Post-charette morning tea

by

This used to be the Empire Hotel

At the charade ten days ago the audience pointed out to Ms Jaeger, the ‘Future City Director’ (what is that?),

that many people who were attending would prefer to have an evening or weekend meeting. She and the landscape architects from Sydney out the front said they would take that into account when organising the ‘plenary session’.

Council wrote a letter dated 25th March which I received today that says the timing of this session will be 9am to 12 midday on April 8. On ya, Judy.

When you read about how to run a charette you find that an essential part of it as a way to consult with the community is to have large public information sessions. These are supposed to occur prior to the worshop/s. Not in Newcastle where we know better.So far these aren’t scheduled, although Ms Jaeger was asked about these by councillors at the first council meeting of the year and she said they would follow the charette. Bet you twenty cents they don’t happen.

What will happen is that the report put to council or the maps of which stand of trees to chop down or which war memorials to move in Civic Park to make it look like a wasteland will be put up on a noticeboard in a couple of obscure libraries , no one will commment on them, and they will be accepted. Since Newcastle is starved of funds* the change will probably be reduced to chopping down the figs in Laman Street and leaving Civic Park as it is. * Remember, the Hunter makes up 10% of the population of NSW but receives 4% of the state’s funding.

Remember also when you go to the charade or read about it that Adrian Swain, a council-appointed arborist, has estimated that the level of risk associated with the Laman Street figs is ‘acceptable’, given the measures council has taken. Also remember that Dennis Marsden estimated that the trees have a 5-15 year life span. While I think such an estimate cannot possibly be proved, it is presumably conservative and therefore likely to be longer rather than shorter. In other words, there is no rush to get rid of these trees.

Also remember that the experts advising us and council have had an interesting approach to imparting information. They took months to release the radar report and then in an edited form; they sent out the Dennis Marsden report to the charette nominees (the doom and gloom report based on the original plan to build the gallery in such a way that it was easier to get rid of the trees) but not the Adrian Swain one which rated the street as safe for the medium term and less risky than previously suggested; Mr Hewett told a charette attendee who asked about the appearance of tree roots in the Herald photograph a month or so ago that  that photograph had nothing to do with Laman Street, it was ‘around the corner’; the arborist at the charette told the audience that what looked like roots on the root mapping report are just reflections,and the information given about council damage to fig trees has been slanted from the beginning.

And finally remember that the council arborist who has been one of the architects of the scheme to rid Newcastle of these trees does not even live in Newcastle so council’s slash-and-burn policy in terms of mature trees will have no impact on his quality of life. Is that the same for you?

The following article is by Greg Ray at The Herald and was published last week. It refers to the plane trees in King Street that were turned into sawdust on a Sunday some weeks ago, much to the disgust and disbelief of residents and passers-by.

Staying rooted’s tough

Author: GREG RAY
Date: 29/03/2010
Words: 770
Source: NCH
Publication: Newcastle Herald
Section: News
Page: 8
YOU saw Guerilla Gardeners, the TV show where some characters ran around surreptitiously planting gardens and tizzying up neglected public spaces. I have a feeling that somebody is making a “Guerilla Ungardeners” sequel in the Hunter.Bruce, who works at The Herald, arrived home to find that somebody had ripped all the plants out of his front yard and tossed them all over the place. His kindly neighbour had thoughtfully stacked them in a bit of a heap, which may have reduced the initial trauma of discovery, but Bruce was still pretty upset. He had no idea who did it.

That’s what makes me wonder, is there a film crew skulking around shooting sequences for the new program? It would make sense that they would come to the Hunter, where we have some of the most accomplished ungardeners in Australia.

Remember a few years ago when somebody actually nicked a row of old and much-loved date palms from Swansea? Apparently some Lake Macquarie City Council employee told them it would probably be OK, so up the palms came and off they went, sold to somebody somewhere for a quid or two.

If the film crews from The Guerilla Ungardeners want to see real experts at work they could do worse than keep an eye on Newcastle City Council. Only a few weeks ago, on a scorching hot day, I was walking down King Street and just about melting into the pavement. Until I hit the shade from the London plane trees that ornament the footpath.

The temperature under the green canopy of those trees felt about two degrees cooler and I said a quiet little thank you to former Newcastle developer Kurt Piccardi, whose enlightened attitude to fixing up old buildings and planting trees is an example many of his bricks-and-mortar colleagues could do worse than to copy.

Of course I know that London planes are exotic and I know a lot of people don’t like them too much. They trouble some asthmatics and their leaves in autumn make a slippery mess on the ground. Still, at least they’re green and cool and shady. But I’d no sooner said my little thank you for those trees when the council’s ungardeners struck hard.

Without any public notification that I’m aware of, the ungardening crews hit town on a Sunday when things were quiet and completely removed some of these King Street trees, blaming them for deforming the footpath or some such thing.

In the actual Guerilla Gardeners TV show, the people trying to improve the urban environment had to sneak around in case the various councils involved saw them and sprayed herbicide all over them or attacked them with chainsaws.

In the new Guerilla Ungardeners show, the councils seem to be striking back, using similar sneaky hit-and-run tactics to wipe out greenery and pleasant oases of plant life while people are looking the other way.

It certainly mucked things up with its apparent plan to convert the city’s famous tree-canopied Laman Street into a baking paved dustbowl. Sprung by some wide-awake residents, ungardeners may have had to resort to cunning artifices. I read that somebody was cutting trenches around trees to see if they had any roots.

It seems to me a bit like a medieval witch trial: you know, the kind where they dunk a woman in a pond and if she doesn’t drown she’s a witch and has to be executed.

In the ungardener version I imagine you dig all around the tree and if there aren’t any roots in the moat you’ve dug then the tree can be declared unsafe and bowled over.

For the time being the Laman Street trees have been given a reprieve, but you can almost feel the ungardeners’ annoyance at being thwarted in those huge ugly signs they’ve stuck all over Civic Park, warning us that our lives are at risk from the deadly people-crushing trees.

While councils seem to be the ungardening stars of our suburbs they get a lot of help from a big cast of extras. A few years back some tuckeroo trees on the harbour side of some new Honeysuckle apartments started dying. The ungardener was alleged to be some old bloke with a bag of salt, scurrying around in the middle of the night.

And at Dixon Park recently the council complained that some unknown person had cut down some expensive new trees. At the time I was surprised at how upset the council spokesmen sounded when interviewed about this event.

Now I suspect they were just cranky that they had some serious competition in the ungardening field.

gray@theherald.com.au                                                                   Home

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One Response to “Post-charette morning tea”

  1. Ali Says:

    thanks for this update, i must have missed greg rays article
    observant & accurate!

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