Did you know bitumen can hold up a tree?


If I start this post with a picture of a pelican I may feel calm. I just found another paragraph in the Laman Street section of Newcastle council’s website that reminded me that the spin just keeps on coming.

A few years ago when half the Hill’s figs in Tyrrell Street were removed to make way for a new substation/because the trees were different heights/because the council had destroyed the roots of some trees and they fell down in a storm/because the general manager at the time was determined to rid Newcastle of its mature trees in the name of a ‘Sustainable Urban Forest’ [do you think maybe the pelican picture isn’t having enough of a calming effect?] the council staff described on more than one occasion to The Herald’s journalists that a mature fig was the weight of a semi trailer – obviously if it falls on you you’ll be toast.

The vivid image they conveyed was supposed to quell disquiet at the loss of the trees at the lower end of Tyrrell Street – after all, we were being saved from a scary fate.

These trees were said to have ‘defective root plates’ and were taken down – not counting the ones that fell in the storm that followed council cutting through them. It’s a shame we couldn’t have relied on the bitumen holding up the Tyrrell Street trees – because some people at council allege that’s what’s holding up the Laman Street trees:

‘Removing current infrastructure such as kerb and gutter and road pavement risks increasing tree instability because the trees are gaining a degree of support from the bulk of existing infrastructure.’

I stood in Laman Street on separate occasions and said to two arborists that some ‘experts’ were claiming that the road base was holding the trees up and they looked at me like I was a fool to believe that. If they’d been French they would have made that little ‘ouf’ noise.

Perhaps if bitumen’s good for this we should stop mulching trees and put tar round them instead. I presume the paragraph about removing infrastructure is a response to suggestions that we could remove the bitumen in order to improve the health of the trees. Another barrier to those of the community who want to preserve mature trees.

A school friend of one of my children had to give a three-minute talk to her class – and don’t get me started on public speaking in education: small children are expected to give a talk once or twice a year without any training in how to do this and without having a nervous breakdown. Being able to stand up in front of a group and talk while feeling comfortable at the same time would be an incredibly useful life skill – what a shame it’s always been a case of Teach Yourself. It hasn’t changed from when I was a child.If you take the approach that ‘just do it’ will teach you how to do it and feel Relaxed and Comfortable, then the children need to give a talk a week, not once a year.

Anyway… this child gave a talk about trees which was  really interesting to my daughter – and that’s high praise because she is so over trees – stopping to photograph them, looking at their bark and their roots and the light through their canopy, reading about them on the internet, tweeting and emailing about them etc etc. In her talk she mentioned the Laman Street trees and how the trees have been saved. She among other people could still get a rude shock one day.

My issues remain

  • honesty and  transparency 
  • improving Newcastle’s pride in itself, not removing reasons for the lack thereof
  • using evidence as the basis for your decisions rather than making a decision and then producing ‘evidence’ to back that up
  •  having priorities that residents and ratepayers would agree with while
  • showing leadership – especially when it comes to public liability
  • having a vision for the future – and planting tuckeroos everywhere doesn’t count as a vision.

I mentioned on the home page under today’s date a council briefing from over a year ago that gives us a glimpse of the beginning of the end for the trees in Laman Street.

I remember ten years ago when council removed play equipment from large numbers of parks saying that one of the reasons was public liability. A sign went up in our local park warning us that the rquipment would be removed. No letterdrop was done and if we hadn’t had a desperate two-year-old whose time at the park kept everyone sane we probably wouldn’t have noticed it.

By the time the local play equipment was in the cross-hairs, swings and slippery dips (good luck finding one of those these days) had been removed from 48 parks. The trendy idea at the time was to create a smaller number of mega-parks. I presume this was in the days before the word ‘walkability‘ had been invented.

Fortunately my partner had the energy to generate publicity at the time and our park was supplied with new rather than no play equipment. I suspect the same could have been done elsewhere if people had received enough notice – imagine how many people would have turned up at little parks to find their swings had just disappeared.

I shudder to think that many of those parks which used to have a swing to fall off and a tall metal slippery dip to burn yourself on in summer have become the pocket parks of today that council see as ‘non-performing assets’ – and you realise that some people do have a long-term vision: it’s just not a nice one.   8th June 2010  Home

Whose street will be next?


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One Response to “Did you know bitumen can hold up a tree?”

  1. sharon Says:

    I have attended 3 Newcastle Community Annual events in the last month or so, Cultural Stomp Civic Park, Coffee & Chocolate Festival Darby Street & Wetlands 25th Anniversary World Environment Day where i have engaged in conversation with hundreds & hundreds of people in relation to the current situation of Newcastle City Council wanting to rid Laman Street of it’s magnificant Fig Tree archway.

    It’s a HOT TOPIC and it has been a really pleasant experience for me as people LOVE those trees and that street more than I realised. People seek out the petition to sign, as a way of having their say against rash decision making by Council and to encourage Council to seek out thorough investigation of all possible options to maintain the trees within ‘Council’s New Vision’. People are happy for some changes to be made to the Art Gallery & Library but they certainly don’t want the magical, living ambience to be taken away.

    One of the things that seems to bother people, and rightly so, is the lack of HONESTY by the Council as to why they want the trees gone and the use of ‘fearmonger tactics’ to get their way.

    It saddens me when i consider the far reaching effects of enstilling FEAR into the community about trees. It’s ridiculous actually, will people stop surfing and hanging out in the ocean daily because of the danger of the ocean and some of it’s inhabitants? Will people stop playing football because of the danger of brain & spinal injury? will law makers rid the construction industry of scaffolding because it falls and kills passing pedestrians? will crossing the road be illegal due to the incredibly high risk of death by car? will junk food be banned because it’s slowly killing the human race? …and on and on it goes, infinitely!

    Why are we even talking about the danger of trees when it is not the issue! We should be asking ‘who wants that piece of land and what do they want to do with it that benifits THEM’ just like the Newcastle Rail Line!

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