Email sent to councillors about the charette process



I am writing to you and all other councillors about the Laman Street figs.

Firstly: the planned charette:

I note that the plan for the community design process for Laman Street is going to be discussed at council on 2 2 10: CCL 02/02/10-

I have a couple of concerns about it and hope you will discuss it further with the council officers who have designed choose option 2

There are good things about the proposal: the use of placemaking principles at item 15 has an enticing sound to it and goes some way to overcoming the fears and cynicism in some members of the community.The aim of enhancing Laman Street is positive and the range of experts should be excellent.

However, the small number of residents involved is a worry. Council is to choose 1/3 from the gallery and library as well as churches – are these the churches in the street or churches in general? Is the synagogue in Tyrrell Street included? -and school/s – does this include Newcastle East Public School who face Tyrrell Street’s change on a daily basis? The 2/3 remainder means only 40-45 residents can take place.

The fact that one of the days is a weekday and that 2 consecutive days are required would cut many people out of the running to go due to work or childcare commitments.

From my knowledge of charettes large, well-publicised public information sessions are part of the process prior to the workshops. Here the proposition is that these be done afterwards. Links , , look at method 6 in this last link.

I think consideration should be given to:
– increasing the number of residents who can attend.
– spreading the workshop over a week and having it on 2 consecutive Saturdays. Different ‘experts’ could attend different parts of the workshop if their attendance on these days is a problem: eg have information sessions at the start of each day and then round-table discussions afterwards, with the information sessions being on different topics.
– having well-publicised public information gathering (and giving) sessions prior to the focus groups/workshops.

Secondly, the ground-penetrating radar report:

I don’t know if you have heard that this report has been delivered to council and showed that there are roots where they were not thought to be. I heard this from Phil Hewett (phone call 12/1/2010). I have also been informed that because this was a surprising finding it has been sent to the arborist who did the original tree report, Mr Dennis Marsden, for his review.

This seems like a waste of precious time and presumably money, since Mr Marsden is not an expert in ground-penetrating radar.

I have requested a copy of this report and been told that I will need to apply for it under FOI regulations, which I will do, however, the report should be a matter of public record rather than being difficult to obtain. I think this sends an odd message to the public and I hope this will actually be released widely, in the interests of transparency.I would have thought it would be a matter of celebration if there is some indication that the tree risk is less than expected.

Lastly, further arboricultural advice needs to be sought on these trees asking specifically how one could retain the trees for as long as possible, in as good condition as possible and as safely as possible. The precedent for this is Hastings Shire Council which has managed to retain 14 trees. They did this after three arborists’ reports were sought.

The quotes I have obtained for an arborist’s report vary from $1200 to $4000. We have an asset conservatively valued at $1million that is actually priceless to most Novocastrians. It behoves us to do more investigation before felling these trees, other than the single tree that is obviously beyond saving.

It is important to remember that tree risk assessment is an evolving area, and that QTRA is not the be-all and end-all of this. You may be aware that the so-called ‘acceptable risk’ of 1 in 10 000 is an arbitrary figure and that QTRA has failed to impress a court on at least one occasion (Goode v City of Burnside) There are many other methods.

On Sydney City Council’s Significant Tree Register there are 2 streets that are protected, that look just like Laman Street: Selwyn Street and Napier Street – photos at

Thanks for the work you do on behalf of the community.

Caity                                                                                                                                        Home



2 Responses to “Email sent to councillors about the charette process”

  1. Jacqueline Says:

    I don’t understand why the public can’t have free access the ground-penetrating radar report without having to pay money for it. After all, these are their trees as well. How can Council have real community consultation when members of the community have to acquire vital documents under Freedom of Information? Will those who attend the ‘charette’ be given a copy of this report at no cost?
    I’m not sure why NCC cannot explore saving such iconic trees. In Maine USA, a 240 year old Elm tree has been chopped down with much sadness from the whole community. The now retired tree Warden Frank Knight has saved this tree from 15 infections of Dutch Elm Disease over a period of 50 years. Cannot NCC do the same & do whatever they can to save these trees? They are not dead. There are other options available aren’t there? Or is the only option to chop them all down & lose what makes Newcastle very special. I find the whole issue extremely sad.
    I have added a link about Herbie the Elm (they loved him so much they even named him), however, there are numerous recent articles which mention the number of times this tree has been saved.

  2. Sean Freeman Says:

    Hi Caity, Just a small correction in relation to your comments regarding QTRA, your are correct as a risk assessment methodology it is just one of a number they all have some strengths (some more than others!) and weaknesses.

    The 1:10,000 threshold is not however arbitary, it is based on the very (very!) exhaustive work undertaken in the UK to define the level of acceptable risk (undertaken over the last 20yrs).

    The British Medical Association Guide “Living with Risk” (Henderson 1987) concluded
    “few people would commit their own resources to reduce an annual risk of death that was already as low as 1/10,000”

    This threshold has been further incorporated since the late 80’s within national governmental advisary bodies (Health and Safety Executive HSE 1996)
    “For member of the public who have a risk imposed on them ‘in the wider interest’ would set this limit at 1/10,000 per annum”

    The rational behind this definition of a threshold holds just as true for Australia as it does for the UK or indeed anywhere else.

    It is always appropriate that the property owner/manager might choose to operate to a higher or lower level….it is (in my experience) far more often the case that no defined threshold is adopted and decisions are made on the basis of other factors, with very little if any relationship to the defendable assessment of risk of significant harm.

    The case you quote in the SA Land and Environment Court was very frustrating since the ruling sadly was based on a total misunderstanding and misapplication of the QTRA method by the commissioner – who whilst fully qualified to sit and make rulings on the basis of evidence presented to him was not (and I believe still is not) qualified to apply the probabilistic risk assessmet methodology of QTRA.

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