Not the Shame File 2, just a sad story


I’m on holidays so I have more time than usual so today I went to Arnold Street, Mayfield which was in the news earlier in the year.

The residents presented a petition to council in about April this year asking to remove the row of Camphor Laurels to which they attribute property damage.

The whole document is worth reading but the sections that were really interesting to me were:

’18 The concerns from residents are that the street trees are causing:

  • • Sewerage and storm water blockages.
  • • Lifting and cracking of footpaths, driveways and various masonry structures.
  • • Tree roots to enter private property causing ongoing issues.

’19 Council has received two insurance claims in Arnold Street to date relating to property damage incurred from the street trees. Council’s insurers have assessed the claims with one claim settled for damage to a storm water pipe.

20 Following a recent claim for property damage, Council’s insurers commissioned a Professional Engineer to assess the cause of damage. The Engineer’s opinion concluded that the damage to the property was attributable to the differential surface movements of the Class H (Highly reactive) soil profile and not the presence of the tree roots.’

So correct me if I’m wrong, but Council is not actually liable for very much. This is a learning experience for me and I plan to look into tree roots and pipes more – please feel free to educate me in your comments; I do know that tree roots can only invade an already damaged pipe. Obviously they then make that damage worse.

And don’t you just love reactive soil? It should go into the same category as Acts of God.

I respect the right of residents to have a say in the management of their street but have they been well advised? Everything I read about street trees and property values suggests that mature trees have a major effect on house values; a US estimate is that mature street trees raise the sale price of a house by $15-$25000.(See ’22 Benefits of street trees’ in Links.)

’22 Council’s City Arborist has advised that the Camphor laurel trees in Arnold Street are fit for purpose with a useful life of up to 25 years. The recently completed street tree survey of the City’s tree assets indicates that there are 408 Camphor laurel trees on Council streets and parks. Camphor is not listed as a noxious species under the Noxious Weeds Act. It is listed as ‘Undesirable Species’ in CouncilTechnical.’

25 years? Useful life of 25 years? And Council agreed to remove them?

This taught me several things: the power of a small petition is apparently greater than that of two big ones. I should have counted the houses in Arnold Street but if there are fifty I would be surprised. 2500 people signed the petition about the Laman Street trees and what so far has been achieved is a temporary reprieve.

It also seems that Council prefers to remove trees than to preserve them: there is no suggestion that the Camphor Laurels were unsafe or diseased and maintenance on the trees was estimated at $50 per tree per year but they were happy to spend or consider spending tens of thousands of dollars .

I also learned the classification of Camphor Laurels. I had felt as though I had to hide the fact that I think they’re beautiful trees until I read this. I know they’re a problem on the north coast and in bushland in general, but in Newcastle they smell fantastic in spring, they have wonderful foliage and they are a lovely shape.


‘If new trees are to be planted it is recommended they be 45 litre size at the time of installation and it would take approximately 20 years to provide the equivalent environmental benefits.’


I hope this doesn’t set a precedent for other streets.

The last point in the Council paper is to me the most interesting:

23 As part of considering this request, it is well known that some mature trees are having an impact on the built environment and that the issues being raised by the residents of Arnold Street are similar, although to a lesser extent, to other locations in the City, for example Swan, Council and Laman Streets, Cooks Hill.

What’s this? Laman Street trees are a problem for the built environment? Aren’t they threatened with removal because they’re dangerous? Language is so important as is a permanent record like council documents.

I have a friend who lives in Swan Street and she attended a meeting with the Council’s arborist at the time Council were explaining that the Tyrrell street trees were being removed because they were dangerous, (yeah, right) and she was told that Swan street’s trees were getting older and more risky; they didn’t talk, to my knowledge, about damage to infrastructure.

I saw a story about Scott Sharpe in The Herald standing in front of the trees, being quoted on how $66000 had been saved but making no objection to the desertification of the street. Councillor Sharpe voted against the rescission motion in December and says he believes the Hill’s figs are dangerous.
I phoned Council today to find out what trees they are planning to replace the Camphor Laurels with and they are getting back to me.
Yes – a very sad story. 11/1/2010

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One Response to “Not the Shame File 2, just a sad story”

  1. ziggy koenigseder Says:

    Sad but true, councillors and sadly some residents are so bitter and ill informed that they are happy to destroy anything that is natural and beautifies the enviroment. They should all be made to read Peter Andrew’s books, ‘Back from the Brink’ and ‘Beyond the Brink’,but unfortunately,their minds are so closed that it probably would not help. But for everyone else I highly recommend these books, Peter has studied the enviroment his whole lifetime,out on the farm,and not in a white coat in a laboratory,like most scientists and experts!

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