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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
17.11.2011: THE INJUNCTION HAS BEEN GRANTED:)
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
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.
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…
VERY VERY VERY URGENT
FIGS IT RALLY PLEASE ATTEND RALLY ON STEPS OF TOWN HALL THIS AFTERNOON AT 4.30PM 17 OCTOBER 2011
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.
PLEASE PASS THIS ON TO YOUR NETWORKS
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(firstname.lastname@example.org), the Shadow Minister for Roads Robert Furolo (email@example.com), the Minister for Local Government Don Page ( firstname.lastname@example.org), the Shadow Minister for Local Government Sopie Cotsis (email@example.com) the Minister for the Hunter Michael Gallacher (firstname.lastname@example.org), the Shadow Minister for the Hunter (Linda Burney email@example.com. 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?
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 <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Cr Aaron Buman <email@example.com>, Cr Bob Cook <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Cr Scott Sharpe <email@example.com>, “Cr Dr. Graham Boyd” <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Cr Mike King <email@example.com>, Cr Shayne Connell <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Cr Brad Luke <email@example.com>, Cr Sharon Claydon <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Cr Michael Osborne <email@example.com>, Cr Tim Crakanthorp <firstname.lastname@example.org>, Cr Nuatali Nelmes <email@example.com>, Cr Mike Jackson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
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 report – and 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.
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’.
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.
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: email@example.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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
20th January 2010 – look at ‘Some Sydney pics:do they remind you of anywhere?’
25th Jan 2010 This page needs pictures:
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?