The root of the problem


Call me naive but I was a touch surprised to see an image gallery on Newcastle City Council’s website called ‘Fig tree root failures’. Why was I surprised? I suppose I thought the spin had ground to a bit of a halt because supposedly the charette looked at everything there was to know about the Laman Street figs.

You can see these on this page of council’s web site.

They’re fantastic pictures but they don’t really help council’s argument that the trees need to go.

The fallen tree in Tyrrell Street on the right  is one whose roots were severed deliberately in road/pavement works a few years before – see eyewitness account quoted in the Newcastle Voice report: 

Double-click on the image and you’ll be able to read it more easily.

To give council credit, they put this on page 69 of the report for us all to read.

The Tyrrell Street picture of the fallen tree is interesting  because there are absolutely no roots at the edge of the tree.

It’s quite unlike the dramatic pictures of the tree that fell in Bruce Street (see below) that council seem to use in its key documents and that they showed at the charette.

 The road surface hasn’t been disturbed at all, unlike the buckled and torn road surface in Bruce Street.

Sadly the experts were unable to produce pictures of Laman Street failures at the charette, even when they were asked to produce them with some notice. (The ground-penetrating radar report was the same: that wasn’t available either.) Perhaps they were afraid of how underwhelmed we would have been to see why Laman Street lost 3 trees after the Pasha Bulker storm.

The picture of the edge of the footpath is the only photographic evidence I’ve seen so far of why the two eastern-most trees in Laman Street were felled. A gap in between the root and the cement is presumably evidence that it was about to topple over. 

The other picture is of a tree in Auckland Street/Civic Park. The roots of this tree wrapped themselves around huge cables and was felled for this reason. Sounds not unreasonable. What was scary is that there were newspaper articles talking about moving all/many of the trees in Civic Park to stop them messing with infrastructure – at enormous cost – soon after this.

These trees can’t win – they either have too many roots or not enough.

The other thing that has appeared on the website is a summary of the Newcastle Voice report that summarised 400 ‘visions’ sent in by subscribers. People at the charette became a bit upset because it seemed their views were misrepresented. One only had to mention the trees being replaced, in a sentence such as ‘If the trees have to be replaced then…’ to be called a supporter of tree removal and to be excluded from the group that wanted to retain the trees. They’ve tidied this up a bit but it’s still quite wrong.

Some of the key findings that we received from the consultation were:

  • Of the respondents who mention trees in their vision (36%)
    • 49% seek the retention of the Hills Fig trees
    • 47% commented about the option of replacing the Hills Fig trees with either different species of trees or with a steel structure with climbing plants.
    • 4% advocate for the removal of the Hill Fig trees
  • Of the respondents who mentioned access to buildings on Laman Street, as well as linkages to other parts of the inner city (35%)
    • 36% favour pedestrian use on Laman Street.
    • 24% commented on the interconnectivity across the inner city, from Civic Theatre to Darby Street
    • 15% are genuinely concerned with the safety of the trees, road safety, lighting and pedestrian safety
    • 14% identified parking as difficult for businesses, wedding parties and visitors to the art gallery and library. Disabled parking is identified as insufficient
    • 11% identified the need for vehicular access to Laman Street’

It’s hard to see where one vision ends and the next one begins so it’s difficult to count whether only one-third of respondents mention the trees. 

Anyway, enough. The last thing I’ll say is these trees are natives.



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3 Responses to “The root of the problem”

  1. sharon Says:

    It’s clear that Council is NOT INTERESTED in investigating possible moves and behaviours to retain and care for our heritage fig trees in Laman Street and Civic Park The advisors that Council employed to opinionate about the trees in the Civic Precinct, Scape Strategy, say that a staging plan is necessary due to the future development planned for both these areas. Scape briefly mention that it is an option that the trees stay and be cared for but that they aren’t recommending it. There you have it! I’m not sure that i have learnt a thing from the $70,000 dollar gathering, as i guessed at that outcome before it started…….
    The Council resolution was NOT achieved as the full range of options available to Council and the community to address the future of these trees was NOT investigated and therefore it is impossible to make an honestly appropriate recommendation to Council.”

  2. Louise Wilson Says:

    These trees provide food and shelter for our native birds and wildlife that refuge in them in city areas where most other habitat has been removed. These trees are well established and to replace them it will be 50 years before they provide a similar habitat. Surely we can think outside the square on this one. Why does esthetics and natures value have to be sacrificed for concrete and an easy path forward. Our forefathers planted these trees as this species does not drop limbs and is safe for people to sit and walk under. They provide substantial shade through our ever increasing hotter summers and food and shelter for our ever decreasing bird and wildlife population. If we continue to cut these down we will end up like Europe with a concrete jungle devoid of bird and wildlife choking on the smog of our stupid decisions and want of easy solutions. Keep These Trees they provide us with so much including clean air for our city.

  3. Ali Says:

    i suggest keeping a close & critical eye on Newcastle City Councils moves. Budget allocation for “tree maintenance” read & tree removal, is on the Agenda tonight ,along with establishing a “Memorial Committee”. both components quite relevant to Laman St Figs!

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