Random thoughts


This is the sight of a building that is neither new enough nor old enough to appreciate. The photo was taken in 1957. The building seriously needs the adornment of mature trees, as we have now, hiding it from view.It’s the Cultural Centre as none of us need to see it. At the charette held to ‘redesign’ Laman Street – oh, and Civic Park – the Sydney consultants were talking about replacing the Hill’s figs that currently hide this building  with trees that are only two-thirds the height of the building. Yay.

This approach reminded me of the apparent mindset of the Fine Arts department where I enrolled years ago after I finished my trade. On the first day of term one, three hundred and fifty eager young things sat in an auditorium looking optimistically at the academic staff banded together at the front of the lecture theatre. The faculty were chuffed as this was their biggest enrolment ever.

To encourage  and energise this enormous student body they had chosen a mind-numbing topic for one term – we were to study Russian architecture in the twentieth century. I think the cultural centre would have fared well in that term. I dropped out of Fine Arts the next day.


I was asked yesterday whether Councillor Luke let me know the names of the six arborists who are alleged to have deemed the trees in Laman Street to be unsafe. (I had emailed him months ago asking who these people were whom he claimed had determined that the trees were unsafe – he had been quoted in the Star newspaper saying this.) The answer is no – I received no reply to my email.


I drove past the Tourle Street wetland today(see ‘Dead wetland’ photos  and saw the first black swan for months and months. There has been more water in the pond recently than over summer when it turned into a desert, full of dead branches and cracked mud. If you read the letters expressing sadness about the loss of these birds and the article in The Herald about this it was proposed that this longstanding wetland had suddenly dried up because of dry weather but residents wondered otherwise.

No wet in the wetlands

ON occasions when I was travelling over the Tourle Street bridge heading towards Stockton, just past the bend in the road, I would look forward to seeing what bird life was congregating in the marshland area to the left.

There would be black swans with their cygnets and a diversity of bird life in the reeds, looking for a feed or sitting on their nests.Now all that is left is dry mud, littered with rubbish, and no water. I’d love to know the reason why there is no water.

Is it changes in the weather or tidal flow? Is some construction blocking the water flow to the marsh area?

I am completely baffled and saddened, so if someone could explain why this is happening, it would be much appreciated.

Linda Hall, Letters the The Herald 26 2 2010

Another letter from Adam Breasley (1 3 2010) said he had lived in the area for thirty years and had never seen the pond dry. 2000, 2001, 2005 and 2007 were all drier than 2009,  looking at the Bureau of Meteorology rainfall measurements over a decade.

The desiccation seems to have coincided with building the coal loader. Said coal loader has just had an opening with lots of bells and whistles. It’s rained a bit but not heaps. There’s water back there. Hooray for the possible return of the swans. Thanks to whoever is responsible for fixing the problem and thanks to the media for highlighting the problem. The publicity must have made the rain stay in the pond better.


This lonely and desperately ugly container still adorns the corner of Civic Park where Darby Street and Laman Street meet, next to the memorial grove, underneath the Lone Pine , and at the beginning of the row of figs.

I believe this weekend was marked by lots of volunteers cleaning up graffiti all over the state. Well, they missed this container. I actually think this lump of metal would be seriously improved by some graffiti art and if it’s a permanent fixture this should be organised post-haste. Perhaps it’s there because people who work in the council buildings can’t see it – out of sight, out of mind.

Since I make a point of driving up Laman Street every day now so that I can enjoy the Hill’s figs while they’re still there, I see this container all the time, as does anyone who goes to Darby Street to eat or who goes to the Art Gallery the development of which started all this talk about taking out fig trees. It’s in desperately poor taste that it’s sitting there.


Like many other people the accuracy of my typing isn’t great so I use spell-check. Do you know, it doesn’t recognise the word arborist?


Treenet is a great website with interesting articles about the urban forest. It’s where I heard about Avenues of Honour Project. These are memorials that were popular during and after the First World War to honour our war dead. The project is to map these with the aim of preserving them.

They were very big in Victoria and Bacchus Marsh has an avenue of Canadian elms that has been in the news. I’ve written about it before: the 291 trees were planted simultaneously by volunteers in 1918; each tree represented the contribution of a man who had fought for Australia; one of the trees to be removed for a roundabout is in memory of a VC winner, Rupert Moon.

A friend’s son is fighting in Afghanistan: she wondered when she heard about this whether her son’s sacrifice would be dismissed in 90 years in similar fashion.

There’s now a petition to save the Avenue. Like the petition to save Laman Street it takes about one minute to fill in.


The ‘Fix Our City’ signs all over our town have been in place for a long time. They refer to the development that will turn the historical CBD of Newcastle into a large shopping centre. GPT, the group that plans to build the development, now insist that the rail line from the middle of the city be removed.

Newcastle has always had a love-hate relationship with the rail line that goes almost all the way to the beach. The town’s divided on several lines: left vs right, green vs development, between people who believe public transport is the way of the future and people who point out that so many trains are empty, between people who remember a busy CBD and want that again vs those who believe it was killed by suburban shopping centres so why turn it into one. Fix our city are pro-GPT and believe that the city can be revitalised by turning the railway line into greenspace  commercial development  a non-railway line. 

CBDs needing revitalisation are an issue all over the world.

At another inner-city shopping centre two businesses have recently closed and the shops sit empty.

Arguments about the rail line aside, I worry about the message in the signs. They say to the outsider, ‘this town is broken’. I’m not sure that’s a message that’s good for business or pleasant for residents.

The signs motivated me to look up Council’s rules and recommendations about signage. I was a bit confused. Canvas signs aren’t allowed if the sign is permanent, but they have been there a year. The way these signs are made and attached would imply they’re temporary. I couldn’t find a definition of permanent. It’s probably there but it eluded me.


(If you double-click on the small pictures they enlarge.) As I’ve been told many times, I don’t know about the science behind arboricultural practices but like the person who doesn’t know what art is but does know what s/he likes I know what I don’t like about pruning mature trees.

This picture is of a Laman Street fig and it looks awful. This was just one of many branches cut off figs recently. It’s hard to imagine they were all necessary.

No doubt I’ll get a bullying email from an arborist giving me a mouthful – bring it on.

This is a picture of what not to do with grass clippings. Piling them up against the very trunk of a tree isn’t good for it. This is a tree in Learmonth Park but I’ve seen the same thing in Hamilton and Broadmeadow and it gives me the pip.  It’s hard to know who’s doing it but I wish they would stop.

And lastly this is how not to put in a sign telling drivers not to park under a fig tree. It’s rubbing up against the trunk of the tree and it’s been driven into the ground around the base of the tree. It’s in Laman Street.

How cavalier. Sad.    Home          Index


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