Headline news: 1200 Figs Have Not Fallen Over!


I missed a page on the Council’s website earlier this week and just read it today. It’s headed Hill Street Figs, which I presume is a reminder of the TV show Hill Street Blues and shows the age of the person writing it (which is probably about mine).  

It’s worth a read here so you know what you have to be frightened of. I’d also like to ask a really stupid question: can I hold in my hands the darned casebook that is mentioned several times or is this some legal or insurance term to make us think there is no debate about what happened? If the casebook is actually a physical entity could it be accessible on council’s website? And I deal with insurers and their case managers at work and the integrity of some of them is doubtful.  

 I would like to see photographic evidence of things like the trunk rot and a video of how unstable the trees ripped out of Laman Street were. The council’s actions in Laman Street after the Pasha Bulker storm, taking out three figs that were supposedly unstable, reminded me of two things: the aftermath of the earthquake in 1989 when every man and his dog knocked his heritage building down so he could rid himself of things like places that did not comply with pesky fire regulations (I exaggerate, but you know what I mean) and Tyrrell Street which we have to keep coming back to: there may well have been a tree in TS with poor root formation but how did that explain the other 18 (or whatever) that were removed.  

It was a strange coincidence that two of the trees that were removed from Laman Street were right outside the gallery and would have made any future art gallery development so much easier.  


Sadly, it all comes down to trust and the council lost me with Tyrrell Street,;above: the before and after shots I have used before. It was explained to me that the roots were a problem in a hollow and that was why the trees on the lower side of the hill had to go. A hollow? Going up a hill? It made no sense to me when I heard it at the time and it makes no sense to me now. I presume the arborist’s report is a matter of public record but there would be no guarantee of this: it would be an interesting read.  

What’s not on the website is that  

  •  the vast majority of Hills figs in Newcastle aren’t a problem.
  • no one has been injured.
  • it’s unlikely that anyone in Australia has ever been injured by a Hills fig.
  • there are enormous difficulties in predicting tree failure, no matter how confident an arborist may sound.
  • there seems to be no reason for so many trees having been removed from Tyrrell Street: wouldn’t you think if that event, ie disease and decay throughout so many trees, supported the argument that Hills figs are dangerous you’d put that on the list.
  • ‘Hills figs’ needs an apostrophe and I want an inquiry into why it doesn’t have one. Do you think there’s an independent expert who we could employ to answer this question? I think there’s a warehouse somewhere that has all the E’s from the abbreviation for avenue and all the apostrophes from – well, all over the place.

I drove up Laman Street with my children today (they were quaking in fear) and noticed the five minute parking: when did that happen? I know at the December meeting the Lord Mayor wanted to give the General Manager of council free rein to do whatever was needed to Protect The Community since it would be On Her Head if anything happened.   

 It was soon after that meeting the yellow wind signs went up and the no entry sign at the western end, but I have to say I hadn’t noticed the parking restrictions. More spin, but then if one seriously believes the trees may fall you have to do these things. As I said on ABC radio in December I would prefer to see the street closed than to lose the figs. We’d cope.  

I walked the long way around to the newsagent yesterday morning  and to the supermarket this evening and had a lovely time: once you start worrying about trees there are endless things to look at. Isaw a gorgeous little parrot in a Kaffir Plum tree; I looked up on council’s website to find out what bird it was and I think it was a musk lorikeet. Try as I might I can’t find that page again so can’t put the link on here.  

How's this for spectacular?

The evening walk was impressive for the sound of cicadas and fruitbats. I presume the bats fly from Blackbutt. Twice in the last week they have flown by me at head height and tonight they were fighting with each other over positions in trees.  

Their fly-over at night is lovely. We have a mango tree in our backyard: you’d think we would notice them eating the fruit, but we don’t. Maybe they only like figs. Along with a hedged plant that I think is a Beach Hibiscus the tree provides a home for crested doves, magpies and wattle birds.  


When I was taking the photo of the plane trees these guys shouted a request to have their photo taken so I obliged: they're very Newcastle: proud

 There are heaps of plane trees in Newcastle that lean out towards the light and cope with being planted in footpaths; if they aren’t near wires they have a fantastic crown. It doesn’t bother me that they’re not native: I think we should take advantage of any beautiful trees, but there are many who disagree with me.  

What I can’t bear is poor straggly little natives that bear no relation to each other and aren’t even spaced in an interesting way. Natives can be wonderful: I went to a fantastic street in Hamilton South today which I’ve always admired and think its Agonis plantings should be on the significant tree register we should be working towards. Look at this:  


I asked an obliging ten year old to stand in front of the tree so you can gauge its girth.
It’s truly a lovely veteran tree: you watch: someone will be down there with a chainsaw soon.



Some last nature facts:  

  • there are between 700 and 900 types of eucalypt.
  • there are said to be 1500 types of Australian native bee and many of them lead solitary lives.
  • the eucalypt whose leaves are popular with florists because it looks and smells heavenly  is called the silver dollar or E. polyanthemos. I found this on a San Diego website .
  • eucalyptus hardwood is grown commercially in many overseas countries but hardly at all here.

In an earlier post I said we rented the Newcastle community Health building: this is it


Keep looking at Laman Street from any angle you can, because those trees remain well and truly in council’s cross-hairs.                 Home

Not a fig but too stunning to leave out

23.1.10 Metro trees’ site  (see link) puts an apostrophe in Hill’s. Hallelujah.


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