Tree removed 2007- potentially unstable


This picture was taken and sent to me by Doug Lithgow from the Parks and Playgrounds Movement. This is a tree destroyed by council after the Pasha Bulker storm.

An email from Mr Dennis Marsden to the council refers to a tree in Laman Street that had to be removed because of ‘potential instability’.

Presumably this is the one because its roots look firmly set in the ground so it didn’t just tip up like some Hill’s figs have done.

I think this poor tree was unstable because it was in the way of the Art Gallery. The plan, as you all know, was to rebuild it.

Dennis Marsden was the arborist asked to predict the future of the trees. He said,

‘My prognosis was that if the Gallery was removed, the trees would for a short time be fully exposed to southerlies and they’d fall over. Even with the Gallery there, they were found to be dodgy and at high risk of failure in a major storm event.’

We all in this area know how uncommon major storm events are and we all know that the remaining trees in Laman Street have withstood an earthquake and at least 2 major storms in my lifetime – the Pasha Bulker and the Sygna storms.

Centennial Parklands - had a tense conversation with the arborist from here one day. He doesn't like Hill's figs

Mr Marsden’s finding was also that the trees had no roots. The radar report disputes this. The pictures show a fantastic pattern of radial roots around ten of the fourteen trees.

If such a fundamental finding of Mr Marsden’s investigation is potentially  wrong then the whole prediction is called into question.

The fact that council officers didn’t want Newcastle to see the radar report is so bizarre.

A tree activist told me that he and another activist had a meeting with a previous general manager and they were told that that GM had rid the town s/he had just left of its ageing trees and s/he would do the same in Newcastle.

It’s a mindset that some soulless people have that the rest of us will never understand. Why council workers who come after a piece of work like that can continue working on such ill-conceived ideas is beyond my comprehension.

Some Sydney councils are the same – Marrickville council intends to remove 1000 mature trees. And here I am worrying about 14. How lucky am I?

Thinking about councils and transparency, led to thinking about flying pigs and then I saw the pink dog picture. Perfect.

If you want a bit of fun some time put an FOI request into council. I requested council supply me with three things: the ground-penetrating radar report, the original commission to Dennis Marsden (because I was concerned that not enough time was spent in the report on how to save the trees), and the fee paid to Mr Marsden.

I had to ask a solicitor friend to help me in the end because none of these were forthcoming by the deadline.


  • added 2 weeks to my original request – the deadline was 21 days but they claimed they had an extra 2 weeks because they had to consult a third party. 
  • joined three unrelated requests together to find a loophole by which they could delay fulfilling my request. They presented this as a way of saving us the cost of 2 of the internal working document, application fees and failed to say that there could be a problem joining them together.
  • called a factual document an ‘internal working document’ because these are exempt from FOI legislation.
  • told me there were several versions of the radar report. How bizarre is that?
  • and when I finally received the report it had stamped on it that it couldn’t be reproduced. Back to the lawyer again. As ratepayers we are all copyright owners.

Since the original premise was that the Art Gallery was going to be removed, and the trees allegedly had no roots, which we now know to be false, the whole thing is null and void – since now an addition will be done rather than a knock-down-and-rebuild. There is no longer any reason to remove the trees, nor should there have been in the beginning. The assessment of their safety is disputed since there is a significant flaw in the investigation. Back to the drawing board with how do we keep these trees for the next 50+ years.

We have to expect, demand and work for much higher quality of life in Newcastle and the Hunter. Our surroundings should be more beautiful than they are, we should have high environmental standards for our own health, that of our children and that of the area and we should expect the best from our politicians and council officers. Many elected officials  are hard-working and idealistic and want the best for those who put them there. We should expect no less.                                                      Home

tree roots,


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2 Responses to “Tree removed 2007- potentially unstable”

  1. Rock The Boat Says:


  2. Sharon Healey Says:

    You survived the FOI application process, good on you!
    I remember going thru that myself when the ‘Friends of Birmingham Gardens Old School Park’ battled Council for 12 years to retain a part of the beautiful green cathedral of original old trees, that was the old Infants School grounds, as Park for our suburb. You wouldn’t think a LM elected by the people, for the people could ignore the people….but with one deciding vote it was all over. I hope the Laman Street Fig Trees don’t have the same fate…..thou we have the same LM.

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