Now I’m back to complaining


I’ve used this photo in a previous post.To me it shows how council are divided on how to do things. My point when I wrote about abbreviating the word ‘avenue’ was that apparently the standard that was around when Mrs Faraday taught me in year 5 isn’t well known now or isn’t adhered to.

And the person who wrote to me from council in November to assure me that taking the trees out of Laman Street was not a foregone conclusion is either a fibber (which I don’t believe) or is being kept in the dark by the forces of evil almost everyone else in council who has anything to do with trees or insurance.

I received an email from a resident in Cooks Hill who told me that he talked to a council officer about the footpath near his house:

  ‘ I spoke to a council [expert] at our property some [time] ago, he told us council were cutting down all trees in Laman st putting in saplings that have been planted in the area as the council prefer them, once Laman st figs were cut down, this will begin with cutting down of all figs under council control.’

This isn’t news to me at all. All along I have thought the talk about safety was a distraction and a ruse.

Here’s another choice comment about one of the safety assessments made in Laman Street.

As background you need to know about QTRA [quantified tree risk assessment] which I keep boring people with. You need to know that there’s this (in my opinion) arbitrary line of acceptable risk in QTRA that is set at 1 in 10 000. If the rating is less than that ie 1 in 9000 or 1 in 550 etc then governing or insuring bodies are going to worry about the tree you’re rating. Higher than  this imaginary figure ie 1 in 20 000, Bob’s your uncle, as it were, and you can keep your tree for a while.

If you are Newcastle Council  or you are a municipal arborist on to the next phase of her career and you want to make a name in some new area, say getting rid of mature trees against the wish of the community, then Bob [your uncle] has seriously let you down and you’ll need to find some other way to get rid of the tree.

Back to the quote. I wrote to a QTRA expert on a QTRA website. An arborist from somewhere had written into the site, asking a question about whether QTRA had been used in court and had received only one reply about a little case somewhere. I had read about a South Australian case called Goode vs Burnside (which QTRA people don’t like because the judge didn’t believe the assessments and judgements that QTRA led to – sound like anywhere you know?) and thought it would be nice to let her know about it so that’s what I was emailing about.

Anyway, in my email I told them that I had issues with the subjectivity inherent in tree risk assessments and mentioned the most unbelievable one we’ve had in Newcastle, where the rating of risk was 1 in 19.8.

I deliberately didn’t say where I was writing about. I seriously don’t think I was trying to trap him into bagging someone whom he will turn out to know. There are so many people who in this whole Laman-Street-trees thing I would love to bag but I have restrained myself.  (That may not be obvious.) Politicians (not council ones who have mostly been interested and available), various other activists, some experts who believe one thing but say another and so on. I suppose I keep my mouth shut about them at least in part because I don’t want to embarrass them and in part because I don’t want to antagonise people unnecessarily.  Anyway, it’s a desperately small world and I didn’t expect the expert I’m talking about to pass judgement at all. I really just wanted to tell him my QTRA gripe. Arborists seem to feel they have a professional obligation to and kinship with each other that means there’s this line they won’t or can’t cross. I’ll wager that across the world QTRA experts probably all know each other. 

In all areas in life it’s not what you know, is it? It’s who you know, and it’s often us-and-them when it comes to chopping down trees – ie the good guys are the arborists and tree risk assessors and the bad guys are the treehuggers who don’t know what’s good for them. I’ve stopped counting the number of people I’ve had arguments with because they think so-and-so is a good bloke or has written some interesting papers or has lots of experience etc.

The expert kindly wrote back to me and commented,

‘ That’s one hell of a high risk.  Has the street been evacuated?  1 in 19. 8 is equivalent to a large tree (greater than 450mm stem diameter) with very obvious signs of progressive failure and leaning over a seat that is constantly occupied by a blindfolded deaf mute.’

In his last email he said

‘You have obviously given this issue some thought.  When you said “I think the street I’m talking about it’s a great example of something running counter to intuition.  …………………….I used your published ‘counter to intuition’ quote on my blog. ” I think you have hit the nail squarely on the head.  It is often difficult to get two experts to agree, particularly when they are employed by opposing parties, but when they disagree QTRA should leave a sufficient audit trail to identify where there opinions differ substantially.  Similarly, if I am out assessing trees and a risk assessment returns a result that is counterintuitive, I can revisit it to establish which of my inputs might be flawed.  As you say, you have gone through this process yourself. 

I generally avoid making specific comments on the work of other arborists, whether QTRA related or otherwise.’

I’ve already written about where I think the people who made the 1 in 19.8 judgement went wrong; so has Ian Mackenzie, the Greens ex-councillor and arborist; and so has Jeff Corbett, the Herald columnist; and I wrote a polite, respectful and interested email to treelogic about their 1 in 19.8 figure and sadly received no reply.

Lastly for some real irony. This is a picture taken by Sharon Healey of a tree in Laman Street  that a resident phoned Fig Jam about. A tree has been illegally chopped down and council have put a sign on the stump calling it what it is, tree vandalism. What are we going to put in the places in Laman Street when the figs go? 

Anyway, leaving that alone for a second, it’s a shame there isn’t room for a shipping container like in Port Stephens a few years ago.  Home


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2 Responses to “Now I’m back to complaining”

  1. Ali Says:

    thanks again , interesting indeed.
    oh & reminded me of a quote
    “its not who you know “but “what u know about who u know” 😉

  2. Caity Raschke Says:

    The photograph of the shipping containers is from The Sunday Telegraph March 23, 2008

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