Home-grown bats and council irony


I went on a bushwalk yesterday with my daughters to see if there has been any damage done by flying fox colonies to trees.  

I was prompted to do this after reading about Sydney Royal Botanic Gardens’ plan to move the bats on from there because the weight of their numbers is killing some of the trees.  

The Gardens’ spokesperson  pressed his ‘automatic reply’ button (I presume – since surely many people would have contacted them concerned about it) to the email I sent them to reassure me that ‘No bats Will Be Harmed In The Process’ (I’m paraphrasing).  

Yesterday we were unfortunately unprepared for the mosquito population of the part of the bush we went to and had to beat a speedy retreat, with a  plan to go back today, but we did see some bats and some very healthy trees.I dragged les enfants, dripping with insect repellant, back today, bribed on the way with an ice cream and a promise not to be there for too long…We saw heaps of flying foxes and saw some trees stripped of foliage but overall it felt pretty lush. They have the loveliest faces. The bats as well as the children. I felt a bit sorry for the flying foxes because I assume they should have been asleep and we were disturbing them.  

I’ve said this before, but we can become complacent about animal species that seem abundant: the example I give is the passenger pigeon in the US. It apparently went from numbering in the billions to being extinct within forty years.  

When I was a child the rainforest area in a national park in the Hunter was very popular to go and have a picnic. There were  a fantastic rock walls at the back of a flat area that has presumably since returned to bush, and it was a beautiful place to go. There were walking trails to lead you through the bush. The flying fox colony has been there for a long time – certainly when I lived in the area 15 years ago it was well-established.  

So from a happy experience with bats to picking the sore that has become community consultation over fig trees:  

I have been trawling through the council’s website to see what spin they have produced about the charette.  

I found something so ironic – in their summary of the days’ proceedings they have used lovely pictures of Laman Street’s figs. I wanted to ring them up and ask how they dared to do this since they are hell-bent on getting rid of them.  

And they want us to agree to rip these out?

Someone creative has taken a beautiful shot – although it’s hard to take an ordinary shot with such gorgeous trees to work with.  

I received an email from a reader suggesting that the trees, if they have to be removed, should be used for wood-turning and they would then live on. I can tell you now that they will be turned into sawdust. You had to be in King Street (see ‘Council felling two CBD trees’ in right hand column) to believe the barbarity of turning twenty-year-old trees into mulch within the space of a few hours. A fellow treehugger Newcastle resident suggested that if the council vote to have the trees removed they should have to stand by and witness the destruction of the trees.  

Just a few other points about the post-charade council info:  

Fig in vault in Hamilton

Mr Johnston from the council stood up and explained to us how much space a tree needs using today’s technology eg being planted in a vault. He gave the example of the tree on the right and showed us pictures of all the work that went into putting it in the ground. As he was introducing the topic, he said something like “This is a tree that was lost in Hamilton”. Two audience members called out to him, “It wasn’t lost, you chopped it down“. This was a preamble to our “site inspection” in Laman St where they’d painted dots on the road showing us how much space fig trees would need in Laman Street if we were to replace the current trees with new ones. This was further information that was supposed to put us off wanting figs.  


 No one briefed the artist who did this impression of the art gallery extension because look at that fantastic fig tree in the picture on the left! When we were passing the microphone around  at the end of the charade, asking people to make their (one and only) comment, Prue Viggers,  from the art gallery society, spoke eloquently about her recollection of the Civic precinct as a child. It was basically a barren wasteland then. She made a plea to avoid going back to that. I would imagine she’s fairly representative of people who attend the gallery.  

On the right is one of the summaries of the ideas people came up with to encourage people to use Civic Park. I give it as an example of council irony since it will be moth-balled like so many other things. They don’t want children to disturb their view and they don’t want more picnickers because they may ruin the peace and quiet and create more rubbish because then someone would have to clean it up.  

(Speaking of cleaning things up, a relative of mine went to Mozambique towards the end of the Civil War. On a recent visit to Newcastle Beach he thought the public toilet was immeasurably worse than the state of the toilet at the beach in Maputo.)  

My next slide, ‘Cultural Engagement’ is shown because it includes what the room disagreed with loudly: the fact that the rail line is a barrier that we want to get rid of. Most of us feel very cynical about the possibility of anything but opportunitues for developers coming out of removing the rail line. At the same time that Newcastle Council commits to making this city sustainable and walkable and livable, all of which requires increasing emphasis on public transport, not less, they push removing the rail line. Strange. At least two attendees at the charade suggested ways to deal with the line: one suggested elevated crossings over the tracks eg via lifts and buildings, and one quoted a New York initiative called the High Line project which looks interesting: a freight rail line turned into a walking and running track.  





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One Response to “Home-grown bats and council irony”

  1. Ali Says:

    Was there any fauna experts at the “charette” ? my understanding is that the Flying Foxes in the Laman St Figs, are a vulnerable species, supposedly afforded powerful legal protection under the Threatened Species Act.

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