and that was out of sight. He has written a new risk assessment report, available on the council’s website at http://www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0013/100066/090310AR_Laman_St_QTRA_Report__090310.pdf in which he says the current risk in the street is 1 in 14400 which is ‘acceptable’. Surely this means we have time to look after these trees while new trees are grown. The next battle will include what trees these will be replaced with because Phil wasn’t going to tell us.

  14. judy larsen Says:

    good luck to you all! i lived in newcastle 53 yrs and loved as a child visiting my aunt in laman street, house is still there vacant and the shadiness of the figs was so cooling on a hot day. i always visited the library and sat with a sense of tranquility about the areas in question. keep it green its a special street, we dont want a town of concrete and cement like any other. i moved from the city back into a quiet small town in qld so preserve nature. it took hundred years to grow and wont happen in our childrens lifetime again. my thoughts are with you and am glad my friend told me about it.

  15. Robert Bignell says Says:

    Isn’t it amazing how Councils can find untold $$$ to destroy city trees which are suddenly found to be “dangerous” as they are beginning to reach maturity ? All those hundreds of staff and not a single tree expert among them. Bringing in far flung consultants who stand to gain $$$$ by designing and installing Council’s GRAND NEW VISION for Laman St. certainly seems curious when literally thousands of LOCAL RESIDENTS have made their views known that the trees should stay put and be properly maintained for future generations.

  16. fig man Says:

    Save the fig trees, I mean come on, how hard is it to see past your own two feet! council must be blind, not to realize how great all these trees are, 5000000 bucks is allot of cash, and we need that money to be spent on things that the people of Newcastle actually want.

  17. Ali Says:

    isnt it amazing that with all of the pressing clearly identified risks & glaringly obvious problems that newcastle city council has already they would rather prioritize spending ratepayers funds researching and pretending to find one!

  18. Trina Says:

    maybe someone here might be able to answer my question – How come I can drive down one side of the street but not the other , I can no longer park my car in the street due to so called safety reasons YET I am allowed to walk up and down both sides – if I was concerned about a branch falling on me I would feel safer in a car – council seems more concerned about the safety of cars than people …

    • Caity Raschke Says:

      Remember Trina – the trees aren’t unsafe. The trees that have been lost were removed by council after the Pasha Bulker storm. No tree has fallen over in Laman Street and the only trees that have fallen eslewhere in Cooks Hill fell because they had had their roots damaged by roadworks. Council’s attitude is that the trees don’t have a root system but the radar report says most of the trees have significant roots. They just want to get rid of them. This is all spin.

  19. bobbie antonic Says:

    I took photos on Friday at 1ish. I spoke to a fellow, he said there would be a vigil on the weekend. With the reprieve legally at the moment, how long and what can we do. I have been following this with great interest and it is typical Newcastle council. It has nothing to do with the root structure, it wont fall on us.

  20. Daniel C` Says:

    Heres a mockumentary my friend Alice and I made:

  21. Ali Says:

    BRAVO BRAVO thats the stick!
    your right we dont have to put up with that shit
    (& whats with the poor jogger forced onto the rd by the dangerous Council barricades)

  22. jaysee&dali Says:

    Dropped by and took a few photos yesterday afternoon …

    Here’s a poster I created …

    save our figs

  23. tess Says:

    Please combine Carrington (Young Street) trees in your endeavours to save Newcastle trees from the tyranical tree hating council majority. The beauty of Young Street, like Laman Street, is made in large part, by its trees.

  24. Rowan Says:

    I found myself on Lamen St tonight and took a few photos of the incredible Figs. It’s hard to imaging this area of town without the Iconic Fig Tree’s


    Laman St

  25. Sharon Laird Says:

    oes this mean every Fig tree in the Newcastle area and surrounds is a high risk and must go??

    Surely not, they are in every park and often school ground. Tree limbs fall from gum trees in storms so do we denude the landscape of all possible risks. Our footpaths are in shocking condition as are our roads..they need to be looked at ..high risk both issues!!

  26. Justine Atkinson Says:

    Hi, I notice there are council trucks in there this morning, on my way to work. Are they already doing the testing? If not, hope whatever they’re doing doesn’t ‘accidentally’ weaken the trees before the tests are done.

  27. Henry Banks Says:

    There trees must be preserved. They have a useable life of hundreds of years. I could not sign the petition because of Care2’s onerous para 2 conditions of service.

  28. Carol murrell Says:

    It would be terrible if council got their way and cut down the figs. Too many trees are being cut down to make way for so called new development leaving bare patches on the skyline. At this time of year it is lovely to see all the jacarandas in flower. Council should be planting more of these beautiful trees instead of wanting to chop down the grand old fig trees. Could you perhaps contact don Burke to get his opinion on the health of these trees? Sometimes a high profile person can have a positive outcome. I know he would want the trees retained if possible. Please contact him.

  29. do you know Says:

    You may want to dig back into council records. Someone I know attended a meeting in which they discussed their plan to put a row of eateries under Laman Street incorporating the old tunnels, accessed from the park. I wonder if the tree roots would pose a problem for this venture, and that that is the real reason for wanting the trees out?! Why else is it only that small section of street is a concern, and not the rest of the trees around the city, especially those in the park that people regularly sit under?

  30. Caity Raschke Says:

    I recall at the charette talk about building under Laman Street to make the library entrance open into the park, and having a cafe there. Surprise, surprise – that option would involve taking out some trees…

  31. Glenda Smith Says:

    Congratulations. While I’ve been reading the development of this, I have been trying to recall the name of the man who tied himself to the Figs on Stewart Ave or Gordon Ave, Hamilton South in the 1970’s. Think it Brown something.
    Sorry if this has been mentioned before but just came across website, but does anyone recall – was such a great and successful protest at the time.

  32. Ali Says:

    re builing under laman st…on the last day of the land & environment hearing my recollection was that when the topic of encroaching into civic park was raised, (via roots & branches) it was said that NCC had no intention of chasing roots? altho im unsure if such statements are binding. anyway go FIGure! The beloved Laman St Trees are remaining, & to be supported & nurtured. Absolutely wonderful news still sinking in 🙂

  33. champo Says:

    awesome effort crew

  34. Thomass Hamiltons Says:

    Thank u so much everyone who has fought this battle! I couldn’t believe the forces of evil would fight so hard!!

  35. Gerry Bailey Says:

    Unfortunately the forces of evil are still out ther people and we have to remain ever vigilant until the final battle is won.
    The nasty ones are still out there and are moving to change Civic Park to a place where no one will want to go,a place of large paved pathe and paved areas, very little grass to sit on and no shade trees in the middle of the park. The sacred Memorial Grove is to go,a most disgusting move by Council. I urge you to take up the fight not just for our beautiful Figs but for our beautiful Civic Park , this fantastic people-friendly park will be no more unless we stop this insanity. ps. John Tate’s underground three storey car park at the eastern end of Civic Park is back on the agenda now the Law Courts are to be built in the Civic Precinct, think about that. Vale Civic Park if that happens.
    Gerry Bailey Vietnam Veteran

  36. Pauline Wiche Says:

    On a recent trip to Buenos Aires we saw fig trees much older than the Laman St figs, which were very healthy because of this fact. They had no concrete or roadway under them. I suggest that the paths and road should be jack hammered and removed and the whole area mulched with paths for pedestrians. The figs will be much healthier without their roots being constantly compressed by cars. I can send photos of the BA figs if you are interested.

  37. Bernadette Smith Says:

    International Tree Day at Civic Park last Sunday was a great success and a timely reminder of what Newie has to lose. Congratulations to the organisers of the day and to supporters for gaining another successful recission motion to stop council from destroying our town’s figs. Here is a picture link from Behind the Iron Curtain post at http://savethebogeyhole.blogspot.com/.

  38. keepthem Says:

    I love those trees in Newcastle and think all people campaigning to keep them are doing a fantastic job. Keep up the good work!

    • Gabriel Says:

      1st, such a gorgeous ritpraot! I love it. Definately a framer!Secondly, as a fellow tree hugger, I feel your sadness. When we lived in Corona, we had a brand new house, so we planted many beautiful trees and plants. One in particular was a willow tree in the front yard. We watched it grow from a small 6 ft tree to a 20-30 foot tree over 5 years. I loved that tree. It’s silhouette’s shadow danced through my bathroom window onto the side of a dresser and I would lie in bed in the morning and watch it dance. I would be still in the moment and just really appreciated it’s beauty. When we went back less than a year after it sold, it was gone. I too, was devestated. You are not only an amazing photographer, but I never knew you had such a talent for writing. Sorry for writing so much, but it touched me……..

  39. Sue Says:

    Hi All I have just been to Newcastle Herald online opinion about the Laman Street Figs and there are a lot of anti- Fig postings saying those who want it are a lunatic fringe. I think anyone who can, should post a simple message in support of the trees there. It is a public site and it is important that we get our message out and show that there are many in support of the trees.

  40. Rachel Says:

    To all those who have been fighting so well on behalf of the beautiful fig trees – I say THANK YOU!!!!
    I am incredibly disappointed at the news I heard this morning. Is there nothing more that we can do? Are we now required to chain ourselves to the trees to prevent them being harmed?
    Surely there is some other action that can be taken to save these magnificent beacons of strength???

  41. Dudley Says:

    Well congratulations to NCC for totally snubbing those who voted for you. It would appear that the mediation was never going to be taken up by council, so what a waste of time that was.
    But to all of you who tried so hard to save our figs don’t be disheartened, we of Newcastle City will never forget what you tried so valiantly to do. It just a great shame that those who were supposed to be our voice let us all down.

    I for one will remember this when next we have our chance to thank our councillors, at our next election.

  42. Shepsta Says:

    Has anyone contacted A Current Affair about this farce? I’m sure they would love this story. It has it all, wasted ratepayers money, council not listening to the wishes of the people who pay their wages, the fence, security guards, the fact that the trees have survived countless high winds and storms without failing. The real reason they want them gone, so they can redevelop Laman St and the art gallery but trying to tell everyone that its a matter of public safety.
    The council seem to go out of their way to listen to 1 person when they make a complaint but won’t listen to over 10,000 people.
    Do the councilors who want the trees gone honestly think they have hope in hell of being reelected next election? Especially Scott Sharpe who has a nursery. You will never ever get my business anymore

  43. mike rubbo Says:

    I have just discovered the story. I was at an art gallery opening on Friday 26. Aug. up from Avoca Beach, and in his speech the mayor told the story.

    I was horrified and spoke to him later. Wondering what to do, I how Claude Money had saved poplars outside Paris by painting them. Hans Heyson reputedly did the same thing for a stand of gums in the Adelaide hills.
    One way to get national media attention, which the issue deserves, would be to stage a Claude Monet paint-in at the site. Invite artists from far and wide to come and do plein air works, like Monet did, in honor of the endangered trees. I’d come for sure

    The famous name alone would get attention, perhaps even internationally. Not only would it be good for your cause, it can help lay down a good way people can respond to such issues in the future.

    In the meantime, I’ve done a linocut of the trees and sent it to the mayor, promising hand made copies for all members of council if he thinks that would help. That was emailed Tuesday. No reply as yet I’d be happy to share the image with you. Good luck

  44. mike rubbo Says:

    Re my linocut of the figs, you can leave me a message if i can help further on my blog http://situp-cyle.com

  45. David Smith Says:

    Dear Caitlin Rashke,
    In the interests of presenting a fair and balanced report on the fig trees and whether they should stay or be removed, I feel that to enable further understanding of the issue it is important to post councillor Cook’s email to me expressing his viewpoint.
    David Smith

    The lord mayor’s speech was well received by the willing crowd, but it contained many inaccuracies. (I am more than happy to detail these in public).
    Thanks for providing this video to me, it will provide useful evidence of further misconduct of the lord mayor.
    The costs referred to by Cr Tate were correct and appropriate and the lord mayor’s inability to understand them is not a reflection of the officers reports, rather the opposite.
    Yes people are happy to ‘bring into question’ proper assessments, but that doesn’t make the assessments wrong, I’d be happy to see someone prove them wrong.
    So far all I have seen is accusations and demands without substance. I would change my attitude if the ‘evidence’ provided was creditable.
    Over a period of almost 2 years council has made a decision based on a large body of evidence, which on my analysis as an elected representative charged with acting on behalf of all ratepayers, is sound and creditable.
    Since council decided to replace these trees over a year ago we have been faced with the following delaying tactics:
    Court challenge
    Pull Test
    Alternative Risk Mitigation
    Independent assessment
    Dynamic testing
    Expert Risk Engineers
    Rescission motion
    and now

    Sadly the campaign to save these important trees has been run on misinformation, accusations, blind faith, untruths, misinterpretation and intimidation.
    This campaign has been a disgrace on the good people of Newcastle. The sooner it ends the better.

    Cr Bob Cook
    The City of Newcastle
    Ph 49261117
    Mob 0419241731”

    This email from Councillor Cook was written in response to the following email by myself, which I emailed to all the councillors who voted to cut the trees down.

    “Dear Councillors,

    The information given to the councillors by the administration staff has been brought into question as there are conflicting reports.

    Are you willing to reconsider your positions once more reliable information has been properly assessed?

    Are you concerned that unreliable information has been given to the councillors?

    “when you look at the reports that came along: $90000 to do the dynamic testing, we know, we know that that wasn’t that much, $70000 to do the third party mediation, we know that it wouldn’t cost that much and what [the Lord Mayor John Tate] can’t understand is simply this how those reports are oriented to ‘let’s not do it’ when they should be oriented to ‘lets solve this problem in the community’ ”

    (taken from the Lord Mayor, John Tate’s Speech in the following video out the front of the City Hall:

    from 1 minute 39 seconds until 2minutes and 9 seconds)

    David Smith
    A concerned community member”

    Also let it be noted that Councillor Buman has also replied with:

    “thanks for your email. Aaron”

  46. Dudley Says:

    What an absolute scare tatics by Newcastle Council, sirens, fences, evacuation of buildings when the wind blows!!!!! They didn’t fall when the Pasha Bulka hit the beach and they are not going to fall now. I worked for various hunter local governements for 12 years and I know how these idiots work. Lets scare munger the locals so they get sick of evacuating bulidings and then we can cut them down!!! Shame on Newcastle Council for the bully tatics, either way, lets remmeber these fools come election time, we’ll cut them down!!!!

  47. Shepsta Says:

    This is a copy of my letter that i sent to Aaron Buman in reply to his push poll email to me. Thought you might like to read it.
    I sent a letter to ACA but no reply yet. Can more people send them a request for help (Help us ACA, your our only hope)

    Dear Mr Buman,
    You might be able to fool some of the people in this town with the Dangerous Tree Bullshit but there are also a lot of people who know the truth. The truth that you want the trees gone so you can redevelop the art gallery and well what do you know? the Herald publishes a story today about the $7 million grant to redevelop the art gallery WOW!! You know if the council had come out in the first place and just said “Look here’s what we want to do – Yadda yadda yadda” instead of trying to use the old public safety, dangerous, no insurance crap you might have got a bit more support. The trouble is youv’e gone so far with the lies that if you tell the ratepayers of Newcastle the truth you will lose face and look like idiots (too late). If these trees can survive the Pasha Bulker storm i think that they’ve got a pretty good grip on the earth. What about the trees 50mts up the road towards Union St same trees, same age but nothing wrong with them? Stewart Ave, have a look at those trees, they overhang a major road, they are as big as the Laman st figs but they’re ok? The council seem to listen to one or two people when they have a complaint but when over 11,000 people complain about an injustice you won’t listen.
    You have delusions of grandeur Mr Buman of being the next Lord Mayor, do you honestly think that you will get any votes off us? over 11,000 people that have signed that petition, i guarantee you not one of them will vote for you or any of the other councilors who have voted to cut down these majestic trees. Do the people of Newcastle a favor, Stop the lies, Tear down the fences, Give Laman St back to the ratepayers ( you know who they are don’t you, they are the people that pay your wages)
    Listen to the people, and stop wasting our money.

    P.S. If you send me a threatening abusive letter like you are fond of doing i will spread it like wildfire to everyone on that petition.

  48. Kasey Says:

    save our figs they are apart of newcastle as nobbys is so leave them alone what the hell have they done to you and stop wasting money…………..

  49. roma Says:

    We heard the plight of your trees on ABC Macca this morning.
    We wish the residents who are trying to save these trees the very best of luck with your efforts – we had a similar fight here in York WA for over two years that ended in the destructions of our iconic CBD Ficus Hillii tree in 2009. 600 residents fought to save it. One York Councillor promised a public gathering “no one will remove that tree while I have breath in my body” – we thought we had an ally, we were wrong! The Tree has gone and that Councillor is still breathing.
    We had stories of dangerous limbs, roots invading building foundations, roots breaking up the main street being spouted by our botantically challenged shire spokesperson.
    Those involved in the effort to save our one tree (a lot were elderly) were tagged and referred to as trouble makers.
    You can view Yorks Ficus fight photos on http://www.yorkwavistorsguide.info
    We saved copies of all documents, newpapers, and many photos – we now have a time capsule which will be displayed in 10 years time – hopefully those who were involved directly and those stood by and did nothing will feel some shame. The time capsule will then be resealled and handed on to a younger person for safe keeping for the history of our town.

    If your trees do go, suggest people save some of the timber – dry it very slowly over two or three years and then have a craftsman create something.We had a number of coffee mugs made with a photo of our York main street with the tree still there, so people could have some thing to remember our tree by. Five were numbered one – five and these are now treasured by the Committee that lead the battle in York.
    Local Councils around Australia seem to be a haven for machiavellian personalities.

  50. sammy shares Says:

    What a joke the NCC is.. and they have the gall to ask for a significant rate increase next year of 5% above the normal CPI increase. Have your say on that by next Friday (14 Oct): http://www.newcastle.nsw.gov.au/council/delivery_program_and_budget/rate_variation

    And the thing that amazes me is that Councillors like Bob and his supporters like to talk about those supporting the figs being a noisy minority. The reality is that only 280 (!!) people put a number 1 next to Bob Cook’s name at the 2008 Council elections – from around 80,000 voters and 150,0000 people in the Local Govt Area. Talk about a fragment of a minority! Let’s run a decent human being as a candidate in his ward and against his mate Buman in September 2012 so there can be proper representation of the community going forward. 2008 results here: http://www.pastvtr.elections.nsw.gov.au/LGE2008/result.Newcastle.council7d83.html?wardid=X080910202W01

  51. mary-anne paul Says:

    why can’t this absolutely disgusting state of affairs be taken to a higher court?? i havent ever heard of anyone but the council haveing the final say.
    surely as newcastle-nsw-australians even, we have the right to go to higher
    huge people numbers surely have to be heard and listened to.
    Have these counsellors put themselves in a position where the now cannot backdown for fear of losing face, rather than concentrating on the right action, the correct decision

  52. Shani Sandner Says:

    People are all different… get a grip indeed! Just because you can not appreciate the trees , please respect those people who genuinely feel. upset at the destruction……For to feel is human…to care is human…and to love is human..!

    Yes destruction as a precurser to progress is also a human trait.
    .But is this what people want for Newcastle?
    Travelling through the world the places that draw people to them are the natural landscapes, the flora, the fauna.
    What do people want for this town?
    Progress based on the destruction of trees ?
    Have you been to a town where all the trees are cut down…It lacks coolness, peace, tranquility.
    Get a grip.. I will get a grip.. on a tree.and ..I am proud of it.!

  53. Jo Zerafa Says:

    Thank You Sharni, Mary-anne, Sammy, Roma, Mike and others commenting with your support.
    Wondering if you know about our online petition:
    It was set up 17 hrs ago
    Please share

  54. roma Says:

    suggestion – contact “Get Up” to see if they can assist you.

  55. Bea Says:

    I was just wondering if anyone has contacted the RSL? The trees were planted in the 1930s as a war memorial for our ANZACS. It is a disgrace that the council are so ready to destroy a war memorial. Lest We Forget.

  56. roma Says:

    I am just so so sorry you are having to go through all this utter rubbish to save trees that should have been protected no matter what. If the trees were planted for returned solders, could the RSL assist in you some way.

    You are doing a really great job with the fight you are putting up and I wish there was more I could say that would lift your spirits or give you some light at the end of the tunnel. Sadly I believe you are dealing with egos, just as we were here in York – egos that never will admit they may have made a wrong decision.

    I was 68 when I took the role of leader to battle our Council to save our tree – the question of the right for our tree to stay was – yes you guessed it – a development – a development that never did, and probably never will, happen now as the developer has put the land up for sale (minus our tree) . A sad price to pay for the most beautiful tree we had in the CBD that gave joy to so many for so many years.

    The people of York rallied behind me for a mid week march through the CBD and onto Shire Council Administration building. The first ever protest march in this very conservative historic town. No one would come out from the shire Administration to address the angry crowd. So I took the crowd to the steps of the Western Australian State Parliament and I met with the State Planning Minister who did everything she could to assist us – unfortunately four weeks later we had an unexpected election and she was gone.

    Another thing I have done to keep the memory of our vandalised Ficus Hillii Tree alive is: I cut out hundreds of leaf shapes from two shades of green material and over a six months had people sign their names on a leaf. No Councillors were permitted to sign a leaf. These will be stitched onto a piece of calico that has a sketch of the scene looking down Avon Terrace. That is work in progress for the time capsule.

  57. Eye3PhotoDesign Says:

    I have been hanging around photographing the action over the past couple of days – please feel free to take a look at my blog posts…



  58. Shani Sandner Says:

    Actually, a lovely lady tells me she did contact the RSL and they did ot want to get involved…possibly do not want to upset the council…as they may receive donations…or …do not want to make waves….

  59. Em Says:

    Quick guys, we need to get the state government involved now! We need to email, phone and generally harass them until they do something!

  60. Shepsta Says:

    Why hasn’t ACA been involved? They are always asking for stories about problem councils, you couldn’t get any worse than this lot. I emailed them a month ago and never got a reply. Can everyone bombard them with requests for help?
    Remember the 7 councilors next election. DO NOT LET THEM GET IN AGAIN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  61. Ben Seton Says:

    So what is the SOF’s approach to providing an alternative to removing the trees?
    I find this debate rather interesting and am currently doing an assignment about it, but i’m finding it reasonably hard to find what direction the SOF’s is offering, besides saving these beautiful natural wonders.
    Many thanks with anyone who can help, please email me at
    c3125444@uon.edu.au Mary and Power streets Islingotn

  62. Bernadette Smith Says:

    sorry I can’t be there, stay strong!

  63. Jane Says:

    Newcastle council should do something about the thugs and druggos whom are dangerous on the streets of Newcastle… not the trees

  64. Edos Says:


    Just so everyone is aware the DA for staged development of the art gallery is on exhibition and is inviting community comment. It closes on the 20th October, might be a good avenue to voice our objection to the implications of the proposal eg the trees being removed. Strangely the documents are not available online, which is odd for the JRPP.

  65. Edos Says:

    sorry my mistake that was for last year 😦

  66. bridget Says:

    you guys are amazing! i studied at the conservatorium over the road and lived in dawson st for four years, i’ve always loved walking under the canopy of those beautiful trees. all the best and congratulations on the agreement made today – seems like the best possible outcome considering everything that has occurred! keep up the good work, thinking of you and the figs.

  67. Shepsta Says:

    Hey There Everyone,
    Just thought of a good idea today. How about trying to get celebrities involved. Newy has a bred a few. Jennifer Hawkins, Mark Richards, Sarah Wynter, she was raised in Cooks Hill wasn’t she? surely she wouldn’t want the trees gone. Andrew Johns, The Silverchair guys, Sophie Lee, Olivia Newton John has ties here, Mikey Robbins, Charli Robinson, Catherine Britt. Make a “We are the world” video. Draw more attention to it.

  68. Sharon Says:

    Hi there. I live in Avoca Beach and was involved in the fight to try and stop the sinking of the Adelaide. Our campaign, although eventually lost on one level (as it was scuttled) was won on another: as a direct result of our campaign tonnes of toxic material was removed and it was a whole lot cleaner at least when it did go down. This was achieved by legal action via the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (our case was brought by the Environmental Defenders Office). In my experience on our campaign, legal action made the difference. As the trees have not been proven to be unsafe, Council’s actions could well be deemed illegal. Apologies if this has already been explored as I am coming in late in the day. Good luck guys. Great work and I am behind you 100%. Sharon

  69. Criss Ahern Says:

    Shani Just keep writing those daily emails to every councilor until one takes up your cause.
    Persistence pays . Luv from ur ‘ol lobbying aunty.

  70. Edos Says:

    Keep up the good work guys! You are all amazing and representing many more who can not join you!

  71. Andrew Says:

    You all have my support, those tree’s are beautiful.

  72. Lisa Says:

    Does anyone have a copy of the Laman Street story shown on Channel 10 news yesterday evening (Wed 2.11)? Thank you.

  73. brendan Says:

    there is a lot more at stake than the trees i feel
    1st the council is losing revenue from closing the art gallery and library; it upsets the cultural hub of Newcastle
    2nd this is entirely hypothetical: what if someone were bribed in relation to the development? They’re going to develop the site as part of the proposal.
    3rd pulling down the trees will show how old the library and art gallery is from a distance wrecking up the aesthetic value of the city
    that’s my 3 cents
    what do people think?

  74. brendan Says:

    just wondering are the trees insured for public liability and is the counsel paying higher premiums on the trees, if so i doesn’t justify when counsel has paid for trying to cut the trees down
    they can just put up warning signs about hazard of trees and save the figs

  75. HG Says:

    I just found this petition http://www.petitiononlineaustralia.com/petition/stop-the-unjust-destruction-of-anzac-fig-trees-in-laman-street-newcastle/108

    I hope the council caves into independent assessment and we see the true rotten roots – those of councillors who are unfit to stand, not trees that have withstood serious batterings.

  76. Jonathan Vencore Says:

    This circumstance sums up the predicament of endangered wildlife and our somewhat flawed efforts to protect them. The fauna habitat assessment states that an endangered species the Grey-headed Flying-fox would have a reduction in its foraging area. ‘The loss of 14 trees would represent a 2.3% reduction in foraging resources within a 2km radius of the Laman Street site. Within the context of the normal foraging range of an individual Grey-headed Flying-fox (average 20km per night, DECCW, 2009), the reduction in foraging habitat percentage is reduced to less than 0.01%.’ This may not seem like much, but with figs becoming unpopular with councils, due to risk they pose to infrastructure and the bottom line. They are often removed and replace with other trees which may not benefit the bats. This is a concern for the Grey-headed Flying-fox as its main threats are Loss of foraging habitat, Disturbance of roosting sites and Electrocution on power lines in urban areas.

    The City of Newcastle website states “Council is not alone in this challenge of managing large mature tree plants in such as Hills Figs in road reserves. Waverly City Council, City of Sydney, Centennial and Moore Park Trust and Leichardt Council are also grappling with their street tree renewal programs.”

    The cumulative impacts have not been measured. Under our current legislation there is no need to do an assessment on spatial and temporal use of a site and the cumulative effects. Part 8, test of significance in the EPA Act was removed most probably too fast track the development proposal process.

    Year by year we chip away the habitat, bit by bit.

    We need an 8 part test back in our environmental legislation.

  77. Jonathan Vencore USERS-Fonder Says:

    Last night we email the heritage council in regards to the trees on Laman Street in Newcastle NSW.
    Expressing an opinion.

    To: heritage@heritage.nsw.gov.au
    Cc.newcastle@parliament.nsw.gov.au, tony.burke.mp@aph.gov.au

    I encourage everyone to do the same.

    Should the battle be lost for the fig trees. This may be the only record left of what the trees mean to so many people and would immortalise the efforts of Newcastle’s people who are trying to save them.

    This is time for:

    Wedding photographers get out your contact list and get in touch with the people who have had their photos there.

    Family elders to get out the old family photos, family trees and news clippings.

    And for anyone who wishes the trees be saved.

    Tell them what the trees mean to you and what significant they hold for history’s sake. Tell them that you don’t think there has been enough effort in plans to save the trees and therefore council is not looking at alternatives. These messages may one day be published so keep that in mind.

    Urban Sustainable Ecology Restoration Society-USERS

  78. Jonathan Vencore USERS-Fonder Says:


    I was wondering if anyone has done any research on the number of fig trees felled or had the canopies trimmed over past 10 year with in a 20km radius of Blackbutt reserve NSW, where the Grey-headed Flying-fox roosts.

    One of the main threats to the endangered Grey-headed Flying-fox’s is loss of foraging habitat. The distance to Laman street is approximately 9km however there is no foraging habitat much further in that direction; figs don’t grow in the sea. This reduces their foraging space quite dramatically. With councils removing trees here and there over time and not replacing them, it chips away at their foraging habitat without assessing the impact.

    Impact assessments don’t require considerations of time or space. So they are not looking at how many other tree where removed from their habitat the years before or in areas outside the scope of the test.

    Environmental law is founded on the premise of public involvement so well can all have a say.

    If we can measure the reduction of foraging habitat within a 20km radius over the past 10-15 years and predict the future lopping or felling of habitat against its renewal programs. There may be strong grounds to save the fig trees in Laman street and protect the Grey-headed Flying-fox’s from extinction. Efforts should be made to increase Grey-headed Flying-fox numbers so they are no longer at risk; not just to maintain current numbers.

    Feel free to contact the Office of Environment and Heritage with your concerns for the fig trees and the fate of the gray headed flying fox, asking for information of on the cumulative impact of the reduction of foraging habitat within the past ten years within a 20km radius of their roosting site at Blackbutt Reserve NSW. http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au

    If you have information relating to the cumulative impacts on habitat reduction in your area it is of interested to us here at USERS.

    The Urban Sustainable Ecology Restoration Society

  79. Eye3PhotoDesign Says:

    I will be coming down on Sun arvo (4PM 4th Dec) with my camera….so I urge every figs supporter to get down there as well and make your presence seen…

  80. Gary Kane Says:

    If Clover Moore was behind a campaign to remove fig trees from Hyde Park or next to the NSW Art Gallery do you think BO’F would do nothing if he could gain politically by applying authority to prevent it? He would flex his power to prevent it. He would not rave on about not interfering in a local council matter. So politically (while we have time) we have to lobby Tim Owen to get the NSW Govt to prevent removal of the trees. Let him know that he has to represent NCLE- and therefore act to maintain Laman St. -because his failure is politically unsound. Not re-election friendly. If he wants to be re-elected he should start doing something aside from a “come on fellas” speech to NCC. We have to pressure Tim Owen politically ASAP and as heavily and numerically as we can.

  81. Robyn Scheuffele Says:

    I am from Newcastle, but live in San Diego, California. Here, in Balboa Park, there are so many Moreton Bay Figs – about 100 yrs old. They are very well kept and very well looked after. You should contact the City of San Diego (look on-line) and ask to speak with whoever looks after Balboa Park – and speak to the arborists of Balboa Park. Will be cheaper to fly one of them to Newcastle than to fly someone out from the UK! And – the climate of San Diego is much more like that of Newcastle – very moderate climate. Soil is old – clay and sand based. Only rains a few days a year, though, but Balboa Park is humid because of the maritime effect. Try that. The arborists of these Moreton Bay Figs (planted for the World’s Trade Fair) know what they are doing.

  82. Tarquin Says:

    thanks for your efforts… the loss of 14 huge trees is really horrible. Brisbane continues to lose trees and the residents have formed a group called TreeAlert…. visit our page and stay in touch about your story…..

    We are stronger working together!!!

  83. Peter Says:

    I have emailed the council of my intention to withhold payment of my rates. They can whistle long and hard before I will give any support for their action.
    Remind them of who they were elected to represent.

  84. Graeme Beal Says:

    I welcome Fee Mozeley’s announcement that Save our Figs is considering a submission to ICAC. “Partial exercise of official function”, in the sense of “biased, not impartial, or using only that part of the rules or advice which suit your purpose and deliberately rejecting contrary opinion” is corrupt conduct according to the ICAC Act if it is serious enough to warrant disciplinary action.
    In 2010 I made a submission to ICAC regarding the NCC planning department’s processing of a dual occupancy development in Prince St Waratah which, in my opinion, unquestionably involved “partial exercise of official function”. ICAC ordered NCC to have an independent review conducted, which was carried out by Sinc Solutions, an organisation appointed and paid by NCC. Their report raises more questions than it answers. I have been advised by the NSW Ombudsman to make a further submission to ICAC, including information gathered since the first submission.
    I am preparing this further submission at present.
    As someone who lived for 12 years within earshot of the Town Hall clock I have been appalled at the apparent Stalinesque “whatever it takes” attitude of some NCC officers to have a magnificent avenue of trees removed. They should be brought to account.
    All that was missing was a good book burning, I’m surprised NCC didn’t raid the library for any books on democracy and burn them in Laman St using copies of their shredded Code of Ethics for kindling.
    I’m happy for another submission to ICAC to support mine.
    Graeme Beal

  85. Helen Cummings Says:

    My dear friend Ken Jones has given me permission to publish his poem

    If Only A Tree Could Talk.

    By Ken Jones. (The Old Bush B—ard)

    Just think of the age-old stories and learning as we go on our Civic Park walk.
    A century of yarns and history could be heard, “If Only a Tree Could Talk”
    Today is a very sad day for Novocastrians as we suffer acts of our council bigs.
    It has made us cry, as we must say good-bye to our beloved “Laman St. Figs”

    Those tree’s, like us, were made of special stuff and deserved a better fate.
    Those who care were there but in their despair, its too late mates, too late.
    What took a hundred years to grow can be bludgeoned in just one day.
    Shame on you City Council, I just wonder what our Joy would say.

    To quote another old bush bard who was years before my time.
    He obviously cared that trees were spared and here is some of his rhyme.
    “Oh council man, spare our trees, touch not a single bow”
    In my youth they sheltered me, arrr I wish I could protect them now.

    They came in the darkness yesty mornin’, with a specific instruction.
    Setting up Cranes and chippers. Weapons of Mass Destruction.
    The chainsaws gnawed, the diesels roared and all the limbs fell down.
    Slaughter, bloody slaughter, the people called, to be heard all over town.

    Now that our trees have been killed, will any be milled to make a special chair?
    For each of those powerful councillors, for the short time they’ll still be there.
    They could keep them as a memento as they lay on their sun shaded deck.
    They might just turn into an “Albatross” to hang forever around their neck.

    OK councillors ya might be a star but a bloody Galah for slappin’ us in the face.
    What each of you have done to your electors is a betrayal and a bloody disgrace.
    Refuse to comply to wishes, with an un-Novocastrian, un-Australian balk.
    Just spare a thought for what might have been, “If Only A Tree Could Talk”

    ©Copyright Ken Jones. 1-2-2012.

  86. Jarrod Says:

    My name is Jarrod and I’m doing a report on this for school. I am belive what you all did was right and I am ashamed at the council for cutting them down.

    I was just wondering what ever happened to the Petition that was handed to the council?


    • Caity Raschke Says:

      The petitions were presented to council over many months. I believe the paper petition was shredded by Council. They kept scanned copies. You’d have to ask yourself if this was deliberate, as under the current government’s ‘people’s petition’ rules, only original copies of petitions count.

  87. Robyn Says:

    When is the next council election? And – please remind us of the names of the councilors who voted in favor of felling the trees and the names of those who voted against it. We need to make sure we have that information marked on our calendars.

  88. Rhonda Partridge Says:

    The souls of the beautiful figs will always remain. It is devastating what has happened and I cannot go into Laman street or civic park as it is so sad and lacks life. I did a painting and drawings a few years ago of the figs strong branches, I will cherish this artwork forever. If anyone has art works of the figs please reply.

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