Feedback from residents

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As I wrote recently, I’ve been reading the Newcastle Voice report on the Laman Street tree and Civic Park precinct again. Council put this together leading up to the charette about the future of this beautiful street and the nearby park.

I subscribed to ‘Newcastle Voice’ when I went to my ward community meeting in November last year and gave my three minute talk about these trees. Shaking in my shoes I was, which I hope I managed to hide. I had to leave out the first sentence of my speech which was something like, ‘I’m sorry to be the tenth person here tonight to talk about the Laman Street figs.’ There were heaps of speakers and they talked about lots of different and amazingly interesting things, but no one talked about the figs – and each one of them probably felt the same way about the issue they were addressing as I did about mine.

I corrected a couple of tiny misunderstandings in a recent post, including the fact that these trees are exotics – they’re not – and that the trees are diseased – they’re not – and I’ve written most of my ?80 posts on the fact that their danger is highly exaggerated. The risk these trees are supposed to pose to public safety is the argument mounted by council to justify plans to take them all down.

One of my issues, of course, is that what happens to these trees sets a precedent for every mature tree in Newcastle if not throughout every other LGA in Australia.

I noticed that a few people said in their vision quoted in the report that the trees cause damage to infrastructure.

‘Fig trees are dangerous and destructive to surrounding buildings and infrastructure including roads, utilities, (phone Gas etc) and buildings and probably the civic fountain, they are messy with their “fruit” with birds spreading the seeds…

‘Remove the trees that are existing – beautiful but costing a fortune in road and path maintenance.’ p111

“Unfortunately the trees must go, they are a safety risk, and they are causing huge problems with infrastructure like phone, power & water, and cracking and damaging footpaths.’ p108

‘Ongoing repairs/replacements are becoming more expensive because of these trees.’ p92

‘Trees must be removed and replaced with non-invasive shrubs/trees.’ p59

“remove all fig trees & replace with people friendly trees that will not provide a hazard. This will also ensure roads and gutters & footpaths are not continually damaged by root growth. Importantly parking can then be returned.’ p 54

‘Bearing in mind the damage the existing trees have done to the roadway I realise they may have to be removed at some time.’ p43

‘All fig trees removed and replaced with suitable inner city species that do not mess up the street with their droppings, bird and bat droppings; do not buckle the footpath with their roots.’ p42

This comment isn’t about trees but is relevant: ‘Replace the storm water drainage and gutters to allow the frequent heavy downpours to drain effectively without flooding households in the street.’

If the trees go, we’ll need much bigger gutters because a typical large tree removes the first third of storm water.

I’m not sure how infrastructure damage came into the debate because as far as I’m aware council has at no time said they want to remove these trees because they currently cost  money or are the cause of insurance payouts or lead to the need for more roadworks. And I haven’t taken a lot of notice but if the footpath and road have been fixed there (rather than trenched to cause more damage to tree roots) in recent memory I’ll eat my hat. I suppose council don’t want to waste any resources on this until they remove the trees…

I’d hate to give the impression that many people in the report are worried about the damage to infrastructure. I had to pore over it for ages to find these comments.I like this document more and more because of all the ideas people have had. When it came in the mail I wondered whether it was a waste of time/money but it certainly isn’t and I really am grateful to council for having asked for people to give them feedback and because they made the feedback available. You can download it (5.5MB) at Newcastle City Council’s website.

On a positive note, there are a couple of comments which are priceless:

‘I would like Council to seriously deal with the tough issue of public liability, if that is the factor driving any proposed removal of the trees. The value to the wider city of street is enormous and should not be underestimated. When I moved to Newcastle, this was one of the areas that actually gave me hope for the prospects of the wider city and I am sure it is the same for many visitors and potential residents … It is ridiculous that a perceived insurance risk should be assessed at a different rate to the community’s level of acceptable risk. Council needs to drive a resolution to this through LGSA, if necessary. Please don’t obfuscate around the core issue, if that is the core issue.’ p 139

And ‘We visit the art gallery frequently with our children and have never felt unsafe from the trees. Cars, however, do pose a real, a high danger with car-accidents being the leading cause of non-disease related death in Australia. Tree-related deaths do not even occur in the statistics available from the ABS.‘ p100

And on a completely positive note, huge congratulations and thanks to the NSW state Labor government for buying back the former Post Office building, sold by the Federal Liberal government some years ago. The building was bought by a developer who let it deteriorate, I believe after disputes about whether he could have a casino that stayed open to dawn or thereabouts.

And aren’t we so lucky to have concerns about saving trees and buildings when we could be homeless or doomed to have fears for our family’s safety or health or looking at oil lapping along hundreds of miles of our coastline.

More soon.         Home

A fig that council insisted be preserved in Ravenshaw St – hard to tell the difference between the look of this and the look if the figs in Laman Street

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One Response to “Feedback from residents”

  1. Ali Says:

    Thanks agin Caity, I can honestly say Fig trees in the Boulevarde Toronto will also be facing the same plight as Laman St Figs and I know ppl are watching how the NCC situation (ie fiasco) is being handled. BTW has anyone else noticed that often when Pollies choose to do important announcements to the media for news grabs, they often choose to have a big Fig Tree in the background! I wonder if that is intentional or instinctive?

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