Some previous tree battles in Newcastle


Over the years there have been several memorable tree battles in Newcastle.

In the 60s King Street was widened and a row of mature trees were taken out at the edge of Civic Park. There were protests but they made no difference.

In the 70s the saddest one was when huge Moreton Bay figs were removed from Birdwood Park to make way for what is of course now a really busy road, Parry Street.
I remember (perhaps inaccurately) the front page of The Herald which had Vic Rooney and others chained to trees, blocking bulldozers. Vic Rooney later taught English at my High School. He was such an entertaining teacher. The protesters were unsuccessful and the park is now used as background to traffic.

Occasionally people sit at the tables but not many. It has some newish  figs planted alongside the older ones and the trees are spectacular but the park generally has the feel of a traffic island. Watch out for council, though: a green blur as you are driving past is better than a ‘performing asset’: it’s on their list of small or pocket parks that they think need to perform some financial function.

It’s not enough that the trees reduce pollution, stormwater run-off, the heat island effect, road rage, domestic violence, sequester carbon dioxide, provide food and shelter for animals, shelter for pedestrians, reduce skin cancer etc etc etc, not to mention give you something to look at when you’re sitting at the lights in peak-hour.

Google Earth shot of Laman Street in 2006 before the Pasha Bulker storm

Also in the 70s there was ridiculous talk about 2 things: removing the trees in Laman Street before the Queen came to open the Art Gallery: that was the bird poo story from an earlier post. Apparently there was a starling ‘plague’ at the time and our civic leaders had their proverbial knickers in a  knot about the possibility that birds would poo on HM’s hat.

The other bit of silliness was talk of the stunning row of Moreton Bay figs in Islington being ripped out because ‘perverts’ could hide behind them.

More recently there have been some battles that were sadly lost: the trees at the side of the Gateway Inn in Mayfield: perfectly healthy Hill’s figs; the giant Moreton Bay figs in Wallsend; a row of Agonis in Broadmeadow near Goninan’s; more Agonis in Hamilton South; trees in front of the Calvary Mater development and the figs in Ravenshaw Street.

Ravenshaw Street before the developers found some arborists who found signs of ill health in 3 mature figs -Google Earth

I do hope that the current one is remembered as one of the silly ones.



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2 Responses to “Some previous tree battles in Newcastle”

  1. Sharon Healey Says:

    ……..and don’t forget Birmingham Gardens, where the residents have had an experience like ‘pulling out teeth one at a time’ (without anaesthetic), watching their beloved Infant School Grounds denuded and turned into a sea of colourbond roofs and fences. Trees that were planted in 1952 by the residents, parents and staff of the school and suburb.

    Quote: “The help of fathers will be sought by Birmingham Gardens Mothers’ Club in a tree planting scheme in the grounds of Birmingham Gardens Infant School. This was decided at the annual meeting when an arbor plan was adopted……” Unquote: from Newcastle Morning Herald 15 March 1952

  2. ArchitectGJA (Ed) Says:

    I was part of the sadly unsuccessful protest to save the Birdwood Park trees, sheer bedlam and the police intervening when things got out of hand.

    With any luck, that will not be the case for Laman Street. Surely the council will see the light, at least filigreed through a canopy of shade from fig trees.

    I would encourage anyone and everyone to email the council. It may be a very small gesture but it does help. I mentioned to them that as a Novocastrian now in California, if I am learning about this from across the globe and have signed a petition which contained names from all over the world, then this is not just a local issue any more, it is becoming much bigger with many eyes now on Newcastle.

    PS – Great work Caity, keep it up! Cheers.

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