Picnic in the Park


Civic Park 1939s - from the Newcastle City Council website

Since it’s the third Saturday in the month tomorrow there’s a picnic in the park tomorrow.

I hope lots of people have the energy for a picnic after council tried to micro-manage them into submission at the charette today and to bore them with weird questions about topics like ‘principles of placemaking’: the strangest question was something like ‘what principles inform your vision of the future of Civic Park’ #$!&.

(It reminded me of those people at uni who were able to perform amazing feats like put the word paradigm into a sentence and not look like a fraud.)

Tomorrow should be a beautiful sunny day because I’ll be sitting with a little black cloud over my head in a room at the Town Hall, being conned.

Today started out well because a group of people who want to preserve the trees but couldn’t spend the time at the charette  held signs up out the front of the Town Hall like ‘Honk for the figs‘ – and didn’t people do just that! Noise like you haven’t heard for a while.

Lopped tree from council's website

The most challenging thing today was trying to reconcile the absolutely opposing positions taken by ‘experts‘:

  • Council wanted to ascertain whether the Laman Street trees had roots so they did a root mapping investigation using radar.
  • Now it turns out that ground penetrating radar is no good…
  • The things that have the shape of radial roots are reflections from minerals in the soil or bitumen…
  • The radar investigators have told the assets manager of council, she told me in conversation today, that the reason the radar investigation was unreliable was because it was done in haste. ‘Haste?’, I asked; ‘that word is in the report is it?’ ‘No, there were “time contraints” .’
  • Another arborist told me today that in his opinion radar is highly accurate.
  • Discussing European approaches to veteran tree management I gave the example of a tree in Tours in the Loire Valley, planted by Napoleon, whose limbs are propped up by posts. An arborist in all sincerity told me those trees are in a valley so they’re different… (I’m so slow – I didn’t think to ask why the Hunter Valley is any different.)
  • A member of the council team showed pretty pics of replacing a fig tree in Hamilton in Newcastle. They described it as being ‘lost’ and several people pointed out to him that the reason they ‘lost’ it was because they cut it down. He failed to see the irony.
  • There were no roots seen in the trenches in Laman Street even though several people including a councillor, a TV camera and a newspaper photographer saw them.
  • No photos of the trenches were produced.
  • No photos of the tree ‘failures’ in Laman Street were produced, only another street called Bruce Street. When asked why this was the young arborist said they were available but not on him…
  • While a terrible copy of the radar report was available on the council’s website at the last minute this week it was only available today because I took 20 good copies and distributed them.
  • This isn’t a fib, it’s just incompetence: one facilitator called Burwood Street Bathurst Street, another called Darby Street Darcy Street.
  • No fanfare surrounded the arborist report which showed that ‘risk mitigation’ measures in Laman Street have made the trees acceptably safe.
  • An arborist advised me that one could do root restoration work but the arborists present today disagreed. When I asked about retro-fitting tree vaults I was told it couldn’t be done…
  • And in all sincerity they tried to tell the group (successfully, I might add) that the road is holding up the trees. When I told an arborist friend he just shook his head.
  • When I tried to talk to Mr Hewett about QTRA and the quite unbelievable figures that treelogic came up with in Laman Street – a risk of 1 in 19.8, – he said he thought it was correct. Really. (See email to treelogic that remains unanswered. )
  • When I tried to ask him how the trees in Tyrrell Street were only unsafe halfway up the hill he said it was because the trees were a different height from the ones that remain and then deflected the conversation onto risk management in general, asking how I would explain to a court when a child was killed by a tree – or something equally ridiculous.
  • The ‘survey’ done by Newcastle Voice was presented and fortunately shown up to have been presented in a way that misled the reader. They presented replies as being evenly distributed between retain the trees and replace them; it looked as though even people who said ‘I don’t believe the trees should go; however, if you’re going to replace them I prefer you do it over x years’ was called ‘replace’ the trees.

Anyway, I expected the process to be bad and it was. I lay the blame squarely at the feet of our Lord Mayor who changed the discussion from being about the fig trees to being about redesigning the whole area. They’re clever the facilitators: they move you around the minute you get there so you’re not with anyone you know, then they stifle any opportunity to ask questions until it’s too late.

Charette as charade – that’s what we were expecting and that’s what we saw today.

Something jolly: the March picnic in the park.

Change of Park Venue – this is the same group who had a lovely picnic last month (and have been meeting for ages)

Picnic now in


(we apologise for any inconvenience caused by venue change and hope to see you there!)

  • Hullo fellow Park lovers & socialites! It is our intention to get out and explore the beautiful parks we are so lucky to have in Newcastle and the surrounding area, and to spend time outdoors with family & friends.
  • Each month we will meet in a different park….and we’d love you to come along!


Saturday 20th March 2010

12 Noon for B.Y.O. LUNCH

CIVIC PARK, NEWCASTLE  meeting Place: The Auckland end of Civic Park, Newcastle

Look for the fabulous ‘Picnic in the Park’ sign

Hope to see you there!

Sharon (0425313309)

(In case of rain or wild wind, picnic will be cancelled.

So you can plan ahead,

dates for “Picnic in the Park” in 2010

are Saturdays:

March 20 April 17 May 15 June 19 July 17                                                                                                  Home


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6 Responses to “Picnic in the Park”

  1. Sharon Healey Says:

    See you tomorrow for another round! These people actually get paid and run our city… scary!

  2. Robert Perry Says:

    We use ground penetrating radar to locate unmarked graves and burial sites. Tree roots and root direction are quite difficult to map. With that said, it really depends on the investigators competence in scanning and reading the scan data. If it was not employed, the correct scanning method would have been to use GPR 3D interactive modeling providing space around the tree was sufficient to capture the data.
    Bob Perry

  3. Ali Says:

    Is it true that this micro managed presentation cost rate payers $70,000?
    if so I hope at least catering was more paletable, swallowed & easily digested!

  4. Caity Raschke Says:

    You obviously have to pay heaps if you want good help. You can’t have any debate or real discussion, you can’t even have the original experts eg Adrian Swain or the radar guys. And you have to keep the punters busy, thinking that what they’re talking about is real. So not just anyone could run this thing. You should have seen the computer 3D versions of our ideas that they supposedly cobbled together last night based on all our sticky notes.

  5. Robert Perry Says:

    I would also be intrested in knowing the coast for the project – 70K is quite exspensive for 2D GPR scanning for tree roots.

  6. Caity Raschke Says:

    Sorry to mislead you: the 70K is the cost of the charette/design workshop/community consultation process.
    For a day and a half about 50 people who chose to go were talked at by council appointees, and asked to concentrate on way-out ideas for the area, mostly as a distraction from the plan to remove these fig trees.
    Our community think $70000 is a lot for that, too. Imagine if they’d spent that on looking after the trees.

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